The narrative voice (probably female) links the ancestral past of a Chickasaw heritage with the present and future, "remembering" a long, forced march to Oklahoma under military surveillance. The women sewed tear dresses "because settler cotton was torn" but the miserable circumstances generated tears "so they were called / by this other name, / for our weeping." She sees herself as the reason for their survival, and at the same time, her ancestors ". . . walk inside me." The poem is cleverly constructed to give a strong sense of the continuity of generations and of the impact of a people’s history on individual lives.


Linda Hogan is of Chickasaw heritage. Her work stands on its own but is also interesting to use in a discussion of cultural diversity, together with poems written by authors representing other ethnic groups, such as Li-Young Lee (Asian-American, see this database), Lucille Clifton (African-American, see this database), Sandra Cisneros (Mexican-American, see this database).

Primary Source

The Book of Medicines


Coffee House

Place Published



1993 (paperback)