Two Poems

Gwen Benaway


give me the land,
call her by her name,

Akii, meaning dirt
or soil or molecules.

mother of us all,

she lives in marrow,
along the inner line

of shoreline I carry
in the eye’s inseam.

let me be hers,
daughter of everything

I have loved,
lakes and spruce

and mountains
under blackness.

say I belong here,
this place, now—

and for every time
they misgender me

by the wrong pronouns
or the old name,

let her answer for me:
Gaawiin, nidanis

no, my daughter
is the same woman

I made her
at birth.

Awus Awus

awus awus—
every day walking by people

who stare
or laugh,

call me names,
threaten this body.

they’re confused
by my vintage dresses

and my 5 o’clock shadow

the eyeliner, mascara rimmed
eyes in blue highlight

awus awus—
every day I say

get back, go away
these dogs

that follow me,
yes it’s true

I look like a man
in a dress in heels

it upsets them,
I know I won’t be

invisible like before
they’re hunting me

every place I go,
I ask myself

is it safe
it never is

just these words,
an insult in Ojibwe

speak to a human
like a begging dog

awus awus—
if my gookum asks

why I’m so rude
I’ll tell her

“they started it”.