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Monday, August 13, 2018

Amnesia


Amnesia


Sometimes I forget this is my country.  Like walking from my house
to a downtown café in a small southern town, when I hit that stretch

by the Anglican church without a sidewalk and I’m stuck dead in the sights
of a big pick-up truck making a right turn into the street where I’m walking,

my brown body with my longdarkturninggray hair suddenly a target
even though there’s plenty of time to slow down, plenty of time to go around

me, but instead the truck speeds up, and all I see is flash of a big Confederate
flag plate just below the front bumper, swerving towards me until I jump

into the wet grass of the church: I forget that I’m in my own country, this feels
so much like someplace foreign, in a time zone that requires a passport,

15 hours on a plane, a grueling customs line, handing over papers and still
I don’t know the rules, can’t read the signs, don’t speak the right language

--there’s a whole different culture on this street that I can’t know or predict,
and so I am always never safe. And when I’m finally on the sidewalk 100 feet

later, every muscle tensed against the trembling I don’t want to feel, I realize
with wonder and a wrenched heart: but this is my country; this is the earth

my Indigenous ancestors emerged from. And I tell myself that, repeat it like
I’m trying to convince myself I’m right as I cross the bridge into town,

go into my favorite café, meet the sweet white faces of colleagues and friends
who describe me to a visitor as “one of the stars of our university, a poet, a scholar . . .”

and I think to myself: am I? Maybe in this café, this morning, with you. But
out there on the road, man, I’m just another dark body, just another menace to push

off the road with an American-made truck, just a nameless creature whose face
is less threatening when slashed with fear; and gunning the engine and laughing,

around 10:15 a.m. in a small town, makes someone feel good, feel righteous, feel
like this is his country, goddamnit—and not for the first time I understand memory

is a weapon I can’t give up, even if carrying such a weight makes me feel
like I’ve been hit by a truck.

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Friday, August 3, 2018

“Orca mom carries baby for ninth day, as its body starts to decompose”





“Orca mom carries baby for ninth day, as its body starts to decompose”

            - headline from KUOW, August 2018

So much depended
on this black
and white body
now limp, borne
on her mother’s head
or carried
in her mouth
through rough seas.

“. . . orcas are on the knife's edge of
extinction due to a variety of factors:
pollution, boat strikes, and, most of
all, a depletion of Chinook salmon,
orcas' main food source.”

This mother will not allow
her daughter’s body to sink
out of sight
beneath the Salish Sea,
but carries her
the way any mother
would wear grief—
on her own body,
like a scar.

As she swims,
she sings a deathsong
bigger than one small being.

“They're at the very top of the food
chain in the Salish Sea, and if they're
starving, if their bodies are so
toxic they have to be treated as
hazardous waste when they die,
something's really wrong with
our ecosystem.”

Her child's body
is her voice.

She wants us to see
what we’ve done.


-- Deborah Miranda

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Henge

The archaeological landscape of Brú na Bóinne, a Unesco World Heritage Site 30 miles north of Dublin, Ireland, was thought to have been thoroughly researched and excavated. During an unprecedented 40-day drought last week, however, photographer Anthony Murphy discovered the remains of a 5,000-year-old monument when he deployed a camera-drone above the field.


Where did all those stone
leviathans go?  Did they just
get up and walk away?
In ancient pre-Christian
Goddess cultures, stones
were known to move
of their own volition. 
But maybe people relocated Brú na Bóinne--
and if so, how, and where,
and why??  Do these souls
made of stone still exist
somewhere, or were they used
and broken and reshaped?
Are they lonely for their old home? 
Do those shadows count as ghosts?
And do we have any idea, really,
how old and full of mystery
is this planet, this being
we call Earth?
-- and how small
we really are, specks
in a vast ocean of time,
our politics, our scandals,
our treasonous hearts?

- Deborah A. Miranda

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

"Blessing the Doubts"


At Baccalaureate this morning, graduating senior Hannah Falchuk read one of my poems.  What an honor!  She and fellow speaker Angel Vela de la Garza Evia are recipients of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

Both Hannah and I have had requests for copies of the poem, so here you go!


