This month’s Featured Selection marks a return to our usual format of selected poems, this time a (too) brief anthology of Native American poets, gathered by and with an introduction from Allison Adelle Hedge Coke. Following that are a listing of authors and titles, the poems themselves and some biographical material. Enjoy!
What luck the incoming U.S. Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, recently reminded us that “the audience is half of the poem.” In this timely folio, Craig Santos Perez, Jamie Natonabah, b: william bearhart, Alice Rose Crow~Maar’aq, Trevino Brings Plenty, Sara Marie Ortiz, Crisosto Apache, Collestipher D. Chatto, LeAnne Howe, Linda Rodriguez, and Rain Prud’homme-Cranford Goméz and Duane Niatum bring a mighty vigor to reader embrace, charging the audience with reception and calling us to do our part in unifying the intent with an intentional receipt. These national award winning and newly emerging Indigenous poets are hard to beat. The work is striking and bears witness while telling the tale.
From the Pacific Islands, Alaska, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Great Plains, Great Lakes, Oklahoma, and Creole Gulf, these eleven contributors offer sincere and steady succulence, quench our deepest thirsts with richly nuanced truths, map and order the here and now, balance the world while untangling ties that bind, and fiercely approach the page washing over paucities with musicality blending pop culture and contemporized traditions. This folio ignites a fiery matter of fact, incites imagistic deluge, and pours on the fury for reclamation and resistance. The poetry causes a contrecoup, performs coup d’état on a ready field, enacts a commitment to continue and performs nothing less than a major feat in the orchestration of synchronized poetic with original panache.
What a thrill it is to open this potent vein and let reality take its place in the world. What an honor to foster this moment. Drink now, drink deep, the water’s worth it.
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
8 August 2016
from understory: Craig Santos Perez
Maps : Jamie Natonabah
My Body And The Ostomy: william bearhart
Because I’m Tired Of This Circus: william bearhart
The Raven Question imprinted in a series of 20: Alice Rose Crow~Maar’aq
White Asiatic Lilies, Rock: Alice Rose Crow~Maar’aq
Late Night Digital Teletype: Trevino Brings Plenty
Ideas Like People When Homogenized: Trevino Brings Plenty
Taxonomy: Sara Marie Ortiz
Savage: Sara Marie Ortiz
Synapse: Crisosto Apache
The Ancestor: Collestipher D. Chatto
The Urn: Collestipher D. Chatto
Oh Wild: LeAnne Howe
After and Before: LeAnne Howe
Class War In The Magazines: Linda Rodriguez
How Turtle Begins to Relearn her Language: Rain Prud’homme-Cranford Goméz
Oklahoma Ghazal: Rain Prud’homme-Cranford Goméz
My House Fell Down: Rain Prud’homme-Cranford Goméz
After Reading Akhmatova: Duane Niatum
To Chief Leschi of the Nisqually: Duane Niatum
Craig Santos Perez
for my wife, nālani
before i first
visit nālani in
we eat ʻahi
limu poke at
we wash [our]
hands in salt
water and forage
the tide for
learn [our] body
i mistake trade
winds for her
tongue dives before
[we] come against
close our eyes
to see what
night asks [us]
to let go—
before the chickens
crow the sun
vowels and consonants—
before i knew
i would stay—
before was pō
the first darkness
birthing [our] sea
of moving islands
Huerfano’s fingers stand proudly,
a perpetual atmosphere of sadness on the right.
First love, first kiss beneath the stairs,
later, in the dark.
His wife and son,
victims of star mapped intoxication,
killed two years after we allowed ourselves
to sway another kiss,
old spirits corked in a young aspen bottle.
Reflection of smoke and snow capped Pedernal on lake water,
Ghost Ranch, one thousand hidden, official bones,
dirt road for the monks on the left.
First girl I ever made love to named herself.
A goddess without worship,
she wanted the ocean.
Her sister had more in common with me,
knew the darker darknesses in the daylight.
Merle Haggard and cigarette smoke at 85 miles an hour,
in the mirror, through wisps of brown and red,
phallic outcrop reminds one of Francisco.
Haida Blossom with a jade heart
pressed the shape of frog and eagle
to the bottoms of my feet
to feel her from any direction.
The first person I ever warmed with my words,
a braid of gossamer gold strands spun from our hearts.
We drank from one another,
blessed ourselves with cinders and beach shells.
Three hundred miles with eyes open,
snow capped mountains preside over the drive,
carved curves at heights uncertain.
The hollowed letter,
bones felt and never seen,
cold and brimmed with silence,
shape and color of our eyes watch for us
twelve years later.
Narrow path of Box Canyon,
yellow stained riverbed,
a mined rainbow landscape dissolves.
Endless nights spent running,
a hundred different kisses,
another name for hops is drunk.
Wind torn edges,
around the corner is the frozen waterfall,
a glacial hotspot for singed lovers.
Numunu colors plagued my sight,
rode off with my hair toward Oklahoma,
four years and endless sadnesses later,
a moment dreamt before the years began.
Scent of nectarines and salt meat lingered,
burning oil lined my throat.
Hot spring soaked bones,
algae smoothed skin,
the desert calls the water back.
Genizaro found me, held me captive
until I began to follow with ancient impulse.
Opened from within,
columbines bloom on my back,
along my spine, roots tangle in my ribs,
curl from my lips and lick at the page.
Venom released from my veins,
we travel tethered together like the Colorado range.
Follow the storm clouds South,
snow and rain soaked desert path,
a taste remembered from before birth.
