Somewhere among the waters of childhood, maybe even sooner
memories tucked into the folds
of rolling hills
sung by the birds in the trees,
I can’t quite remember.
Upon our very first entrance into this world, it is the touch of the one who gave birth to us that weaves together the emergent threads of our minds, bodies, and souls. Vulnerable skin against tender hands, here is where we first learn how to breathe in syncopated exhales and inhales, how to find peace in the safety of another— here is where we first learn what it means to be
When this connection is ruptured, when the threads weaving knowing bodies to those still yet unknown are unraveled, and when the newborn child is prematurely ripped away from the touch of their first loved one, the scars permeating throughout the pieces of both of their beings can burn for a lifetime.
This is what colonialism has done to the Earth and their children.
The first evil that colonizers ever committed was imprisoning all that is sacred in the heavens, far from the reach of hungry, human hands. It is through this evil that “nature” became synonymous with “pristine”, that humanity was a poison that destroyed everything it touched. Nature itself was ripped from the flesh of its two-legged children, it was placed in the vagueness of “the beyond”, “the untouched”, “the unmolested”; it became the daydream humans longed to escape into, but never wanted to lose themselves within.
My People know this has never been true. We are nature learning to take care of itself. We are the youngest children to leave the womb of the Earth, and yet, there are certain among us who have tricked themselves into thinking they know better than our elders, our more-than-human kin. Nature is the birds that perch on centuries-old sycamores; as it is the crows that call to us from telephone wires. Nature is in the mushrooms spread across forest floors; as it is in the dandelions plucked on school playgrounds. Nature is the farmer’s hands as she pulls corn from seeds; as it is in the hands of our ancestors who laid steel on skyscrapers.
Clenched fists twisting between
blades of grass
Not yet in anger, no
Not yet in fury, either
Longing, longing to shake the minerals bound in bones
back into the soil
Longing to feel the silt
rise between hungry fingers
Dirt under the nails, laboured breaths filled with chlorophyll
and the flooding smell of copper as the earth
takes the sky.
There are too many facets of this world that have been ingrained in our heads as “opposites,” though I am desperately clinging to the hope that there are no true opposites, no true binaries. Colonialists have carved the idea of binaries so deeply into the natural world, that you rarely find a friend, or stranger, who doesn’t think of the sun and moon as opposites — the eternal male and the eternal female. I want to pull down the moon and hold her next to her sister, the sun, to apologize for the ways they have been pitted against one another. In both of my languages, Tsalagi and Kanien’kéha, the sun and the moon call themselves by the same word. What is the moon, but the sun that guides us through the night? What is the sun, but the moon that brightens the sky at dawn?
In these two celestial kin, I have come to see the reflection of my own Two-Spirituality. There are times, in both of my cultures, when the sun has been referred to as grandmother, as brother, as grandfather, as mother. I like to think of them as all of these things, and more. That this ball of gas, stardust reformed into yet another star, could be all of my kin at once, or just one face of many when I need her the most. If the moon can be a daughter, a granddaughter, and a grandmother all at once, who am I to try to tear myself into halves of all that I can be?
There are no opposites, only complexities calling to each other across time and space, working to fill all the gaps that would be nameless without them. “Nature” is not at odds with “humanity”, “night” is not a struggle against “day”, and my queerness is not an opposition to the reality of this world. I see my own so-called divergence in gender and expressions of my strange heart being called back to me in the transformation from seeds to buds to flowers. I see the flow of all that I am moving through; the rivers that slowly, but steadily, bring mountains to their feet, carving valleys through solid rock.
As I sit before the waters of McConnell Springs, or when I find myself lucky enough to breathe the mountain air in Prestonsburg, I often pull faces and voices out of the land. From the graveyard of imagination, I build up ancestors of queerness, ones wrapped in the flesh and blood of people whose names I may never know, and ones that take on the shape and timbre of the Earth themself. I see the ways in which steady hands nurtured seeds in the ground, built bowling alleys and dive bars. All the ways they loved, and hurt, and dreamed. I close my eyes and feel the queerness of the land trying to remember what it can name itself. I know but a few of the words that remain in my languages have all been whispered to me in the dark. When I find myself sitting below familiar trees, trailers I am already halfway in love with, or street lights that never seem bright enough, this is where I know I can whisper these words back to the Earth that birthed them.
We as Onkwehón:we, as the Original Beings, believe that our languages were gifted to us by the many beings of the Earth. It was the animals, and the plants, the rocks, and many waters, creatures of the land, the skies, and beyond, that presented to us their names. We believe it to be our duty to know them, to call them by the original words as they were given to us, so that we may best honor them for all that we share with each other.
In the time that I have known the Earth here in Kentucky, I have extended my greetings in these languages more times than there are crawdads in all the streams in all the state, but I have never once felt the same response in return.
The land here knows what it is due; it knows the cycles of ceremonies, dances, songs, and prayers that are meant to sustain it and hold it close. It knows that there are words that have been built to remind it of its place in the greater cycle of all that we give and take from one another, but it has forgotten its shape. It is with hungry hands and lips left unkissed that the land greets me back, in that violent way that touch-starved lovers often do.
It does not know exactly what it has been missing, nor does it know the proper way to ask, but there I sit anyway, putting down tobacco, and raising up the words that have been handed to me, in the hopes that my efforts to sing once again with the voices that have called this land home, will not go in vain.
Longing is the taste of the river between my teeth
Longing is the touch of the birch against my spine
Ecstasy in all the names and faces I’ve
scattered across these lands
Spoken in tangled sighs pulled from
the depths of my lungs to the tip of
My tongue remembers.
The earth is a gentle lover, in all the ways that count
Other days, when the hunger comes to lay among the grasses, among the flowers,
I beg to be swallowed whole.
I know nothing of the earth, nothing
And yet it shows me everything,
Diikahnéhi Delaronde Segovia (they/them) is a Two-Spirit Onkwehón:we* living on unceded Shawnee land in what is now called “Lexington, Kentucky”. A poet, want-to-be linguist, and benevolent cat-lover, they spend their days slinging coffees, and their nights staying up too late laughing with their partner.
*Onkwehón:we— A kanien’kéha word meaning “original human”, ie an Indigenous person.