As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Eve Tuck – Poetry

Then and soon, a lullaby

I began a long time ago.
I am not more painful than other songs
but I reverberate like mourning.
I contain all the words in the world
More words than the codices and
more words than the tongue can
wet itself to speak.
Throats have grown so weary singing me.
(There is nothing other to sing
than me.)
There is something more than singing
that happens when I am sung.
Something larger like wisdom
something more human and fantastic
My tones vibrate through eye sockets
and cheek bonethrough foreheads
and that place where a new baby is still soft.
That circle where a crown goes,
where when hands are pressed upon it
a blessing happens.
When I am sung, toes are filled
with memories of treading
on the freshest grass
yes, they are even smiling.


In my words, I summon mother—
her soil, her cultivation, her smell,
her clay and brown.
There are stones
lodged in her side, there are roots caught
between her teeth.
She is wheat and grains and concrete—
in her abdomen is the revolving subway,
the N train to Brooklyn, her varicose veins.
She carries everything in the folds
of her skirt—in her pockets.
She makes secrets in her ears and thighs—
her lap has the markings of each footstep
and each history.

My words, someday, will no longer be sung.
Their forms will be displaced from the mouths of my singers
And I will only taste like salt
first there, but then not. First quick
then soft. My saline grains will melt away
dissolved by legs tangled in bedsheets,
swallowed whole and not savored.


In me, father rises tumultuous. He is
sky until it touches mother and
all the air between–
He is only made larger by fireworks
and birds and helicopters.
He is unending and where he ends
does not matter.
He makes there be
no such thing as no sky.
He is too big to name—weather men and
astronomers make the choice to know him and he shifts—to please them—
to make their lives full and purposeful.
He is a meaningmaker—the origin of bright and shade—the only beginning of seeing
and not seeing.


I will live longer than my words.
Words are not built to last
as long as I have been built.
There will be new words, or there will not be new words.
There will be new harmonies or there will not be.


Brother and sister, winds and colors, move
stringless between mother and father.
They take in their travels chunks of their lineage: mother and father’s refracting light, their dry dust, their scent.
Daughter and son trade gum
and pocket knives—
comic books to copy images
with silly putty—
they are every brother and sister
on television…
Closer than can really be, farther than it hurts to be so.

She binds her hair in braids,
and wears hoops that spell her name
in her ear.
She makes butter-flavored lip gloss
and marigold soaps in her microwave.
He makes graffiti in his writing notebook and ghetto punch on the weekends.
Sometimes on the weekdays.
His arms are still muscle and sinew,
they will someday have tattoos of thundercats characters and koi fish.

There was a word once
for the smell of baby brother’s head
when he woke from my lullaby.
The word is extinct
but the smell is still there.

Brother and sister sell nickel bags
and unionize their spirits.
On hot afternoons they duck in and out
of bad movies at the cineplex.
They are the only generation.


There is no more elaborate a family.
When my people sing,
there is no ownership amongst them.
They become fingers clasped together, square finger nails and palms spread
out and out—
worn threads in intricate tapestry
fraying out and out but most intimate
at center.


When I am sung sleep happens
in honor of this intimacy.
I call on my people to sleep in remembrance
of this tenderness.

There never was a time
when this was not so.

Eve Tuck headshotEve Tuck (Ph.D., The Graduate Center, City University of New York) is Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She has conducted participatory action research with New York City youth on the uses and abuses of the GED option, the impacts of mayoral control, and school non-completion. Her current research is with migrant youth in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her publications are concerned with the ethics of social science research and educational research, Indigenous social and political thought, decolonizing research methodologies and theories of change, and the consequences of neoliberal accountability policies on school completion. She is the author of Urban Youth and School Push-Out: Gateways, Get-aways, and the GED (Routledge, 2012) and Place in Research (with Marcia McKenzie, Routledge, 2014).   Tuck’s writings have appeared in Harvard Educational Review, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, and Society, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Journal for the International Society on Teacher Education, Urban Review, and several edited volumes. With K. Wayne Yang she is co-editor Youth Resistance Research and Theories of Change (Routledge, 2014) and she is co-editor of a forthcoming special issue of Environmental Education Research on land education with Kate McCoy and Marcia McKenzie.   Tuck is an enrolled member of the Tribal Government of St. Paul Island, in Alaska.

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