Repatriation

by Kenzie Allen

Kenzie Allen is a Zell Fellow in Poetry at the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, and she is a descendant of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. Her poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, Sonora Review, Word Riot, Apogee, and Drunken Boat, and she is the managing editor of the Anthropoid collective.

 

If, pursuant to section 5, the cultural affiliation of Native American human remains and associated funerary objects with a particular Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization is established, then the Federal agency or museum, upon the request of a known lineal descendant of the Native American or of the tribe or organization and pursuant to subsections (b) and (e) of this section, shall expeditiously return such remains and associated funerary objects.

 

Sun-bleached bone
and sticks wrapped with the skins
in which we loved them. Or nestled

and charred by the broken hearth,
clutching the wing of a swan
to ward spirits. Or

worm-wood, beech-wood,
cherry oak, pine
slatted and nailed
neatly under six feet or in hard times
even stacked above one another
so that the bodies collapse
like floors of ruined buildings, sighing
into the coffins below. Or

piled, piled,
piled, piled, piled, piled,
nameless, done in,
piled, piled, piled,
piled, buried over quickly
in the night.

Or in personal collections,
in trophy cases, or in pieces, piled,
catalogued and inked with the smallest
numbers along the cranial spline. Or

packed amid boxes in the basement
of the Longhouse Museum,
until proper funding can be acquired
for a proper display. Red-taped and returned,
gathering dust, far from
the longhouses you knew.

 


Kenzie Allen is a Zell Fellow in Poetry at the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, and she is a descendant of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. Her poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, Sonora Review, Word Riot, Apogee, and Drunken Boat, and she is the managing editor of the Anthropoid collective.

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