Sovereign Bodies Institute
In her compilation of fifty poems based on the tragic reality of murdered and missing Native women, Kim Shuck speaks not as an observer or a chronicler but as a mother and poet acutely absorbing the affliction she writes so poignantly of. In tackling the heartbreaking topic, she looks into the face of truth, as dark and as painful as it may be, and stands firm on her selected words. With each poem she touches on historical events not frozen in time but brought to the contemporary front as a result of the past continuum into the now with “Remnants of war…” and “we are still being stolen…” such was the case of boarding schools and indentured servitude, which harkens us back to “the smoke of the burning village” and back to the present painted in words defining our past. You might weep reading these poems Kim sings as contemporary Cry Songs for the dead and missing. Shuck’s poems are ultimately built on strength, endurance, resistance and continuance. Let’s read, ingest and learn from these pieces, to, as Shuck says “to sing them home…” It is with both grace and courage that she speaks of “pulled apart unfinished weaving/you have not only come for our traditional stories/you have come forour future”.
—Linda Noel, Koyungkowi Poet
When you are asked, “Why poetry—what is it for?” you should reach for this, Kim Shuck’s collection, Murdered and Missing, because these spare and immense poems speak to what we know very little about— how to house the intertwined and twisting realities of grief and rage and love within us. “They kill us/Because no one taught them that they shouldn’t,” Shuck writes, speaking to violence that has occurred, is occurring, will occur, and that despairs of any justice. These achingly beautiful poems speak to the impossibilities of holding such loss, “Our lost are not just gone once/But every waking morning every/Song without their voices/Each time/Every time/For all time.”
—ire’ne lara silva,
author of Blood Sugar Canto
and Cuicacalli/House of Song
To Kim Shuck, poetry is a map of the body: a map of broken bones, broken hearts, broken lives. Each road a piece of sinew, stitched together with sorrow and loss of grieving mothers, daughters, fathers, sons. To read her work is to enter the world of the forgotten: how each map connects one missing body part to the next, in every part of Indian Country where few want to-
Poet, Playwright, Mom
In 2006 I read poetry with women from Canada and Mexico. Our topic was the number of murdered Indigenous women in the western hemisphere. I don’t think that we were talking about bringing attention to the issue. I think that we were there to be mutually supportive in our pain. There were no collected numbers available for the United States at that time. Over the years the scope of the problem has become clearer with many statistics suggesting that Indigenous women are more than twice as likely to suffer violence and murder than other women of otherwise similar groups. That’s the impersonal information. This targeted violence has impacted my family and many of my friends’ families and the international damage caused can’t be calculated.
I don’t remember the spark that set off this project. It was probably a combination of things. In late 2018, for 50 days straight, I wrote a poem a day on the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women. Yes, I know that men suffer violence too, and I know that other women suffer violence, and that there are other issues in the world. I chose to write about this. While I was doing this project a close friend was shot while returning a child after a play date and a young woman in the local community was taken and traumatized. Since I stopped writing these poems a community woman was beaten into a coma and died. I suppose that people reading this book will already be concerned or interested. They are poems. Poems are thought cobwebs and rarely change things. Then again, cobwebs can help stop bleeding. I can’t suggest that you enjoy this work, but I hope that you can take strength from it. Awareness is a step, witnessing for one another is a step, eventually with enough steps we get to somewhere.
Before we ask why so many Indigenous women are kidnapped and trafficked, murdered and vanished, we will need to take in the scope of the problem. There haven't been any good answers. What we do have are community people: families, friends, cousins. We have people who are taking creative actions that include working with trafficked women, pursuing degrees that teach them how to find the numbers and make them available. My intention for these poems was to exorcise some of my own demons, to put words to my own confusions and pains, to mourn my personal losses and those of others. When I wrote them I had no intention to publish them anywhere but on social media. Since I finished the series I've had requests for the collection. Here it is. I won't be taking a fee. There are publishing costs, shipping costs, beyond that I'm taking nothing. I would like it if this collection could support fact finding on this subject. I encourage you to donate to and read about the work that is being done from within our Indigenous communities. I recommend the work of the Sovereign Bodies Institute
People have cautioned me against asking you to donate instead of just collecting a fee and donating it myself. Folks don't think that you will. This is already important to me. I want it to be important to you too. What will you do?
Blamed for her own death
Bled out in a motel bathtub
In court the defendant's attorney made her
as inhuman as possible
Brought body parts in to the court
Her identity at fault
As if the murder were a logical conclusion
As if her attacker had no choice
As if we were provocation in skin
Another acceptable sacrifice
Strangled until she passed out
The judge sentenced the man to
Time served in house arrest
No jail time
Where does the assault begin
Has it ended yet?
Ninety eight children
Lost their mothers
To one man
Cross jurisdictional indifference
Their killer knew
The police knew
The families knew
It would not be investigated
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