Pages

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

If I Say the Words

-->  
I read the reports, the interviews with parents and children and lovers left behind.  I read the texts scrabbled out from hiding places, pleas for rescue, call 911.  My skin pricks and shivers as if someone is touching me, but I am alone.  I tear up at random times, can’t bear to go out in public, see the world going on as if nothing happened, as if - because it didn’t happen here – it is still safe in a bubble of denial.  My wife and I pause as we pass each other going from one room to the other, lean our bodies together.  We say we are sad.  Shorthand for burned to the ground.  But I haven’t cried.  When I try to write, I can’t.  I am full of the rough material that make up words – emotion, nightmare, fear, grief – but the words themselves refuse to be born:  If I say the words, say the names, I admit that it really happened.  They - Mercedez, Franky, Akyra, Eddie, Angel, all of them in their glorious brown queer radiant bodies - really died, and they died in terror and agony, chased like animals by a man wielding an assault rifle with the nickname “Black Mamba,” a weapon never meant to hunt anything but human beings, which means it is a hate machine, created to shoot hatred from one person into the soft body of another.  If I say the words, if I try to corral the facts and tame them with language, I’ve already muted their screams, their whispered prayers, their frantic texts to a beloved mami or daddy who cannot save their child, who feel each cell in their body implode at the injustice.  If I say the words that attempt to respond to an act for which there is no sane response, what would those words be?  I think of the mother who was there with her son; think, how lucky she was.   She was able to do what so many parents not there wish they had been able to do: step in front of her child, face the shooter with her mother’s eyes, and shield her heart of hearts with the same body that gave birth to that boy.  That’s it.  That’s what I see, over and over again, that is what I cannot speak, what terrifies me with a power beyond steel transformed into anger: how blessed she was, and is, how she was there, dancing, because she already knew that choosing love would save her son’s life; knew that love, with its dance of blood and shattered bones, love with its twin red shoes named pain and sacrifice, love is the only commandment that matters.  Love: by any means necessary.  

Deborah A. Miranda 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

No Words


No Words


but a luna moth
rests on a beetle-chewed stump
just off the path
like a precisely
placed flag,
a ripple of green,
pulsing.

You can’t exist.
There's no splendor
left in the world.
 
Oh but you do,
oh beauty
you do, 

stretched out soft-leafy sails,
luminous pearls perched 
on each wing.
Your feathery antennae
sift the wind,
twin tails ribboning,
trembling.

You, with no mouth,
you cannot be bothered to eat
or drink, waste no time
on song or taste.

You must be part angel,

made to be beauty, create beauty
be beauty, create beauty
be beauty, create beauty
be beauty, create beauty

or else made for something
even more mysterious
than I
can imagine -
me, with my human sin:

I have
a mouth, luna,

but I have
no words.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

After a Drought




-->
Today, I am taking up a difficult project after a long time away.



I feel a little prayer pushing up from my dry heart, like the tentative seep of an old spring coming back to life.

Sitting in this office built on the land between Big House and Little House Mountains in the place now called Virginia, I’m grateful to the Ancestors of the Indigenous peoples who sprang from this earth.  Thank you for letting me do my work here in the shade of these oaks, hickories, pines, tulip poplars, black walnuts; thank you for the moist red clay beneath this thick blanket of leaves.  Thank you for this space to take into my hands these books, articles, photographs, shards of a mosaic, aching to become newly shaped.  Thank you for allowing me to make a space for my Ancestors here in this small cabin.



Cholom, Yunisyunis, Estefana, Teodosia, Josefa, Isabel, I am diving back into a dark, dark pool, but it is a place that needs exploration and sensing and shaping into thought.  Far from our homeland, I carry that place in my teeth and bones, blood and memory, in your names and actions.



I’m asking for strength, Ancestors, for companionship on this dive, for your accumulated wisdom, questions and ideas to guide me.  



What do you need me to know?  What do you need me to discover, uncover, recover?  What can I do to help you rest more peacefully, what can I voice for you?  Lead me to those places and help me dig, brush away, put together, make into a story those pieces which honor your struggles and pain.  Guide me through those places and I will take on as much as I can, filter it into this language of necessity the best that I can. 



I have put down this work for a long time now, out of fear, out of exhaustion, but today I return.  Uncertain, unsure of my sense of direction.  I have a job to finish, though.  No way around it.  I’m taking some deep breaths.  I’m opening my mind to the task. We tell women laboring in childbirth, “Push towards the pain” even though that is the exact opposite of what we have learnt about pain.  



