Call Center Lunch Room Reading Joy Harjo’s How We Became Human

Ships drifted on a river
of sunlight, when you
sang and chanted,
as the world first
danced. But on
moonless nights
a shadow prowled,
snatching spirits from
the dream lives of loved
ones. Your eyes saw
and became deep,
sorrowful wounds,
healing futile forever
in a land that terrible
thing devoured
without pause.

It’s bright in here. Not
the bright of your suns
but the dark bright
of progress and profit.
No windows to display
mountain hawks
or rivers jumping banks
in spring rains. Only
fake wood tables
and stiff, black chairs
and the dour stench
of chemicals seething,
the food of finality
stumbling through days
of darkness. No deer
here in a foot race
to the woods
and cool safety. No
king salmon leaping
past giant bear paws
in the gray glint
of your mornings.
Only prisoners,
tricked, defeated
and sentenced to this,
the bony carcass
of the left behind.
I take a bite of some-
thing mushy and read
another line, a line
of love and sadness
and witness in this room
of chattering obituaries,
where that merciless
shadow breathes and eats.

Paul Lojeski's poetry has appeared in journals and online. He’s also the author of the satiric novel, The Reverend Jimmy Pup. He lives with his wife and daughter in Port Jefferson, NY. Read other articles by Paul.