Return to the land of Sangre De Cristo,
remember the shape of home.
b: william bearhart
My Body And The Ostomy
is frail songbird small,
is porous bone, such birdsong bone
fruit burdened & fall harvest,
apple tree and fallen apple
is feather nest & egg hatched, canary
is Jupiter spilling,
Minerva on pedestal shaking
her head, is cracked stone citadel,
weak fortress, cannonballed wall,
permanent hole, a spiral staircase
descending to the guts of me
is tapped Maple tree, spigot with a pouch
full of sap, collecting
burning in a kettle in the front yard
of my house
my body, a small jaundiced moon, cratered.
b: william bearhart
Because I’m Tired Of This Circus
Because he’s wasted. Arrested by his lazy mouth.
He spits out You bitch. You’re such a bitch.
And it’s not that he is in the county jail, no,
this misdemeanor jailbird don’t phone,
don’t call for such trivial things like bail.
I say That’s it. I’m done. I’m not paying admission to this circus anymore.
My brother in his wheelchair,
his tilt-a-whirl, his traveling carnival of body.
Of drunk body my brother is ringmaster, head carnie,
bear on the handles of a bike with my father.
A 1980s teenager drag racing his Mustang,
this rebel, this brother of mine,
keeps partying his body into handcuffs and rings.
He’s all sorts of games, he’s dart and balloon, tic-tac-toe,
coin dozer and quarter in metal chute stuck.
It’s not that he is confined to a cell with spokes, no,
when the telephone brings his voice,
he’s drunk. I need to talk him down from the high wire again.
But I say That’s it. I’m done. I’m not paying admission to this circus anymore.
Because he’s wasted
and I can’t keep watching him ring cars around trees.
I can’t keep watching this Ferris wheel tip over.
I’m tired of this carousel, these metal horses
Alice Rose Crow~Maar’aq
The Raven Question imprinted in a series of 20
Dear Dale DeArmond,
I’m in Sitka.
I returned in spring—a disoriented tundra bird migrating southeast during this time of renewal.
I descend with a flock on the second morning jet from town, a couple minutes late on All Fools’ Day. Alaska tries to be on time these days, you know.
I carried a Ziploc of Soma’s smoked salmon, a slim return gift to Dawn for a boxful of herring eggs on hemlock branches flown northwest to the tundra last spring.
Did you hear? Kings coming home are counted more than caught. We’ll send more fish when we can. This time no ring bearer girl-child Jamie flew with me. This time, I didn’t carry Kingu. Heather and Jamie are grown.
Kingu is a daddy to two budding girls—a husband—a home builder. We remember your seal oil lamp, Dale. Jamie and her husband read to our Dottie~Angilan on the banks of Clark Fork in Missoula. Scotty skis between catering to leisurely famed and rich at the private Yellowstone Club in Big Sky.
I orient myself to remember the lay of this island renamed for an explorer.
Descending from the bridge, I ask, where’s Shee Atika? An immigrant host declares there’s no Shee Atika. Has never been a Shee Atika, he continues as a hotel labeled Westmark comes into view.
Dropped off and left alone in a serene host home on the shore of Thimbleberry Bay, I settle in. Power up a laptop to write. A reflection beckons from above my shoulder.
My eyes are drawn from a thick round oak table nestled before a bayfront floor-to-ceiling window.
Beyond, an evergreen canopy of mossy hemlock and spruce, rock beach, shimmering water, buoys, moorings, fourteen pilings in five rows, and snow-capped forested hills teased by wispy clouds across the way.
I raise my eyes to the left to encounter The Raven Question. Greeting me is your signed woodcut, Dale. Your penciled hand scrolled the title The Raven Question, 17/20, Dale DeArmond, Imp-1978.
Cormorants, loons, mallards, eagles, and gulls glide and perch on rocks, moors, pilings. Preen and talk in their own languages to and among one another.
Songbirds flit amongst stands of trees.
Voices in a cacophony of beautiful noise as salmonberry blossoms begin with a blush of vivid pink.
At low tide, I descend flights of slippery wooden steps to reach a salt-musty beach to continue a ritual of bending for shells, rocks, driftwood, and shards to rearrange in patterns of delight.
I circle singles, duos, trios, handfuls, sevens. Towards town, a floatplane engine revs, gains speed to get on step, glide over water, and alight.
I am brought home to familiarity. I think of Bob’s later life as I join my first Thursday post-lunch Sharing Story salon with Pioneers Home residents. I came in late. I’m sorry.
Our prompts: I remember… and My Ma/Pa said a funny thing to me or I heard my folks say the darnedest thing.
We write quietly to learn more about each other and ourselves.
When the circle returns to her, Donna reads simply, My Ma said I’d grow old. I just didn’t think it would happen so fast.
On Friday evening, a duo of Edgecumbe teens teach a four-year old budding grandson-musician to finger and strum a ukulele.
The next afternoon I gather a single plastic bag filled with abalone buttons and a pair of fish vertebra hoop earrings on final clearance at Tongass Threads, a consignment shop.
On Billie Holliday’s 100th birthday, the day after Rie Munoz left us at 93, I am re-trained by a solo woman curator. A necessary step to touch a collection from home.
Objects are labeled variously, caribou teeth belts, earrings, parkas, boots, dolls, masks, spoons, bowls, hunting and fishing implements, baskets, mats, seal oil lamps, a missing seal oil lamp stand.
300 objects when filtered for Kuskokwim Eskimos. 1049 in Catalog Code II.X Eskimo(es) Yup’ik Unlocated— one for every mile of the Iditarod.
A sign describing a caribou mandible on display says belts are passed on by womenfolk and supposedly heal family members who touch them in a certain place.
A single word insertion: supposedly.
Eleven belts in this collection. A sign in the entryway says the collection is made possible by the missionary Sheldon Jackson’s liberality.
Two on display, nine in drawers. Taken away with masks for their supposed powers? Sold for trinkets as a toll for Christianization? Whatever the reasons, mislabeled or silent, our healing belts remain.
