The Children First Learn to Drown

From 1887 up to the 1970s, thousands of Native American children were forcibly taken from their families and sent to boarding schools as a part of the government’s assimilation efforts.

at camp, the children first learn to drown
in their own bodies. some will arrange their bones
into a shrine, and mutter an ancient prayer learned
from nursery rhymes. bring only enough to remember,
to survive, but no more. hear white teeth men with one hand
on the gun, and one hand on the throat. the mother’s thumbs
pressed into the child’s cheeks, two dimples sunken
deeply like bullet wounds. to be saved, then, is to dull
every edge of the child’s bones and tongue, suited
with a new name they will know as the only one,
and recognize only a shadow in the mirror. the silence
after the gunshot means the mother lets go, means the child
is too young to know home. when the day breaks,
they will remember only in a language they do not speak
and watch their shadows, dark mane stretched before the plains,
break into wind towards a century unchaseable.

Spencer Chang is a writer from Taipei, Taiwan. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rising Phoenix Review, Rabbit, Blue Marble Review, The Daphne Review, and elsewhere.

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1 Response to The Children First Learn to Drown

  1. Christy Leos says:

    This is such a painful but necessary poem.

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