Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Coming of age

"It's been noted that in western novels one finds oneself by leaving home, while in Native American storytelling one finds oneself by returning home."

— Gerry William (Spallumcheen Indian Band)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

39,000 feet in the air

When I'm on an airplane,
39,000 feet in the air,
reading the introduction
to a collection of poetry
by a transgender poet of color,
and in her foreword, she thanks me,
her reader, for simply
being alive, and I can't
stop crying, because I know
she means it with every ounce of her soul.
Because she's me. Because she
knows. Because she signs it "hugs".
I'll be the first person to drown
39,000 feet in the air.

...Go read Ryka Aoki. Now.

Friday, July 22, 2016

How to eat a wedge salad

Decide to walk to the theater
by Fenway Park, because it's
nice outside, and there are sure to be
some Pokemon along the way.

Wear the frilly blue top with
the see-through ruffled shoulders you like
so much. Do your make-up, careful
to cover up the dark spot on
your lip where you burned

your mustache off with laser beams.
It feels like sunburn.

The Pokemon Go servers go down

the moment you step outside.
Take the T halfway until the servers
are back up. Catch a Spearow.

When the servers crash again, remember
to take another dose of Spiro.

Consider wearing a skirt next time.
It's summer, after all,
and you usually pass
as a cis girl now.

Enter the cool theater and buy a ticket,
trying not to think about how much
it costs or how much
your rent will be next month.

Wear your 3D glasses like a gangster.

Ghostbusters is good.

Giggle like a schoolgirl.
Scream like a grown ass lady.
Swoon like a baby dyke.

Fall a little in love
with Kate McKinnon. Then remember

that comedy sketch where she played
a British cis boy
who wanted a vagina.
Desperately try to sort out
how you feel about that.

Until she licks her proton gun.
Then decide it's probably okay.

When the movie gets out, the Pokemon Go servers
are still down, and the T is packed.

Walk two miles back home.

Think you should definitely get
a haircut with some more edge to it.
You need to cultivate your queerness
if you want to keep dating girls.

Your phone still has some battery left (and
this is very important), so you decide to stop
at a bar for dinner. Sit at the bar.

Get "ma'amed", and order a saison.

When the bartender asks for an ID, hand it
over to him, very casually,
like it's no big deal,
and go back to inspecting the food menu.

When the bartender is still looking at your ID,
with some suspicion now,
twisting it this way and that,
investigating how it diffracts light
in the sinking New England sunlight,

look up and smile softly
at him. Think, well,
it's an out-of-state ID.

Receive your ID when it's returned to you.
The bartender says nothing. Breathe out.

Mac and cheese sounds amazing, but you chose
sleep instead of your morning run today, so
a salad will have to do.

The Greek sounds good, but remember you haven't had
any protein yet today. And the Wedge has bacon.

Order the wedge salad.

When the bartender takes your order,
he says "sir."

Die a little inside.

Start questioning everything about your day.

Is my make-up off?
Are my breasts too manly?
Was everyone actually staring on the T?
Do I look like a drag queen like this?

When the wedge salad comes, there is one
thick, flaccid strip of bacon
draped over the lettuce
like a dead animal, and there is
absolutely nothing phallic about it.

Except you wonder
if it is a metaphor for the penis
tucked inside your panties.

Then the other bartender asks
"Would you like another beer, miss?"

And all is right with the world.

The feminist inside you cringes
at how reliant on male validation you've become.

The bacon isn't even very good.

But maybe you'll wear the skirt tomorrow
and watch Ghostbusters again.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

(A Little) Rez NDN Dreamsong

I'm tired.

We're driving nowhere now. I feel like year
by year, I say goodbye to more and more
family who I never know I had.
My friends and lovers, cousins, brothers, sisters,
are all lined up like candles in the night,
and I'm watching them go out one by one,
and I know this is not the dream we had.
How many funerals can dot the year?
They say you're not supposed to count the stars,
since once you start, you'll never stop, and I
tried counting once and lost myself. Now I'm
afraid some stars may fall at night, and so
I hold on tight as we are gunning through
the desert twilight, because holding on
is all that we can do. Someday we will
find a way to put this all behind while
still saying "I love you," "I love you", and
keeping everyone safe inside our hearts.