I capture images for Jamie who is still my only daughter. A return to possibilities for a healing belt with deer and elk mandibles to carry forward an Alaska-Montana destiny.
Our family touches healing through provision of care.
I contemplate your piece—Dale—hanging above Ma’s south-facing picture window on the windswept tundra on the road leading away from Bethel. Speak to Me Brother Raven comes to me as I walk the freshly graveled path of Lover’s Lane.
I pause before a US government sign, Who will keep This Land?
A depiction of war. Men in warlike stances, weapons raised.
An armed ship and its entourage approaching. At love and war, still, this place.
Totem Park commissions depict a history of people and place.
Near the visitor’s center entrance is Totem 8.
The sentinel labeled eight is a replica Haida shaming totem—an invader carved atop—above other images of thievery.
Debts unpaid, the sentinel totem has not been burned.
Those represented are not yet admitted, healed over, and forgotten. I leave the national park. Pass the Wrongs harbor. Pass the lone Russian Orthodox Church.
Pass the replica of the replica Russian Stockade.
I walk pass the busy Pioneer Bar and Liquor Store, across from the ANB Harbor. Step aside tethered dogs awaiting afternoon revelers.
Across from a steel fabricated fish processing plant, I stand before a boarded up roadside wooden clan house in mossy decay.
I greet a sentinel perched under steep eaves of a dormer window furthest from traffic, closest to a hill.
Down the beach from SeaMart—as women collect herring eggs or snap photographs—an eagle click-whistles, a raven caws, in raucous conversation. More talk of war or peace?
I call to the duo, I’m here.
Another tourist asking the raven question whose answer is peace.
Speak to Me Brother Raven.
I add my voice, speaking among honorable people. Peace in this place I come to as but a brief visitor.
You see, Dale, I said I would return to this beauteous land, and I did. I’m here, among the people you loved. I’m here all month. Your friend, Ali Crow
White Asiatic Lilies, Rock
I lugged lily bulbs from a Saturday farmer’s market Missoula six springs ago.
When I returned home, I reached into a repurposed brown paper lunch bag and dug into brown earth.
I dug to plant perennial beauty embodying blood orange vibrancy lived when James and Josh wed on the Clark Fork.
Each spring blood orange lilies rise up to bloom along the rockway leading to a mostly unused glassed front door.
Another cluster reaches toward the sun next to a wooden decline leading to my kitchen. Edge a blue forget-me-not patch creeping into edges of grass, creeping next to protection of fiddlehead ferns, surrounding my cooking and cleaning place.
I’m not in Spenard as snow and ice melts away to expose green shoots and tendrils.
I’m in Shee Atika where young eagles hunt, gliding low over a morning outgoing tide.
I’m three-four miles down Sawmill Creek Road from a rickety room where Chris perches on a rolly stool to broadcast from the Historic Cable House on Lincoln Street in the shadow of the bridge. She says her friend is Martha Scott who got her start in radio at KYUK—back then it was 580 on our AM dial—before the turn of the century, when Martha and Elias strummed their way into songs of life.
Across Thimbleberry Bay waves rise and cap white as they crash into glistening rocks. Fog caresses a forested hillside, a gray cleansing mist continues a slow wash towards town.
Weekend Edition plays as I sip strong coffee and I start with Tamie and read through Connotations—works by Brooke, Cathyrn, Kristina, Carol, Susan, Vivian. Summer 2014.
I look across unrivered water without nausea now.
A lone cormorant preens, pulsing outstretched wings, open, airing out. Looks forward, then off to each side. A live silhouette of a curved moose hoof carved into a pin.
The one Ma offered to mark my twelfth birthday.
When it’s time for KCAW Muskeg Message Service—like KYUK Tundra Drums for folks without a (cell) phone—there’s not even a single radio message.
The weekend DJ plays “At the Hop.”
There’s a whole lot of shaking going on…a cormorant shakes his head, looks to each side, behind. Snakes his neck, vigilant. Wet.
Chantilly Lace and a pretty face as another cormorant lands on another jutting piling. Snow turns to slush, an echo of a previous morning, clings to lichen. Obscures the hills. Melting snow morphs into bulbs then drips from tips of hemlock branches to free us.
KCAW, KYUK, KNOM, KOTZ, KSKA, WHYY. NPR.
A hummingbird flits through hemlock. Returns tiny and delicate among towering sentinels.
Globules drip heavily from the slant roof’s eave. Splat the balcony deck railing, a steady drum’s cadence. A tempo of life in gratitude.
Circular cadence is everything in an Eskimo world. Hills return, called by a drumming song bringing the unseen into view. Pulsing. Shoreline hills, hills behind, beyond, graying beyond into a horizon. Sun bleached orange buoys bob as a cormorant keeps to his perch watching, watching.
Esther Green says to Katie, I won’t say it on tape for my safety.
Gabe Fox wanders somewhere—in our imaginations for sure. Olga, Lucy, George, and back it goes.
Who could lock any of us up and expect to keep us chained in this place of beauty and renewal? Is resiliency a legacy of Carolyn and Dirk? What is mismeasured noise?
A sign on the St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral reads Vespers at 6 p.m. No sign for Paaskaaq. 55 regular parishioners, mostly Tlingit, reads the RO website. No mention of Easter Service.
White Elephant, Salvation Army. Tongass Threads, SeaMart. Fuzzy water. Artisan bread. Dawn. Karen Lye. Sitka Tribe Meeting April 16, 6:30, open to the public. Shee Atika.
Day eleven. No car. No registration. No insurance. No transmission. No communication.
Crocodile Rock’s baseline strums as a cormorant holds to his position. Rain rests as a pair of loons glide past—heads down—fishing. Alight together, flying a low loose s pattern.
