The Knife of My Mind

I have no presence.
I have only a past
and, perhaps, a future.
The presence has been taken from me.
I’m left in an empty space whose darkness
I carve at with the knife of my mind.
I must carve myself anew
out of the razor-wire nothingness.
I will know the ecstasy
and the pain
of freedom.
I will be ordinary again.
Yes, ordinary,
that terrifying condition,
where all is possibility,
where the presence exists and must be faced.

— Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier, an Ojibwa-Lakota from Turtle Mountain, North Dakota, was charged with the deaths of FBI agents Jack Coler and Ron Williams in a shoot-out on Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975. In February 1977, Peltier was given two life sentences. The American Indian Movement considers Peltier a political prisoner, arguing that he did not receive a fair trial and has been treated unjustly since his conviction. Peltier has been eligible for parole since 1986, but the U.S. Parole Commission has denied all applications. He was denied clemency by President Obama and will not receive another parole hearing until 2024.

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