- "(A Little) Rez NDN Dreaming"

To Philando Castile.
To Alton Sterling.

To Edward Sotomayer, Jr.,
Stanley Almodovar III,
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo,
Juan Ramon Guerrero,
and everyone at Pulse that night.

To Mercedes Successful.
To Reecey Walker.
To Keyonna Blakeney.
To Shante Thompson.
To Kourtney Yochum.
To Maya Young.
To Monica Loera.
To Jasmine Sierra.
To Kedarie Johnson.
To Demarkis Stansberry.
To Kayden Clarke.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Girls just wanna (be)

Some boys take a beautiful girl
and hide her away from the rest of the world
I want to be the one to walk in the sun

Monday, May 23, 2016

Words to live by

"Be careful who you hate. It might just be someone you love."

— Unknown

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Native Road to the Deep North IX

June 25
In the morning, we’re loading the SUVs for our long journey back to Anchorage. It’s raining like it will never stop. We’re leaving one of our companions, Wai, here in Fairbanks. She will continue on a journey of her own, catch a ride back into the wilderness, and make camp in the mountains beyond this town. She will do geology field work in a part of the world so beautiful that I envy her new office at the top of the world from the top of my heart. I hope she finds good rocks. And so we smile, say our goodbyes, send up wishes that the rain will stop before she has to set up her tent, and then we are off.
Mourning skies
collecting cumulonimbus—
and holding back
Hours later, we are back in Anchorage, back at the beginning of the road we started down when we were born with this blood and first heard this song, as if awaking from a dream. We’re saying more goodbyes, as our party disperses back to homes hundreds of thousands of miles away.
Midnight children
in the sun-stained sky—
Alaska’s stars
*      *      *
They say home is where the heart is. And my heart, too, lies back there. It is beating
under the red soil in the American southwest, where the first mountains rise that begin the march of the Rocky Mountain range across this continent, finally ending here on the other end of the world, where I watch them sink back into the earth as the Brooks Range in the distant north, only to be erased by Alaska Range closer on the horizon. But I feel I am leaving a part of myself behind here: a shard of my heart that will keep dreaming of Alaska long after I have departed.
NativeRoad-IX-1I fall asleep in the dark, late night of an Anchorage hotel. I know in the morning, when I wake, I will board a plane, and the geology of south-central Alaska — the Chugach Mountains, Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, and the Kenai Peninsula — will fall away under the clouds, and I will be gone. But the rhythm of the dream will remain.
Hello, goodbye,
yonder clouds and snow. . .
the vanishing mountains

(reblogged from here)

The Native Road to the Deep North VIII

June 24
We leave Denali early in the morning and push further north to Fairbanks, our northernmost destination. In one big rush, we arrive by noon to speak to NativeRoad-VIII-1the rural native high school students here too. We eat lunch with them and learn their names and histories, growing up out here in the bush at the top of the world. Their past and present, and the here-now — seeing their bright minds and their glowing faces and imagining their shining futures is so invigorating. Soon, they go back to class; we say goodbye and wish them well on their journeys. And then finally, in the early afternoon, our messages delivered, we finally catch our breaths, our intentions fulfilled.
We check into our hotel, and at long last have a time to rest. Several of us drive up to Chena to warm and restore ourselves. At the hot springs there, we finally have a chanceNativeRoad-VIII-2
to soak our aching bodies in its smoky waters. Nearing the end of our long journey, it is so good to soothe our stretched-out souls in the healing pools, and as the steam washes over us, NativeRoad-VIII-3our troubles melt away into the heat, the long miles wash into the clear, cleansing water, and evaporate into the mountain air. I sit on a big rock under the northern Alaska sky, my feet and ankles soaking in the spring, and a misty breeze in my hair. I lie back, close my eyes, and become a whale for a while.
Cold air
kissing the warm rocks:
Chena hot springs!
*      *      *
On the drive back to Fairbanks, two moose cross our path, appearing suddenly on the road in front of our car. One strolls casually across the road as we roll past and keeps going, back into the woods. The other glides NativeRoad-VIII-4around our SUV and waits, watching the driver’s side windows, peering at us, peering into us. Further along, a fox steals road kill and nibbles at it by the roadside as we watch. Other cars stop and stare with us. Despite the paved highway and the new flourishes of the twenty-first century, the street signs and the cement, this is still a wide, wild country, and nature is pushing back against the brunt of modernity. Truly, this is still their land.
This highway:
a river in the path
of a traveling moose
Back at the hotel, we shut the blinds on the unsetting sun. How bright it stays this far in the deep north! But we sleep in darkness for what feels like the first time in a long while.
(reblogged from here)

