Saturday, February 18, 2017


Grammy & Turtle Girl, June 2016

Many of you know that my granddaughter, Georgia "Turtle Girl," has a rare genetic disorder called Adenylosuccinate Lyase Deficiency.  It's one of those recessive genes, which means that both her mom and dad have it - a real genetic fluke, as it has never showed up on either side of the family until now.  Turtle Girl will turn four next month on the 13th - hard to believe!  She's gotten long and leggy, growing out of her baby fat, but those curls are still just as amazing as ever, as is her wonderful smile.  She continues to battle seizures, and her hard-working mom travels all over the Tacoma/Seattle area every week, taking Turtle to PT, OT, vision and feeding therapy, neurologist appointments, regular pediatrician appointments, and of course, the ER visits when a respiratory virus hits, or some other issue arises.

In fact my daughter, Miranda, does all of Turtle's full-time care, 24/7/365, without too many breaks.  It's impossible for her to go back to work, so a few years ago we decided to start up an Etsy store called Turtle Girl Jewels, and sell the earrings, necklaces and bracelets that we each make at home.  Our style started out with lots of California Indian influences - abalone, dentalium, shell - and has grown to include semi-precious stones like amethyst, turquoise, lapis, garnet, aventurine, jasper, unakite, hematite, as well as fresh water pearls, coral, and of course, crystals and glass beads.  Recently I've been playing around with Krobo beads from Ghana, as well as brass pendants and beads from that area.  I'm also starting to bring in small "coin" pendants from one of my favorite artists, Andrew Thornton at Allegory Gallery.

Thanks to Turtle Girl Jewels supporters, we've been able to buy some adaptive equipment for Turtle, her special formula, pay a few bills, and in general, ease the financial crush of having a special needs child.  

Turtle in the Child-Rite chair purchased with Turtle Girl Jewels proceeds.

Over the summer of 2016, Turtle got very ill - what is just a virus to us is life-threatening for her little system - and spent a month at Seattle Children's Hospital.  It was a scary time, and I'm grateful that I was able to be there and help out for part of the time.  Turtle spent a lot of time on oxygen, having chest percussion to help her cough, sleeping, and dealing with the seizures that inevitably accompany fever and illness for her. 

She couldn't eat pureed foods or the bottles of high-calorie formula she usually gobbled, so she was on an IV and had to have a naso-gastro tube for feedings. 

When she finally recovered, her parents decided to go ahead with g-tube surgery so Turtle could stay hydrated and fed without having to go to the hospital during illnesses like this.  Although it took awhile, Turtle and her mom have now mastered the feeding pump and g-tube life - she's a brave "two-button" girl.

Turtle lives in Tacoma, and I live in SW Virgina - so between real visits, we stay in virtual touch via Skype and phone calls, and every once in awhile, I record myself reading stories and poems, or singing, to Turtle Girl.  (Her mom has sworn never to share these publicly.  I'm holding her to that!  The world does not need to hear me singing "Baby Beluga.")  Some nights when Turtle can't sleep, she'll listen to and watch her "Grammy videos" over and over.  We have a deep connection; I'm so glad she recognizes my voice, and that it calms her.

One of our Skype conversations.
Of course, to have those Skype conversations or play those videos, Turtle Girl needs a laptop or similar device (she also plays a few preschool games on it, watches her favorite Dora the Explorer, and Frozen, and listens to a lot of music).  For several years, she's had a Chromebook that has filled those need - and it's been through some amazing hospital stays, car trips and various traumas, including a cracked screen that Bob the IT guy at my university miraculously fixed.  This month, however, the Chromebook finally bit the dust.  Despite hours of following up on download fixes, and pursuing phone suppport with Chromebook's tech people, Miranda was unable to save it.  

This is a blow; Miranda uses the Chromebook for managing the Etsy store, printing off postage and receipts for TurtleGirlJewels, and also for research about Turtle's condition, adaptive equipment, treatments, on-line forms for doctor's visits and the huge amount of paperwork a special needs child's life generates. I'm keeping my eye on President's Day sales for a replacement, and we hope to raise about $250 through our Turtle Girl Jewels to fund that purchase.

Hence, this blog post!  Please take a look at our Etsy site, check out the pieces (lots of new stuff recently), and maybe make a purchase or two!  All proceeds go toward Turtle Girl's new laptop. 

Skyping with Grammy is good for both of us - who wouldn't want to see this beautiful face as often as possible?!

Mommy and Turtle Girl discuss important things . . .