A morning tide recedes to expose new shells, tumbled glass, pottery, squid. Seaweed swirls across boulders as a squall returns. Banging above. Banging, banging. An eagle swoops by gliding past my rocking chair perch.
Gurgling water caresses as a rocky point is exposed by an expected outgoing tide. Soon sea lions will gather and peer as I walk into town.
A parade of sleek fur and penetrating eyes swim against the grain of my step, between me and a floating dock.
I call out, I see you. See me, visiting, a tourist? Meanwhile, a gull, cleansed white gray pumps by.
A raven crowds a young eagle and gives up chase, veering up, off as Manford Man’s Earth Band emerges from 1968 to play Quinn the Mighty Eskimo.
Eskimo. Paint or stain. Nose blood or ash. Birch bark. Charcoal.
More banging, downstairs now. Slamming. Heavy exhaling. Mumbling huffs.
I walk towards a new day.
All morning at the Highliner Coffee a patter of teens studying, budding lawmen and townsfolk in conversation. Reading, taking notes, revising. At Kettleson, I skim through piles of books, snap photos, and take notes. Check out more books, reach my limit.
Walking back from town, I stop into a convenience / liquor store on Saw Mill Creek.
The gas station down from the national park shares a parking lot with a post office. Just inside a raven-haired girl, just younger than Autumn, five, maybe six, stands leaning over a metal trash can on the liquor side, ripping pulltabs with practiced precision.
The budding girl fans each rippie, looks close, quick, then drops each perforated cardboard bet into a nearly full garbage.
Eventually she calls out a win, eager to cash out and leave. A mustached man with her says with a practiced even tone: you need to wait for your mom. The girl pouts.
He shrugs past my questioning eyes. A mother figure brings bottles of pop and jumbo-sized bags of chips to the check-out stand.
My smartphone chimes as Ma calls with the news.
Frank’s daughter named for his mother is found crumpled outside a Muldoon Church in northeast Anchorage.
Police question her 15-year old boyfriend and 40-something companion. Thoughts turn to Russian Orthodox services and bringing her home to rest.
Filipinos, South Americans, Tlingits, a lone Eskimo, and a few down white people crowd in front of White Elephant for Monday 6 to 8 p.m. hours.
I buy scrap fabric from volunteers, enough to make a qaspeq for a granddaughter. Blank journals to fill. A perky 70’s wooden plaque for James, You make me happy when skies are gray.
I walk across the bridge. Visit with a Brave Writer, a grieving senior from home. We write.
The sun shines through a low cloud cover. Scotty Ryan turns 25, a quarter-century. I revise revise revise.
I type a work to email to Kira before walking into town to be among smiling welcoming people and to continue my exploration of Yup’ik objects stored in drawers, under plexiglass, mislabeled, and far from home.
Trevino Brings Plenty
Late Night Digital Teletape
As ice caps disappear, sea levels rise, so too
there is a flood of information on social media.
I want to be another person opposite
of my political world views.
To thumb the screen
feeling the smoothness of my fears.
Death made so easy in a system
to create murder equitable
for those it was not to serve. False.
I’m to stress about money,
to believe it god. There are no gods
other than what we’ve invented.
So these gods web catacombs – quantum entanglement
of this belief. It’s an extrapolation
of what I have yet to understand.
But really it’s a hologram of collective hive-thought.
This thematic material is digital pharmacology.
A mastication my thought speak
mulls into image into action into shutdown.
Enough to watch a child branch into ice fissures.
The water of their question exploration
seeping deep into the stratosphere
that we adults navigate blindly, foolishly on devices.
I think the neighborhood of your class
will shape expectations. Be the queer of status quo.
It’s status epilepticus of social construct.
The precipice to outer regions
held dear as common sense.
The cool mind hallucinates
the beautiful light reflections
engineering others not yet gone.
Ideas Like People When Homogenized
Ideas like people when homogenized
lose the diversity to sustain itself;
easily collapse like much GMO epidemics.
The idea that values scarcity
will meagerly implode,
if not only cease to be.
Which would one choose to develop?
Meaningless starvation or
skyscraping Fibonacci sequence structures.
Sara Marie Ortiz
“For examples of it you may take the ancient authors and those of the moderns who have during the last fifteen years illuminated our literature, now justly proud in this glorious achievement. Happy demi-gods, they who cultivate their own earth, nor strive after another, from which they could only return thankless and unhappy, unrecompensed, unhonored.”
Pierre De Ronsard
The Earth is my one and only God. And I am raging at the Earth, enraged at this God of mine, the holy Earth. Enraged at her failing us, at her failing, us, her children. Enraged. Raging and becoming truly intoxicated by this rage, at her failing to keep us from killing her and, thus, at her failing to keep us from killing us. Perhaps indicative of some cognitive lapse, some site of the soluble breaking-apart-place in my fragile human architecture: I think she should’ve been able to stop us, should have been able to mitigate our killing power, able to increase hers. . .that we might be kept from all we have done, all we are doing, all we will do.
And, for all of this time, this time of my long, deep, and ever present raging, I have deemed it to be about The People, deemed it to be about The Hanoh`, the ones charged with her care, deemed my raging and raging, to be worthy of them, of us, of The People, but now I see, now think it to be this way
we are an expression, an articulation, of Her,
have always been, will always be; and, thus, I rage on.
We should’ve been stopped.
If not by Her, then by whom?
And if not soon, then when?
The dreams, imaginings, prayers and desires of the living, keep the dreams and alter-realties of the dead: alive.
I’m inclined to believe that:
it might just work both ways.
On the dreaming dead: our realities, the realities of the living, are the alter-realities, the other-reality of us, becoming a rather strange animal and architecture in the eyes, hearts, and minds of the dreaming dead.