Hannah's prefatory remarks (with her permission):

Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks said during a visit to campus earlier this year that we should entertain our wildest thoughts. She asked that we truly entertain them, that we invite them to dinner and make them feel like honored guests, and by stretching our imaginations to fit them, we might accomplish what had before seemed to us impossible. But as we entertain our wildest hopes, we might also be visited by some uninvited guests, fear and doubt. And tomorrow, our dazzling college graduation might also bring us doubts as to whether we will be able to reach the marks for success that we set for ourselves, or whether the paths that we choose might be different from what we expected them to be. Yet as much as this moment of ending and beginning is one of uncertainty, it is also one of opportunity. We are on the edge of something new and exciting, and I hope that we will acknowledge our doubts not as something to avoid but as something to celebrate, something that will push us farther than we had imagined. The poem I will read was written by an innovative and compassionate writer and teacher, and she happens to be in the audience with us today. Please enjoy my recitation of Professor Deborah Miranda’s poem “Blessing the Doubts”:


Blessing the Doubts


Bless you, doubt shiny as copper, creeping
into my pocket full of debts and past-due loans.

And bless you, enthusiastic doubt, you spring monsoon
washing away all reason and linear thought.

Sharp doubt, teach me how to praise fear in new languages, tuck
yourself into my shoe; constant and true as a splinter.

Oh faithful doubt that refuses to desert me, loyal
as a family ghost or demented mascot! Haunt on.

Ragged runaway doubts, let me harbor you on dark
November evenings when every other door stands locked.

I remember you, the one who pants like a seasoned hound;
you keep up, keep your head down, scent your prey.

Bless you especially, dark-eyed doubt whose gaze leads me
to the ledge, pushes me off into impossible.

from Raised by Humans by Deborah A. Miranda
(Northwestern U Press 2015)
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Monday, May 21, 2018

Fourteen Ways of Saying Goodbye

L to R: Dean of the College Suzanne Parker Keen, Deborah Miranda, Margo Solod.
First Martin Luther King Jr. March in Lexington, Virginia. 1/15/2017.
Fourteen Ways of Saying Goodbye



1.     Like a thunderstorm
you take charge. Fearless,
you speak your mind—
unapologetic as April.

2.     You move through time
and space like a magician,
fountainpen for a wand.

3.     You embrace
your Inner Mama, flaunt love
as if a child’s existence
were some glorious accolade,
an award made of blood and bone.
Because he is.

4.     You hone the art
of putting your name
right beside the face
of a Royal, going Total
Flaming Queen—
with style and aplomb.

5.     Your motto—
Don’t Be Stupid!
means follow your bliss,
make it work, find a way.
Use your brains to find
your heart’s desire.

6.    In a time when the patriarchy 
     gave women six weeks
     from delivery to return
     to the classroom, not a day
     more, you strode into the University 
     President’s office
like a legend, made him see
the light. “By the way,”
you footnoted your exit,
stage right:
“I’m still bleeding.”

7.     Everyone talks the talk.
But it’s you
at the first MLK March
in Lexington, Virginia.
In the cold. With TV cameras
and news reporters.
You walk the walk, decenter
the discourse with love.
You bring balloons.

8.      Ursula K. Le Guin says:
“People who deny the existence
of dragons are often eaten
by dragons. From within.”
You don’t just believe
in dragons—
you are the dragon.
We’re all a little crispier,
and wiser, for that.

9.     Never one to let sleeping dogs
lie, you wake them
with expletives straight outta
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania—
arrows that pierce legal niceties,
electrify the heart
to a generosity of action.

10.  A woman of valor,
the world doesn’t make it easy
to walk in the knowledge
of your own value
but you do it
every day, like a spell
that requires repetition.

11.  Your magic is called
“Pronoia.” It means
you are a force
conspiring in our favor.

12.  Your magic is the ability
to reach further
than anyone
ever thought possible.

13.  Your magic is uncanny:
you re-invent reality.
You are a poet
on whom nothing
is lost.

14.  From you, we’ve learned
it is always necessary
to say Thank You.
It is never necessary
to say Goodbye.

You’re right here,
in our hearts.

Nimasianexelpasaleki,                         
Suzanne Parker Keen.
Misalaya kolo.                                    
Micha ene hikpalala.      



by Deborah Miranda & the Washington and Lee English Department
on the occasion of Dean Keen's departure to become Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty at Hamilton College.  
May 21, 2018