Bye now!  See you soon! Come see us at  Turtle Girl Jewels!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Real Story

Image may contain: 1 person, textartwork by Andrea Carlson

Real Story

I’m reading Susan Power’s Sacred Wilderness in a local café,
as anonymous as possible in a small town on Saturday
when students crowd the tables with books and laptops,
and tourists drop by between Lee’s tomb and Jackson’s grave.

A silver-haired woman sits next to me at the crowded counter,
props up her Kindle, reads while picking at her blueberry scone
like a little chickadee looking for the best bits.  She eyes
Andrea Carlson’s “Bear Medicine” on the cover of my book;

she thinks I don’t notice.  I do.  I wait.  Finally, she says,
“Can I ask you about that book?” And I give her a bare synopsis.
Four women, lost sons, separation and healing.  Indigenous
literature, I say, of exquisite beauty.  I should have known

better.  “Oh, have you ever read a book called Jaguar Woman?
It was about Indian medicine.  The author’s name was Something
Andrews, I think.”  Without missing a beat, I provide that author’s
first name, outline the problematics of White Shamanism,

including economic colonization.  “You mean she’s fake?!”
The woman pulls back a little.  “Yep,” I say.  After a few more
awkward pleasantries, we return to our respective reading. 
I think to myself, if I were a good person, I’d ask what she’s reading.

If I were a really good person, I’d offer a reading list.  But some-
times in a small southern town, surrounded by Confederate
shrines and cadets in gray uniforms, hiding out from ICE raid
reports at home in California and down in Texas, from videos

of BIA officers beating an Indian woman who dares protest with
a #NODAPL sign, or a President who is re-writing the Constitution
in Tweets, or even just the arrogant email message from a student
blaming you for his own incompetence, well, sometimes

you want one hour, just one hour please, in the company of women
with names like Maryam, Gladys, Jigonsaseh, Ruby Two-Axe;
some days, I swear, you cannot give one more explanation, one more
lecture.  Some days you want what is sacred to stay sacred –

and this, this is one of those gorgeous, medicinal days.  Amen.

Deborah A. Miranda

Thursday, February 2, 2017

"The New Colossus" = "The New U.S.": a Redacted Poem

Sometimes called black-out or erasure poems, this process involves finding a "new" poem inside a pre-existing piece by covering up parts of the original poem; this "exposes" the new poem.  Here, I've used transparent bars so that the original poem may still be read, heightening the sense of loss and so that the violence to the original poem is, in a way, highlighted rather than hidden.

In this case, I have chosen to call "The New U.S." a "redacted" poem.  The definition of redact in current culture generally means to edit out sensitive or dangerous content (Merriam defines redact as "transitive verb. 1 : to put in writing : frame. 2 : to select or adapt (as by obscuring or removing sensitive information) for publication or release; broadly : edit. 3 : to obscure or remove (text) from a document prior to publication or release.)  Redaction is often associated with material released by the government.

It seems obvious to me that the welcoming embrace of Lady Liberty in Lazarus' poem has been redacted by current Trump administration political moves.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Cab Driver for the Apocalypse

Cab Driver for the Apocalypse

She’s not a big tipper.  Still, I come when she calls, pick her up all hours of the night and day; corner of Flood and Ark, under the crumbling Four Horsemen Bypass, outside a fall-out shelter with glowing cement walls.  Sometimes she looks like death warmed over: a ragged, stunning specter who holds out her next destination scrawled on a scrap of paper, ink still smoking.  Other times, her blood-red lipstick matches sharpened stilettos and a spangled dress stitched together with jewels mined from the marrow of Sodom and Gomorra. That’s when she tells me, “Keep the engine running, Luce,” in her throaty, plague-soaked whisper, swivels her legs out the door I hold open, brushes my cheek with hers.  My skin sizzles for hours afterwards, like fat over coals. 

No, it’s not about the money – really.  I like knowing she can depend on me to get her from one event to the next.  I make sure my cab is gassed up, back seat vacuumed, tinted windows closed against intrusions by paparazzi and popes.  Once I had this Archangel go all gangsta on me. Asshole tried to slit my tires with his sword! One toss of that pitchfork I keep between the front seats and he’s over in Bumfuck, Idaho getting crucified by that band of Evangelical Survivalists.  Don’t mess with my Apocalypse, you know?

Anyway, it’s been a while since any trouble like that.  Now my job is mostly trying to avoid brimstone pot holes and those zombie rats on I-666.  Jesus but those suckers are hard to scrub off, and the fleas … Between rides, I hang out at The Antichrist, sip whatever brew is on tap, watch Beast show off his latest tattoo.  For an abomination, he’s surprisingly innovative; that scene he calls “Armageddon” covers his whole chest without once repeating itself.  “Not into motifs,” he says, “got enough of that from my undergrad comp course to last a lifetime.”  The guys laugh, even if we have heard that joke before. 