- On space: The space between dream and waking is infinitely vast; this is where the dreaming dead live.On time: The intricately ordered architecture of the time-space continuum is infinite, yes, the dead and all about-to-be-reborn-sentient beings reside in and compose this vast architecture.
Heart like a bloody blown glass pump.
Like the Eskimos and their 100 words for ‘snow’.
A lot of the writing, a lot of the love, the sex, the traveling far from home, and its holy atrocities—some ephemeral, some infinite, some both—was all about my attempting to find a thousand and one different names for ‘light’, and just as many ways to describe how it would change when I had, or when I did not have, the eyes for such light.
And quite possibly, O, possibly, with yet another tiny holy bloody seed of us, growing quietly inside, and I won’t know for sure for many days, though the inexact, oft indecipherable old language of quiet pulse, sprouting of limbs, and eyes, and tiny heart, as buds, anew and again at the center of us, you only in my physical womb, parts of you unseen to any but the God eye which remains, and I too, and yet you also exist there in the God eye/heart/hand/mind-womb of another Native father-possibly, he who doesn’t even yet dare imagine, and/or cull back from memory, such a terrible beautiful possibility on a Thanksgiving day where I am in the sky, and he is down far below, when, in so many strange little ways, he is my reason for being in the sky on a Thanksgiving day en route to
Winnipeg, thinking of the dream cinema of the ancient world becoming our Avatars, when it hurts too much to be entirely alive to what we have become; blood, pulse, heat seed, rush in-and-out, coming-back-to-the-world-sometimes memory song of us, at all.
The muse of Du Fu.
Portals as atlas of body.
Who then? Who
let the voices of birds in?
Fear of god and of their own nature
was what became them, was what made beasts of them all.
Winter came and went.
Strangely, the light, it was the light,
and the unending music of days
that turned the god food,
into lesser poisons,
a lesser light
and the children into wolves.
Inspired by the work of Chemehuevi photographer Cara Romero
It all started quite simply really.
I just wanted to say things to you.
Wanted you to say things back.
A story once came to me about a boy.
The boy’s father told me the story.
The boy asked the father “what is light?”
The father did not know how to answer his boy.
The story came to me.
And I have it now.
“As long as anthropological discourse does not confuse its own logical content with the real world then rationality is not violated by deviant utterances and the normative content of the discipline is maintained, thereby attaining rationality and objectivity through conformity.
The terms “primitive” and “savage” do pose differences, however, and is likely the reason, though not a justification for, the criticisms posed against Cushing for the use of the term. As Fabian points out in regard to the term “savage,” “no amount of nominalist technicality can purge the term of its moral, aesthetic, and political connotations.” It cannot be reduced to universal data.
“Primitive,” on the other hand, is quite conducive to universalization. As Dunn notes, in an Indian society, there are no artists. As a medium for expression anyone may be a “creative participant in some capacity,” and as such the groundwork for an inclusive base for interpretation of a communicable set of symbols is laid, providing an ontological basis of rationality. That is, the former abstract concept of primitive art as a primitive act has been provided with content. This should, to a reasonable degree, satisfy the ontologist and anthropologist alike. In the ontological sense rationality is viewed as “perspective-taking” and does not require objectivity. Objectivity requires agreement, or intersubjective validation through public reciprocal intentions, where the objectivity of claims is tied to their communicability.”
From Stylistic Development and Dorothy Dunn by Chet Staley © 2005
I’ve thought for so long on my work and the work of other
contemporary Indigenous artists, so much leaning toward
anti-narrativity with latent undertones, an abiding and essential
basis of Indigenous culture being based in oral narrativity and
our Indigenous ways of knowing, being, doing, and creating
What is light?
I contemplate the audience in/of Indian art – the bane and
blessing of most contemporary Native artists in the U.S.; I
first began creating my “Indian art,” writing Indian for an audience
that was and was not me. Though my dad, and other relatives had
made a living by creating art for Indian and non-Indian audiences,
I didn’t begin writing thinking that was something that was right,
or viable, or sustainable. I began writing to save my own Indigenous
life. I was fourteen. And pregnant with an Indigenous daughter.
Also that. Now I write tome-like emails and post song lyrics on Facebook
to remind loneliness that we do have options.
There is power and possibility in this, but is that power and possibility
already half-lost once the overly self-conscious self-reflective creative
intellectual I/eye is made readily apparent in iconography, supposition,
juxtaposing, materials, and subject matter?
How to transcend the tropes and formulas?
There is a story I know about the old world.
The men sometimes talk about it in Keres with hushed voices.
I supposed then, and still do, that it’s best to talk about old worlds
in old languages. When we speak about them, and the lives of
the dead, with our new languages, we run the risk of singing them
back somehow, and this is dangerous I’m told. Language
of the new world, obsequy
of scattered limbs, melting tundra, broken iPads, and magpies.
I do not speak the language of the old world.
But I know it when I hear it.
: often major or fundamental change (as in character or condition) based primarily on rearrangement of existent elements <the system has gone through several permutations>; also: a form or variety resulting from such change <technology available in various permutations>
a : the act or process of changing the lineal order of an ordered set of objects
b : an ordered arrangement of a set of objects
— per·mu·ta·tion·al adjective
Origin of PERMUTATION
Middle English permutacioun exchange, transformation, from Anglo-French, from Latin permutation-, permutatio, from permutare
First Known Use: 14th century
I am thinking of dg Nanouk’s thoughts on erasure.
We must go to the essence of a thing, to cull, to sing back,
and out, meaning from
and full circle toward
The strike through of blood memory is this.
We must go and go to the
essence of a thing.
Indigenous visuality =
Visual language born of loss of land
and deep connection to the natural world.
