Kenzie Allen


In the museum,
the old ways are nailed up
and captioned. The death

is not sinister, the life
waxy and posed, river
a painted backdrop, the hunter

does not yet know
what is lost. Soft hide
of the whitetail, head-shaped

and supple, I begged
miles against her, closeness
of necessity, a rose-rock swamp

and a God of the singular variety.
We named it, but owned nothing.
What was left us, we carried

as the Longhouse quarreled
its own inheritance, as Sky-
woman still falls. Hold me,

the way I want to be held
down. We carried the children
with their eyes closed, swaddled,

who knew the homelands
only by smell. My mother
paid good money for good

beading. She says, buy nothing
that is not signed, authenticity
is wampum, purple and white,

wampum, the way I was raised
wampum, too, and wampum,
the plastic wrapping,

which she leaves on each doll
made of sweetgrass, each
cradleboard a legacy.

Someday I will own them,
and the house, and the jewelry,
unbound, unswaddled, and

I will ask a man to paint her,
and to sign his name to all of it.

Cradleboard photograph by Kenzie Allen.


In the dream, culture
is a locked door,
their fingers cracked
round a key ring
and they are your
fingers, torn knuckle
you remember splitting
across the apple
knife in your white
youth. In the dream,
they are bleeding you
to count the drops
that are dark enough,
your lips unfamiliar
with the words,
the most dire she wants,
try i• akwa•wʌ́1, but it is
not yours, only dream and
When she wakes
there are still no
words, the door
is a tomb
and when she opens
her mouth, turtles
emerge, weak
from birth, slow-moving
sad history, onʌ olí•waku2,
in time all is dilute.


1 Oneida language, meaning “It’s mine.”
2 “just forget it when ..., there's no telling ..., forever” 

Kenzie Allen

Kenzie Allen is a Zell Fellow in Poetry at the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, and a descendant of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. Her work has appeared in Sonora Review, Day One, Word Riot, and The Iowa Review. She is the managing editor of Anthropoid