Skip to Content

Linear Process

By Gwen Nell Westerman

Our elders say
            the universe is a
                       returns to its
But where do we go
           from here?
                          Where are
                                      our beginnings?

                                      Our parents were stripped
                                      of their parents
                                      names tongues          prayers,
                                      lined up for their meals
                                      clothes            classes tests.
                                      When it was our turn
                                      to come into this world,
                                      they did not know
                                      what family meant
                                      They did not
                                      Yet even
                                    from here,
                                 we can
                              see that the
                           straightest line
                         on a map
                       is a

Added: Thursday, July 5, 2018  /  From "New Voices of Native Nations," (Graywolf, 2018). First published in "Follow the Blackbirds" (Michigan State University Press, 2012). Used with permission.
Gwen Nell Westerman

A poet and visual artist, Gwen Nell Westerman lives in southern Minnesota, as did her Dakota ancestors. Her roots are deep in this landscape of the tallgrass prairie and reveal themselves in her art and writing through the languages and traditions of her family. She has worked as a proofreader, a waitress, an editor, a sandwich delivery driver, a technical writer, and a teacher. She is the author of Follow the Blackbirds, a collection of poetry in Dakota and English, and has a new volume coming out soon titled War Mothers Song.  Neither of her parents spoke English before they were sent away to boarding schools in Oklahoma and South Dakota, so she knows the importance of the role language plays in who we are.

Other poems by this author