What eyes to see such language?
weighted lining encases
skin, sweltering not swelling,
nor beyond taction saddles aubade
against a gild embroider sarcophagus,
cufflinks secure a phonetic breath
in crisscrossing singed hands,
another absence of breath,
no utterances to butterfly wings,
no fluttering to humming birds
moon word written,
sun phrase forms,
water delineates swirling vacuum,
air whisper gasps,
eyes on eves widen, awake
water ripples from fountain drips,
iron wrench turns,
decompressing sighs decease,
counter-clockwise increase aspirate surge
droplets cushions quick forming moss,
ever thickening at the base,
black glistening liquid undulates slow currents,
splaying glissade ebbs
by plummeting onto the chest cavity
every breath hastens impact, a cacophony of murmurs,
soft kisses on desiccating forehead,
lasting within forsaking glottal frill
leaves sneer, a cadaver smiling gaze
the night before
a labyrinth of crude bathroom stalls
lines up like coffer edifice,
emanate echoing moans,
dispels among lamp lights flickers,
night after night,
these re-occurrences do not fade,
brown rust slippage of liquid language
at the edge of lips,
procures a verdigris sludge of blatant memory,
sacred to turquoise at dusk
that same dusk, the body
is left in a margin of corn field
and merging road way, his head faces south,
tilting just enough to see that re-occurrence
disappear in a gleam of red tail lights,
the next morning
as the sun swells with pink linings,
it bereaves sounds of doves taking flight,
hushing shrills of sitting thrush
Collestipher D. Chatto
Flags dot Crownpoint’s arid cemetery. Curled wolf tails sway with flags striped red, striped white, dotted with white stars against blue hue. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons gather in worship. The sun’s face dons an illumined beard. Rays descend, warm mom’s wrinkled face, bathe her downy cheeks in a dry and grey Memorial Day. Daughters and sons, wives and husbands buried with their guns. Rifles are reattached limbs. Envision eagles crucified on crosses. Faint red, blue, white flaky petals on plastic stems flitter in sighful breeze. Stand where his feet would be, nine feet asunder inside a casket, caved in, fatigued beneath the world’s guilt. Mom wishes Chris could sleep inside her body, like he did at age zero, so rest a shimmering world on his eyes. He wasn’t a soldier, but a Nuevo Mexicano officer who served his enchanted land well. The elder brother is now the ancestor. His kidneys were bullets oiled in adder poison. They blackened. Handsome skin hardened into yellow rind. His eyes reddened into popped berries. Sweet decay yolks his breath. How he used to slouch on the couch in the living room alone with his prayers. He sunk into the cushions, buried himself in soft fabric, lay sidelong on mom’s breasts. She doused him in song, My tears dry on you.
bear palls and blanket over
the sun’s cradleboard
Enflame flesh. Dye black. A soil you touch it is velvet. It reminds you of the womb, a mother’s breasts kissing your head. Her naats’íílid child, a prism glass in motherhood eyes. Deathscape of nádąą’dootl’ízh, the ground muddied blue, cool after a female sprinkle. Delicate touch on your tongue’s tip, dabs like candy-shreds melt and collapse, acid through wood. A kind of deathful, two arms in a circular face, stuck at north. They twitch in place, beetles fly clockwise in a night sky illumined by sun, a porch light bulb humming in sync with buzzing wings. Land on the wall, dawn spotlights yellow, encrusts insects — whiteout. This kind of rite is not a Christian funeral, for death is not Illusion. Illusion removes her mask, and God blushes. God is a mirage, says the godless woman in godly times. Be that man inside the pod, egg-shaped, and vegetated six feet. It holds ash, mixed and brimmed with seeds. Water downpour jostles bone crisps, quenched. Roots vein, upreach, climb and climb, crown the surface. Diné bi’t’eesh with a stem tubing blood, glossed warm below sun’s gaze. From human to compost, grow a torso with leafy arms. A leg firm against desert gust. One thousand and four hundred and eight, point, seventy-nine weeks aged. A’ji’din, late after last breath, in evergreen haze, breakfast serves hummingbirds from yellow genitals. Lick sepal lips of nectarine juice for days and nights. Birth oxygen for family and friends to breathe in until their lungs age brittle, and no woman, no man dare to dream of the trees’ extinction.
allow three days to
pass on before my name seeps
from eyes of loved ones
I long for the company of Wild that blew down through the trees and into the land and up into our fingertips, until kids went mad in the streets and marched to DC after Mississippi burned, Atlanta burned, Kent State burned and scorched the yellow brick road bloody with the bodies of the young whose only cry was “stop killing!” Still the red and yellow, black and poor whites went to the jungles in Vietnam and died there. They went to the Saudi Arabian desert and died there. They’re dying still in every street and city in America, a sacrament to killing as common as burned toast; filling fat bellies of the one percent. Oh Wild, come. Oh Wild, return. Oh Wild come and tell me how it ends.
After and Before
Several things: Patterns. I must consult the red toy box.
Huge, someone crawls inside, maybe it’s me.
She traces the blue writing trimmed in gold
with a small finger.
The red toy box fits in the mother’s closet,
and I fit inside it.
When open the toy box tells.
Hypersensitive to settings: A need to show
A car burning, a woman inside
A corpse before she knew she was one,
Afterwards when she was still moving, flying apart
inside the blue Dodge Dart,
We, — you and I — watch her burn,
He, the cop,
Runs to open the door and pulls her out
The ruined flesh of his fingers stick to the cardoor handle
He pulls back; I pull back and put the camera to my eye
Shoot traces of what is left
I take pictures in real time, —
Later I burn them.