The Native Road to the Deep North VII

June 23
We enter the interior by bus. At the edge of the wild, a bridge spans the Savage River – the same river we crossed on foot last night – and on the far side of the gully sits a ranger station guarding six million acres of Alaskan wilderness. Our bus leaves contrails of dust as we go off the paved highway and begin our rumble up the gravel road through the mountains.
Flowing sunlight
caught in streams of stone:
Savage River
NativeRoad-VII-1In the Denali wilderness, we slip into a new universe: a northern world built in a different scale. This is where the wild things are: a moose crosses our path, and we stop as it lumbers into the trees; caribou roam the vast expanse of hills, while a grizzly bear and cub wait in the brush higher up; and Dall sheep watch us from the steep cliffs above. Then we come upon a true wonder: a young grizzly is wandering right by the side of the road, and we hush as we pass it by. It ignores our intrusion and goes on eating, pausing only to scratch behind its ears.
The young bear:
his monastic vows –
a diet of grass
All robed in brown,
a young ascetic by the roadside:
the grizzly bear
piles of clouds collapsing
into mountains
Golden eagle,
float into the azure sky. . .
with the sun – with us
*      *      *
During our drive through Denali, our guide tells us how this land is protected. The wildlife are protected. This is their land – not ours. And I can’t help but wonder about the Athabascans and the other peoples who were here long before this country even existed, who shared this land with each other, and with all of the other creatures here. What kind of animal has humankind become that so much of the world must be protected from us? What kind of violent King Midas curse has been cast upon our touch?
I am beginning to think that the only true morality is balance; the only ethics is equilibrium. I am reminded of a haiku by the master Bashō:
Between us
there also lives
the cherry blossom
We live in a vast universe ruled by entropy, and why should matters of philosophy be any different? How can any ethical code be complete if it considers only humans? Our ancestors once lived in harmony with the environment and other natural beings. We, too, are a part of nature, no less than the earth and the rocks and the trees. Have we forgotten how to talk to the wind and the river? How can we reclaim that part of ourselves that remembers the land as our mother?
Beneath the brush,
soft moss on the tundra:
nature’s bosom
And yet we only build walls and more walls, and enshrine that to which we are too terrified to return. But if that is our path, then truly, this beauty must be protected from us. But I don’t think that is the only way, and I will continue to dream.
Inside us
there also lives
the grizzly bear
The undying sky
at night is also the sea –
when we become fish
When we return to camp, we have dinner: Ken’s famous pasta and campfire marinara sauce. This is our last night camping, and our last home cooked meal. After filling our stomachs, Bill sets the declination on his compass and we walk south again. This time we just look at the distant peaks, and try to name them. This land is so big.
*      *      *
NativeRoad-VII-8I can’t sleep yet. An hour before midnight, I walk down to the river again, and sit down to read in the twilight. In 1689, the great haikai poet Matsuo Bashōset out by foot on a 2,450-kilometer journey through Japan to visit the places described by the poet masters of old. He wrote a book of prose and haiku poetry documenting his travels, titled “The Narrow Road to the Interior,” or, “The Narrow Road to the Deep North,” which would quickly become one of the seminal pieces of classic Japanese literature. It is from this famous collection that this travelogue also takes its title. Its first hokku is about change:
Even a thatched hut
may change with a new owner
into a doll’s house
Before leaving on his journey, Bashō – who never had any children and was unsure whether he would return – sold his thatched house by the sea to a young family with small daughters. Children’s dolls had never lived in that house before, but they would be displayed in the coming weeks for the Peach Blossom festival. And so little by little, the world changes.
Russians come and go,
Americans come and stay. . .
Dena’ina continue
Grain by grain
mountain ranges are grown
in the blink of a star
As it nears midnight, the sky is clear and blue-gold. The sun is still shining bright behind the mountains, and I can see for miles and miles in every direction. Beside our campsite above me, five glistering new SUVs are parked. Our tents are made of space-age synthetic polyfibers, and I’m typing this on a touchscreen tablet with more computing power than the guidance systems that landed the Apollo astronauts on the moon nearly five decades ago.
The mountains crumbling
back into fragments of stardust
just like us
What would this journey have been like five hundred years ago? What will this land look like in five hundred years? In fifty years? How far will the glaciers retreat, and what will happen to the valleys and rivers they feed? What will happen to the bears and the moose and the eagles and all of the native peoples? For how long will our bones remember?
*      *      *
At midnight, the only sound left is the river flowing. It whispers a lullaby to me, but I don’t follow it. The sound of water flows from another time. I remember the whales and the porpoises dashing alongside our boat and the family of orcas we saw riding the distant waves. And I remember that other river the Zunis crossed at the beginning of the world, back when the earth was still soft. I remember the water creatures that are our lost children.
Mystic waters
rushing with my siblings –
soft-world dreams
In this world, the horizon is still brushed gold with strained sunlight. The only clouds remaining have moved behind the mountain ridges, and are painted pink and purple like flowers in an ebbing tide. It is still too much daylight to see any stars shining in the dim bright of night. The zenith is pale blue. The mountains to the west are drowning in the shadow of the sun. The mountains to the east are awash with what’s left of the day. Their brown-green slopes and their sparse trees and their veins of unmelting ice look the same as they did during the long morning. Soon, my fingers are freezing and my feet are cold. So with a last deep breath of Denali’s nighttime air, I walk back to camp to sleep.
A fire marble
rounding the horizon –
Denali’s night light

