After the Colonizers Came

Each section is based on the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the day from October, 2021.

I. decolonize, v.

The tendrils of empire
strangle nutrients from the soil.
Echoes in the water, the air,
your mind itself.
It must be undone.

II. septemfluous, adj.

Before they came,
many rivers flowed
through our land.
We prospered — drank,
ate well, danced.

III. nidgetty, adj.

When we tell them
how things used to be,
how we miss those days,

they tell us
it was a long time ago,
it should be forgiven.

IV. anaphor, n.

Every few years,
they create a new term for us,
convoluting our history,
obscuring our identity.

V. niveous, adj.

They came in fine silks,
pale as sea foam
on the edge of the tide.
They brought
books with illegible script,
weapons beyond comprehension.

VI. queuemanship, n.

Whenever we bring up
their unfulfilled promises,
we are told to wait our turn.
It is clear that the only option is
to reclaim our space
ourselves.

VII. panoplied, adj.

Rest assured in
who you are,
who your people are,
what you are capable of
together.

VIII. mocktail, n.

They think
acknowledging what was stolen
is enough
to make us equal.

IX. cockamamie, n. and adj.

They put on costumes
with our sacred symbols
for their own amusement.

X. foolosophy, n.

Conquest. Claim. Consume. Conquest. Claim. Consume. Conquest. Claim. Consume. Conquest. Claim. Consume. Conquest. Claim. Consume. Conquest. Claim. Consume. Conquest. Claim. Consume. Conquest. Claim. Consume.

XI. plutomania, n.

ever enough.
It is
never enough
for them.

You can seea flame crawl
across the landscape
in their wake.

XII. mariachi, n. and adj.

We sing our songs in earnest.
They sing our songs in jest.

XIII. cakeage, n.

They bring their own crops
to our land,
because, apparently,
our food isn’t good enough.
They insist
we learn to grow it
for them.

XIV. redivivus, adj.

It all seems over,like a waning glacier at summer’s end.
It feels like
we will wither to nothing,
our blood run dry.
But these lungs still hold air,
these hands still make fists.
We will take back
what is ours.

XV. zeeping, adj.

A battlecry
from graves centuries-old
rings in our ears.

XVI. fairy bells, n.

Even flowers
hang their heads
in mourning.

XVII. almond butter, n.

Their cities are built
with concrete
made from crushed bones
dug up
from mass graves of
our ancestors.

XVIII. hákarl, n.

They dig up our dead
to adorn their museums.
They always speak of us
in past tense.

XIX. beardom, n.

We come from the bears
who protect the mountain.
Their strength flows in our veins.

XX. dingolay, v.

Limbs fling wildly
with the licks of the fire
center stage.
Our history
told with our bodies
to the rhythm of our drums.

XXI. otototoi, int. (and n.)

Our history is full of people
who did much to bring us
the world we once had.
We carry our loss
in our chests, nestled
between our lungs and heart.

XXII. fastenment, n.

Knowing what was,
what will be,
makes the safety
of our children
our top priority.

XXIII. festie, n.

On the autumnal equinox,
we used to celebrate that year’s harvest
with other groups from around the area.
We even invited them after their arrival.
We shared our crops, lodging, warmth.
They invited more of their people
year after year,
put gates around the festival grounds,
then charged us to gain admittance.

XXIV. fast foodery, n.

Convenience, they argue,
is the heart of their market.

Affordable, they say,
for our low-income community.

XXV. almuce, n.

We ride in horseback, furs
handed down from our ancestors
under our cloaks.
They will hear
the thunder of our hooves
roll across the hills.
They will hear
the roar of our grief and anger
roll across the sky.

XXVI. aloed, adj.

To think of what was lost,
how much cannot be undone,
stirs a storm.

XXVII. amrita, n.

Before we ride, we
bask in the moon’s light,
drink the blood of gods
for their courage, their power.

XXVIII. badman, n.

They tell stories
of us
stealing their food,
capturing their children,
killing without conscience.
They call us
savages.

XXIX. nostalgist, n.

When they talk about
the good old days,
we don’t see
idyllic villages, friendly neighbors.
We see
hateful slurs graffitied
on the walls outside our prison cells.

XXX. unmute, v.

For generations,
they took from us.
For generations,
they kept us from telling our stories.
It ends now.
It ends with us.

XXXI. hattock, n.

Our ancestors’ spirits
hover over us
as we fight
for freedoms taken from them,
for homes taken from them.

Our future —
our children’s children’s futures —
will be full of
lush crops, wide-open spaces,
our wrinkled faces telling our stories.

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