18 pages 36 minutes read

Joy Harjo

This Morning I Pray for My Enemies

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 2015

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Answering One’s Own Internal Questions

The opening line of “This Morning I Pray for My Enemies” is a question seemingly posed from the speaker to themselves. This rhetorical line continues throughout the poem; indeed, the conclusion circles back to give the speaker some kind of answer to their initial pondering. The structure of the poem creates a thematic underpinning in which the reader can think about the possibility of wrestling with and resolving their own internal questions (as noted in the Authorial Context Analysis section). In other words, by considering Harjo’s speaker figuring out their thoughts on a deep philosophical question, readers can learn more about how to personally engage in such a practice.

Harjo’s choice of posing and partially answering a question within the same poem reveals a vital tension of human experience: The speaker is caught between their heart and mind. This is a familiar occasion to most all people. In some ways, the poem is intentionally highlighting how difficult it is for any person to truly know themselves. By referencing the heart as the “smaller cousin of the sun” (Line 5) Harjo’s speaker reminds readers that reaching the heart, like reaching the sun, is an impossibility.