(reblogged from here)

The Native Road to the Deep North VI

June 22
NativeRoad-VI-1From Anchorage, we disembark again and begin the long journey up to Denali. At a stop by the side of the road, we catch our first view of its looming visage and the march of the Alaskan range across a sky obscured by clouds. Directly above us, a wide nimbus and the filigree of a rainbow surround the sun. They’re ice crystals, Ken tells us: a sign of high winds come to blow the clouds away. We wait and hold our breath.
Frozen rainbow—
a halo for the high one:
NativeRoad-VI-2Indeed, within a few minutes of our stopping, the horizon begins to clear, and we can see its white, snow-capped peaks beyond the cloud cover. Refreshed, we eat our lunch to this majestic view before continuing northward
*      *      *
At Denali, we set up camp in a clearing between the evergreens. Our tents in place, we start walking south. The wilderness is vast here, and there is no trail where we’re going. The midnight sun and the twilight leave little sense of time, and no night will come to extinguish the sky. How easy it would be to lose oneself out here! The trees give way to a river below, and beyond that, vast rolling hills of green that run into mountains. We follow the river for a NativeRoad-VI-3while, and then take off our shoes and roll up our pants and cross at a shallow spot. The cold water washes over our feet and rushes against our ankles up to our knees. The river stones are wet and smooth and slick. Moose tracks litter the mud. Back on dry land, we trek across overgrown hills, and the bush reaches higher and higher until it covers our heads and we’re forced to turn back. For dinner back at camp, we have Kim’s and Wai’s stir fry vegetables and reindeer sausage. We dry wood for fire. Finally, around midnight, we put the fire out and climb into our tents to sleep. The sun is still crawling across the world behind the mountains.
NativeRoad-VI-4Lost inside
this deep wilderness—
a red heartbeat
Cold feet
from glacial waters warmed
by the summer sun

(reblogged from here)