When my phone rings, my day – or night – really begins.  This time it’s a text.  Just three words:   “Sixth and Trump.” 

No idea where that is, but I’ve got a helluva good GPS.  Can’t keep the Apocalypse waiting.

Deborah A. Miranda

Thursday, January 26, 2017




That sound inside you is a sacred sound:
heartbeat of a seed, eager to emerge.

That sound inside you is an urgent sound:
life’s sharp, percussive pulse.

That sound inside you is the future,
rattling a polished brown shell

shaped like a goddess, or a breast.
You are what Jesus meant when he said

the meek shall inherit the Earth.  You
are what Hillel had in mind when he said,

this is the whole Torah.  You are the secret
that begs to be told, a treasure whispering

find me.  You are the fingerprint of the Creator
left behind in soft red clay, hardening in sun. 

You are the sleek amulet snug in the palm
of my hand; you are the ripe mother of nations.

From your flesh comes invention of all words
for holiness, sacrament, celebration, awe.

Palatsa, little rattle, you hold time in your belly –
round and full and kicking its way into life.

I'm teaching a beginning poetry course this term - lots of excited students, many free writes, and plenty of prompts for assignments.  

Today I started the group on Praise and Prayer Poems.  I like Al Zolynas' poem "Sacrament of the Mundane," and use it as a course theme.  So the assignment for next week is to pick some thing, someone, some place, that is typically under-praised and overlooked.  I gave them some sample poems, both praise and prayer, and a few that blur the line.  And then I passed around a beautiful little box that I acquired years ago at an AWP book fair.  It's covered on the outside with beautiful paper.  Originally, it housed a small chapbook and a few lovely odd bits and pieces of ephemera - star anise seeds, some old ceramic carvings.  The handmade, letter-press print section of the AWP book fair is always my favorite, and this piece is one of the reasons why.  It is an experience to open the box and explore its mysterious contents.  I've since added other small items as they come my way - a key, a pencil made out of a branch, a compact, an old penny.  Today, I passed the box around and everyone made a choice; a small item to hold and write about. 

When the box returned to me, the only thing left in it was one of the jewel-like acorns that I'd brought back with me from California on one of my visits in 2013, during the book tour for Bad Indians.  

Honestly, my free write on the acorn wasn't much.  I was distracted, thinking ahead about a video I wanted to get up on the screen to show; but I try to do the freewrites with new students, especially, to model for them the spirit of the act: to dive in, to blunder around, to not stop, to let language take over.  So I got a few decent images and a lot of worthless junk down in my notebook, and left it there.

But after class, I sat down at my computer and decided, there's something there in that freewrite.  Something I hadn't been able to get at before, although I've tried writing about acorns many times.  So I transcribed the more palatable images, phrases and lines from my freewrite, and the next thing I knew, I was pulled out of my reverie by a colleague coming in with a question.  I don't know how long I'd sat there, coaxing this poem out.  Maybe 45 minutes.

The last line evaded me.  I tried a few more minutes, decided I was too hungry, and went home.  After devouring an apple and some cheese, my brain kicked back in.  I finished the draft.

I like it.  I'm not sure at all how Jesus and Hillel snuck into a poem about a California acorn, but I like the poem, and, well, there it is.  

It might evolve.  It might change.  For now, though, as I slog through this bizarre and disheartening month, writing a little poem about an acorn seems comforting, even triumphant.  I'll take it. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January 2017

January 2017

Walked home late tonight
right down the center of the road,
head tipped way back, body open
to blazing stars as if someone
had unzipped my skin
from head to toe,
exposed a naked captive
who’d only dreamt
of seeing the sky.

For one clean moment
I was molten silver, pure
gratitude; I was light
calling to light, I was
light answering light. 
For one moment
I had no name,
no past, no future,
no need.  Then Preston Street
rose up to greet me;
I stumbled, found
the sidewalk,
hobbled home
with eyes dazzled,
stars seared into my retinas
like the after-image
of hope.

Deborah A. Miranda

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Fifteen Things I Knew for Sure as a Child

    1.     Everyone leaves me; people disappear; loss is normal.
2.     Nothing and nowhere is safe
3.     but somehow kind people exist and I cherish them forever.
4.     Approval of me by those with power is essential to my sense of self-worth.
5.     Love is real but I have trouble figuring out what it looks like or how to hold onto it or why it hurts so much.
6.     I must be doing something wrong; I am wrong,
7.     but I know the taste of compassion and can share it with others.
8.     I cannot protect myself except by isolation; it is not safe to let people into my world; I do not want to depend on anyone, but I do,
9.     so then my pain must be buried alive.
10. Injustice is wrong and I resist giving in to it, silently rooting for underdogs.
11. Scars are shameful reminders of my failure.
12. Never ask for help.  It reveals weakness and vulnerability.
13. God is real and I pray to Him a lot but he never answers. 
14. Anger is bad.  Bad to receive, bad to express.  Avoid anger.
15. Beauty exists; I can recognize it in many forms.  This is a gift.

