32 pages 1 hour read

Joy Harjo

An American Sunrise

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 2017

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The Resilience of Community

The use of “we” as the first word sets a strong opening tone for the communal aspect in this poem. But it quickly expands into more than just a group of individuals who are simply enjoying one another’s company in the present moment—it becomes a necessary coping mechanism to protect themselves and their ancestors from the outside forces of injustice and defamation. Though there are moments of danger and threat present in the tone of the language, the communal “we” is always there to create a haven of security and trust in the voice. The first line, “We were running out of breath, as we ran out to meet ourselves,” exemplifies this notion, as the idea of “running out of breath” implies a certain exhaustion and fatigue, but it is immediately restored by the group’s ability to gather and “meet ourselves” (Line 1). The members of this community are tired of running away from whatever problems they are facing, so instead they run together and find solace in each other’s company when amongst themselves.

Though indirect, the context of being on a Native reservation (subtly indicated in the third line when the speaker says “in the Indian bar”) shows that this poem takes place on land that has suffered over centuries from violent oppression and genocide.