Autumn, 1969, the F4 fighter jet crashed next door to my house
Tinker Field, Vietnam mon ami,
Midwest City Bombers, more than a mascot memory
Seven houses burned that day,
Including the co-pilot of the F4
Ensnared in my front lawn
Things I know about myself
Memories of the oddest feelings,
A red toybox trimmed in blue and gold,
I fuck an intern that Paine Webber has hired,
One night after work
That is the way I express disgust. Back then.
We fuck on the floor of his apartment. Me in a tight skirt, him in a tie
We can’t even manage to take off our clothes
Later we remember through a camera lens,
Where have you been, he asks.
Burned, I say, the ashes went right up through the trees
Whips of silver green leaves make an E sound
The wind is a low C.
A text is a construction of self – delve into it raw.
CLASS WAR IN THE MAGAZINES
I trace fingers across the polished wood
and linen upholstery. The sun breathes
through extra-large extra windows,
reflects from lime walls,
and gathers into the lemons piled
in a great glass bowl.
Everywhere is order, precise and clean.
I breathe deeply, taking in
the relaxed, careful scent of money.
My eyes focus on the shiny floors
and neat cubbyholes,
bountiful arrangements of fresh
roses, lilies, peonies, and dahlias
in glass and ceramic vases
in every corner on every surface.
The smell of money is light and flowers.
The toilet still running in the background,
I try to clean the broken tiles at the kitchen sink
and cover worn floors with handmade rugs.
The windows, cloudy with years,
in painted-over screens,
strain the light to a thin drizzle.
The smell of reality is something small
that died somewhere inside.
Rain Prud’homme-Cranford Goméz
How Turtle Begins to Relearn her Language
(broken shell & broken phrases)
For Michelle Pichon
Anumpa nan anoli sabvnna.
Bok chitto a yvy pvlhki hosh yanvlli.
Luksi insht anya shali chukka
Hatchotakni insht anya shali yakni
Hatchotakni insht anya shali pvt Okla
Yakni isht ikhana
Okla isht ikhana
Lokaffit isht ia.
Luksi insht anya shali chukka
Hatchotakni insht anya shali yakni
Hatchotakni insht anya shali pvt Okla
Bok chitto a yvy pvlhki hosh yanvlli.
I want to tell a story.
The water is flowing fast to the ocean.
Turtle carry the home.
Sea Turtle carry the land.
Sea Turtle carry the People.
The land is record keeper.
The People are record keeper.
Turtle carry the home.
Sea Turtle carry the land.
Sea Turtle carry the People.
The water is flowing fast to the ocean.
A restaurant on outskirts of Norman, Indian women are laughing in Oklahoma.
Wide lush lips splitting over white squared teeth in round faces in Oklahoma.
Eyes turn crinkles over broad cheekbones, dimple dipped full cheeks— canyons of story
Indian women laughing in shades of sassafras bark to the pale golden sky in Oklahoma.
Northside of OKC children huddle under a Pendleton giggling away their secrets.
Their arms, legs, a tangle of tree limbs, their bodies rooted to this soil in Oklahoma.
Child laughter crow-hops across the house to the lone adult sitting silent in darkness—
An air conditioner whirrs to life— she passing her tongue over broken front tooth in Oklahoma.
Cool air rushes to warm skin but the smell of outside lingers on hair and clothes something—
Spicy like green onion, the faint smell of Gulf salt, and the sweetness of red dirt in Oklahoma.
My House Fell Down
My hand rappin on steering wheel keeps time
trouble’s takin place in the low lands tonight.
Gut twists to ebb and flow of lazy husky croon on radio—
Bessie’s great don’t get me wrong, there’s just something about Irma.
Trouble’s takin place in the low lands tonight.
Voice, like the soul picks up the air, the salt, the water—
Bessie’s great, don’t get me wrong, there’s just something about Irma,
like the second coming of Mahalia Jackson.
Voice, like the soul picks up the air, the salt, the water—
This blood in dirt, bayous leaching into throat drawn notes
like the second coming of Mahalia Jackson—
Skin absorbs the land itself— It’s a Creole thing.
This blood in dirt, bayous leaching into throat drawn notes—
my thumb haphazardly rubbing at my left ring finger.
Skin absorbs the land itself— It’s a Creole thing.
Underscores voice as I sing, hands beat wheel like drum.
My thumb haphazardly rubbing at my left ring finger—
When it thunders and lightens and the wind begins to blow.
Underscores voice as I sing, hands beat wheel like drum—
backseat packed with waters and ghosts ridin shot gun.
When it thunders and lightens and the wind begins to blow—
gut twists to ebb and flow of lazy husky croon on radio.
Backseat packed with waters and ghosts ridin shot gun—
my hand rappin on steering wheel keeps time.
After Reading Akhmatova
Sunset spoils the night at the heart;
I’m 77 years old and competing
with the old growth cedar
for a little less weight down my spine.
I can read who is in the dark
or turn away at the outcome.
To Chief Leschi of the Nisqually
Long before Leschi was fitted with the hangman’s knot,
he saw upon first meeting Isaac Stevens,
his nemesis who would someday sign his death warrant.
Stevens from his days as a young cadet
at West Point saw himself as Zeus
with a thunderbolt to strike the natives
from their land and wave in the white settlers
pouring into Nisqually Flats,
a swarm that flowed longer than the river.
With his sword always at the ready, Stevens
didn’t need a flag because he carefully tattooed
on his large brow; Manifest Destiny,
as he strutted before
the Medicine Creek treaty officials
and the tribes that chose to attend.
With his very short legs, he cast himself
as an overlord of Olympian stature,
ignoring the fact he was barely five feet tall.
Choosing to see only the whites in his midst,
he reminded them what George Washington said
in 1793: that Indians and wolves were
both beasts of prey, though they have different shapes.
