Joy Harjo—Fear Poem


Joy Harjo posted this on FaceBook yesterday (31 July 2016):

Because of the fear monster infecting this country, I have been asked for this poem, this song. Feel free to use it, record it, and share. Please give credit. This poem came when I absolutely needed it. I was young and nearly destroyed by fear. I almost didn’t make it to twenty-three. This poem was given to me to share.

I am accepting her offer to share it here, on my blog.

Fear-WEB I release you, my beautiful and terrible fear —Joy Harjo
Digital art ©2016 Michael Dickel

Fear Poem, or I Give You Back

Joy Harjo

I release you, my beautiful and terrible
fear. I release you. You were my beloved
and hated twin, but now, I don’t know you
as myself. I release you with all the
pain I would know at the death of
my children.

You are not my blood anymore.

I give you back to the soldiers
who burned down my home, beheaded my children,
raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.
I give you back to those who stole the
food from our plates when we were starving.

I release you, fear, because you hold
these scenes in front of me and I was born
with eyes that can never close.

I release you
I release you
I release you
I release you

I am not afraid to be angry.
I am not afraid to rejoice.
I am not afraid to be black.
I am not afraid to be white.
I am not afraid to be hungry.
I am not afraid to be full.
I am not afraid to be hated.
I am not afraid to be loved.

To be loved, to be loved, fear.

Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash.
You have gutted me but I gave you the knife.
You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire.

I take myself back, fear.
You are not my shadow any longer.
I won’t hold you in my hands.
You can’t live in my eyes, my ears, my voice
my belly, or in my heart my heart
my heart my heart.

But come here, fear
I am alive and you are so afraid
of dying.


©1983 Joy Harjo and W.W. Norton
from She Had Some Horses
Joy Harjo’s website
Joy Harjo on FaceBook


Joy Haro reciting the poem, from YouTube


A musical version is included on the CD Letter from the End of the Twentieth Century | Joy Harjo & Poetic Justice. Also on iTunes.


Jamie Dedes writes about Joy Harjo: The Poet by Day, Celebrating She-Poets (18).


Joy Harjo’s original FaceBook post:


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2 Comments

Filed under Poetry

2 responses to “Joy Harjo—Fear Poem

  1. Lara/Trace

    Reblogged this on eyewitness and commented:
    Fear Poem

    Liked by 1 person

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