Poem by Brandon Sun Eagle Jent

Instructions for Surviving a One Thousand Year Flood

For Eastern Kentucky

I still can't blame the rain. I can't 

fault Earth Mother for the tears that formed 

clouds in Her eyes, fell quick in thick streams 

down every ridgeline, washcloth wringing 

one thousand years of water into grassy valley basins 

to tend to Her wounds, weeping vermillion 

mine runoff, wrapped in clear plastic, nostrils 

steeped in diesel’s stench, interludes of ragged gasps 

between coughing fits, sable puffs of coal dust. 

Why wouldn’t She purge this poison 

from Her body, my home?

Perhaps She is more human 

than we children comprehend.

Perhaps we forgot our nature:

wild animals, lips latched to Her bosom, 

this metal and concrete no nobler

than river rocks on highways or bugs 

on windshields, deer grazing in gardens, 

bears treasure hunting in trash cans.

Why curse clouds for doing 

what clouds know how to do? 

Why not take time to learn instead 

of the burden beaks bear 

in the wake of fallen nests,

how a beavertail tailors

the hemlines of fractured dams, 

what miracles my mother made 

when the sun greeted her with sleep

shuttering her eyes, bones moaning

from the toil of days before: breakfast 

wrestled from empty pantries, a feast 

fit for sharing with neighbors.

May we patch our wounds like healers do. 

May we patch our buildings like builders do. 

We’ll stitch hearts back together like families do, 

make quilts of what remains like grandmothers do. 

And like the frogs and the crickets 

that first night of the flood, remember 

we can still get together       and sing.

Brandon Sun Eagle Jent resides in Whitesburg, Kentucky, on the unceded lands of the ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ, S'atsoyaha, and Shawanwaki nations. A lover of words, languages, and stories, he holds a Masters degree in Linguistic Theory and Typology from the University of Kentucky. Brandon writes poetry as part of a lifelong dialogue between himself, his kin (human and other-than-human), and the natural world, making each piece both a transcript and a love letter.