Bracing himself for the approaching hangman,
Leschi remembered it meant nothing to Stevens
that his ancestors had lived along the Nisqually
River for 10,000 years.
Stevens merely jeered, “So what.”
Craig Santos Perez is the author of three books, most recently from unincorporated territory [gumaʻ] (Omnidawn Publishing, 2015).
Jamie Natonabah is Dine from Fort Defiance, AZ. She currently calls Santa Fe, NM home and is attending the Institute of American Indian Arts for Creative Writing. She is the recipient of the IAIA scholarship to attend the Naropa Summer Writing Program in Boulder, CO. She is also the recipient of the Truman Capote Scholarship. She is a poet whose bones grew of fiction.
b: william bearhart is a direct descendent of the St Croix Chippewa of Wisconsin and an MFA candidate in the Lo Rez program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His work can be found in places like Cream City Review, inter|rupture, PANK, Tupelo Quarterly, and Yellow Medicine Review.
Alice Rose Crow~Maar’aq is born and raised on the Kusquqvak in southwest Alaska and nests in Spenard. Her work appears in the Brevity blog, Hinchas de Poesia, Camas, Yellow Medicine Review, River, Blood and Corn, Retort, Frontiers, and Standards. Her book-length collection, An Offering of Words, is under review. An Island Institute Fellow, she earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indi(genous)an Arts. She is a member of the Orutsararmiut Native Council and is an original Calista and Bethel Native Corporation shareholder.
Trevino L. Brings Plenty is a poet, musician, and multi-media video artist who creates in Portland, OR. Trevino is an American and Native American; a Lakota Indian born and enrolled in the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, South Dakota, USA. In 2015, Trevino was The C. Hamilton Bailey Fellowship recipient. Other titles by author: Wakpá Wanáǧi Ghost River (2015); Real Indian Junk Jewelry (2012); Shedding Skins: Four Sioux Poets (2008).
Sara Marie Ortiz (Pueblo of Acoma) is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts with a BFA in Creative Writing and Antioch University Los Angeles’ MFA program with a focus in creative nonfiction. Publishing widely from the age of eighteen, Sara Marie has published in journals such as the Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Sentence, and Cream City Review. Her first collection of poetry and nonfiction Red Milk was published in 2013 and she is currently at work on her second collection called Savage: A Love Story. Sara Marie lives in Seattle, Washington.
Crisosto Apache is an enrolled Mescalero Apache member from New Mexico. He is an alumnus from IAIA (AFA 1992 / MFA 2015) and Metropolitan State University of Denver (BA, 2013) for English and Creative Writing. His book reviews are for the Native American anthology Visit Tee-Pee Town (Coffee House Press 1999), published in the Poetry Project publication, Issue 175. His work also includes Native LGBTQI / ‘two spirit’ advocacy & public awareness.
Collestipher Dodge Chatto is full-blooded Diné (Navajo). He was born in the Zuni reservation on March 14, and grew up in Pinehill located on the Ramah Navajo reservation in western New Mexico. He holds a BFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. He’ll be obtaining his MFA in Creative Writing at IAIA.
LeAnne Howe is the author of novels, plays, poetry, screenplays, and scholarship that deal with Native experiences. An enrolled citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, she has won, among other awards, the 2014 MLA Prize for Studies in Native American Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, and she will be awarded a Distinguished Achievement Award for Creative and Critical work from the Western Literature Association in October 2015. She is the Eidson Distinguished Professor of American Literature in the English Department at the University of Georgia, Athens.
Linda Rodriguez’s three novels published by St. Martin’s Press featuring Cherokee campus police chief, Skeet Bannion—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, and Every Last Secret—have received critical recognition and awards, such as Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Award, selections of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, 2nd Place in the International Latino Book Awards, finalist for the Premio Aztlan Literary Award, 2014 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award, and Barnes & Noble mystery pick. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.
For her books of poetry, Skin Hunger (Scapegoat Press) and Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press), Rodriguez received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence, the Midwest Voices and Visions Award, the Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, the 2011 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships.
Rodriguez is 2015 chair of the AWP Indigenous/Aboriginal American Writer’s Caucus, a founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, , and a member of Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers and Kansas City Cherokee Community.
Rain Prud’homme-Cranford Goméz Ph.D. is a Professor in Oklahoma specializing in Native and Creole Cultural and Rhetorical Studies. She is the former Sutton Doctoral Fellow in English from the University of Oklahoma and winner of the First Book Award in Poetry for Smoked Mullet Cornbread Crawdad Memory, (Mongrel Empire Press 2012) from Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas (2009). She is re-editing her second poetry collection Miscegenation Round Dance: Poèmes Historiques, and revising her book Gumbo Banaha Stories: Louisiana Indigeneity and the Transnational South based on her dissertation.
Duane Niatum has been writing poems, stories and essays for over 50 years. He has been widely published in the US and abroad. He published eight books of poems, most recently, The Pull of the Green Kite, was published by Serif and Pixel Press in 2011. Duane’s writing is deeply connected with the Northwest coast landscape, its mountains, forests, water and creatures. The legends and traditions of his ancestors, who have long called this place home, help shape and animate his poetry.
He has published hundreds of poems and dozens of stories in magazines and anthologies in the USA and Europe. He was four times nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has finished a manuscript of his Collected Poems. He is sending around to the publishers two collections of short stories. Several of his essays on American Indian literature and art have been published in the U.S. and Europe. His poems, stories, and essays were translated into fourteen languages. He has a Ph. D. in American Studies from the University of Michigan/ Ann Arbor. Duane is an enrolled member of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe.
He was invited to read at the Library of Congress and the International Poetry Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Duane has made a life-long study of art and artists, including American Indian art, literature and culture. He brings unique insight to his writings and publications.