Fifteen Things I Think I Know for Sure Now

    1.     First, try not to hurt anyone. 
2.     Hold each life in the light of reverence.  Including my own.
3.     When in doubt, apply compassion in the six sacred directions.  And the seventh (inward).
4.     I can’t help anyone unless I put on my own mask first.  Exceptions: actual emergencies involving my beloved, children or grandchildren.
5.     Corollary: Sacrifice mindfully.
6.     It’s important to search for what brings me joy, and practice it;
7.     this includes letting in people who bring me joy.
8.     I often operate out of fear.  Before engaging in any major action, I need to run a fear diagnostic.  Am I doing this out of love, or fear of loss?
9.     Anger is different from violence: “Anger is full of information and energy.” Thank you, Audre Lorde.
10. It’s okay to ask for help.  Choose mentors carefully, though.
11. Scars are beautiful witnesses that testify to my strength and ability to heal, if I let them.
12. Non-negotiable human responsibilities: call out injustice and violence.  Loudly, and repeatedly. Remember,
13. just because I love someone doesn’t mean they get to hurt me. 
14. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “My actions are my only true belongings.”  Change happens;
15. the Universe is a mysterious place.  I can’t know or control much of anything. Sometimes surprise is a good thing.

Monday, November 28, 2016

I Dreamt This Prayer Last Night

I dreamt this prayer last night.
I stand with my feet on the earth and know that all that I am or hope to be comes from Her.
I am grateful for my life, for this body, for the flame inside this body.
I will tend this flame with respect, tenderness and compassion.
I am here because my Ancestors were here, and sacrificed for my survival.
We are here because our Ancestors were here, and sacrificed for our survival.
I am here because my Ancestors ARE here, and want me to survive.
We are here because our Ancestors ARE here, and want us to survive.
I am here so that my children and grandchildren and all of my descendants will know that I loved them, that I will always love them, without boundaries of time or distance.
We are here so that our children and grandchildren and all of our descendants will know that we loved them, that we will always love them, without boundaries of time or distance.
Today, we will be warriors of peace.
Today, we will protect, with love, the gifts entrusted to us with love.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Prayer of Prayers

Prayer of Prayers

for the Water Protectors at Standing Rock

The leaves hang on
into mid-November
oak, alder, locust –
each one a prayer flag
singing aloud –
scarlet, cinnamon, yellow
rippling with
wind’s rough caress. 
Every acorn,
every hickory nut,
a tobacco tie
hung in the trees;
they call out to us
come harvest your prayers.

Soon a blanket of prayers
will cover the earth
and the trees will stand
like prayer poles
dressed in feathers—
gifts from bluejay,
eagle, hummingbird,
The planet prays for us,
for itself;
the planet sings
for November’s endurance,
weaves a nest
for our future
to curl up inside
and learn winter’s
Kevlar-wrapped stories.
This planet is a prayer.
Each icy night
under floodlights
and spy drones
she offers up moon
and stars, a holiness of cold.

You think prayer
cannot change this war?
Then redefine prayer:
it is clothing frozen
to the bodies of warriors
who do not carry
any other weapon
against water canons;
it is eyes swollen shut
with teargas, a relative
holding a bottle of saline solution;
it is the ferocious flower
left behind by a rubber bullet
blossoming on the face
of a woman who is, in the end,
made wholly of prayer,
her spirit an impenetrable vessel
carrying prayer out to the edges
of camp where armed officers
try to hold prayer at bay,
as if prayer were a rabid bear
or a pack of wolves
that must be isolated,
beaten, eradicated
because prayer is contagious
prayer is that dangerous
prayer rages like a bonfire
no fire hose can quench.

The leaves hang on
into mid-November
oak, alder, locust –
each one a prayer flag
howling hoarse –
scarlet, cinnamon, yellow
snapping under
wind’s cracked hands. 
Every acorn,
every hickory nut,
a tobacco tie
swaying in the trees;
they cry out to us
come harvest your prayers
come pound them into meal
come mix them with river water
come cook them on this blazing rock:

oh people, come feast
on this prayer so righteous
it burns your tongues,
wash it down
with a sip from the river
whose songs will always call you

Deborah Miranda
House Mountain, Virginia

November 21, 2016

For more information:

Updates from Standing Rock