“For Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, Whose Spirit Is Present Here and in the Dappled Stars (for we remember the story and must tell it again so we may all live)” is a narrative describing the poet’s reaction to the story of a woman whose message and dreams were silenced by an early, violent death. Harjo juxtaposes Native American images of nature with modern urban images to re-create the true story of Anna Mae Aquash in the hope that the story will remain forever as inspiration.
Harjo appends a note to the text to explain the poem’s context. In February, 1976, the body of a young woman was found on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. An autopsy attributed the death to exposure, and the unnamed body was buried. Later, after friends and relatives discovered that Anna Mae Aquash, a young woman who had been active in the American Indian Movement, was missing, they demanded another autopsy. This time, evidence revealed that the woman’s death had been caused by a bullet fired into the back of her head at close range. For many years, it was unclear who was responsible for her death. It was not until 2003 that Arlo Looking Cloud and John Graham, two former AIM members, were charged with her murder.
Harjo begins the poem by describing her amazement at finding beauty when nature arises at the end of winter. She compares a small crocus emerging from the ground with the way she herself feels each morning when she awakes. She comments that it is...
(The entire section is 518 words.)