I am pushing towards the pain, Ancestors, because that is the only way through it.  You are my promise that there is light on the other side.  Nimasianexelpasaleki.  Here we go!


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Re-naming Point Lobos - NOT Another Colonizer's Name

 
Holes made by Indigenous women pounding acorns, at Ichxenta Point, Los Lobos State Park


June 1, 2016

To Whom It May Concern: [emailed to secretary@resources.ca.gov  (mark "Attn: John Laird),

I am writing to suggest that the original Indigenous name of “Ixchenta” become the new name for the area currently called Point Lobos, rather than “A.M. Allen Ranch.”

While it is true that Alexander M. Allan purchased 640 acres of a former mining company’s property at Point Lobos with an eye to preserving the land’s scenery and unique habitat, I do not think that this is enough reason to change the name of the area to “A.M. Allan Ranch.”  Allan was a man concerned with retaining the true nature of the area, and I believe he would have been more than pleased to have the Indian word for that area preserved in the same way that he worked to preserve the land itself.

I am a Professor of English at Washington and Lee University, and enrolled member of the Esselen Nation.  I am currently working on a book of essays (under contract with U of Nebraska Press) in which I assert that Isabel Meadows, an Indian woman whose mother was born in the Carmel Mission, is far more than just “J.P. Harrington’s Indian informant.”  In fact, Isabel Meadows was tribal historian, intellectual critic of missionization and colonization, and cultural preservationist (languages, songs, religion, place names, traditional foods and gathering techniques, family stories from her time back to her grandmother’s as well as tribal creation myths and teaching materials).  She purposely placed her wealth of materials in Smithsonian J.P. Harrington’s hands to make sure that her knowledge, accumulated over a long lifespan and consisting of many lifetimes’ worth of information, would be available to her people long after she was gone. 

I tell you all this because it is Isabel who tells us that the land at Point Lobos is, very specifically, a Native village called "Ichxenta Iwano" (Ichxenta village).  At least one, and probably more, of my Ancestors were documented by the Spanish priests as coming from Ichxenta.  My ancestral roots go back to Ichxenta and forward to Los Angeles, where I was born, and continue on as I teach in the State of Virginia.  What this should tell you is that the story of Ichxenta isn’t over yet; it isn’t past.  It is an ongoing story that flows from time immemorial right into this very moment. 

California has a rich history of Indigenous culture and lifeways, and most of that is written on the land itself.  Today’s California Indian people are still creating art, song, and literature.  You have the opportunity to acknowledge and encourage this richness by giving space to an Indigenous place name and celebrating that originality.  The Eselen Institute knew this when they used one of our names for their  space, and it has worked well for them.  Alfred Kroeber made a special study of how California Indigenous place names had crossed over into Anglo usage, and his list is a beautiful litany of one way that Indigenous presence continues on California land:  Ojai, Simi, Cucamonga, Hetch Hetchy, Hueneme, Klamath, Lompoc, Malibu, Pacoima, Pala, Petaluma, Pala, Saticoy, Tamalpais, Tomales, Topanga, to name just a few of the more familiar (see Kroeber’s materials at https://archive.org/stream/californiaplacen00kroerich/californiaplacen00kroerich_djvu.txt). 

People go to Point Lobos because of its unique, spectacular, unparalleled environment, and a place like that deserves a name that can speak to such beauty and reverence.  Please, do not use the name of yet another colonizer, or commemorate the theft of yet another piece of Indigenous homeland.  Naming is a powerful act.  Ichxenta is a beautiful name, and would help begin to heal many wounds in both land and Anglo/Native relationships.

Sincerely,

Dr. Deborah A. Miranda

Washington and Lee University
John Lucian Smith, Jr. Endowed Chair
204 W. Washington St.
Lexington VA 24450
mirandad@wlu.edu

Responses from officials will be posted below as they come in.

Friday, May 20, 2016

THE TALK


THE TALK





I drove Margo to the airport this morning; it was dark all over the place with a huge yellow-orange moon setting.  We drove into the fog’s long skirts and I was glad for the lack of traffic.  We listened to NPR until a clip featuring a particular politician came on; then I had to reach out and hit the power button. 

We pulled into the “Kiss and Fly Zone” at Roanoke Regional Airport, and opened our doors to the chilly air.  Margo put on her motion-sickness patch (“too late,” she worried, “you’re supposed to put it on 3 hours before the flight”) and I pulled her suitcase out of the back of the car.  We embraced and said goodbye.  I remember when I moved to Virginia in 2004, we still said our goodbyes inside the car.  Two women kissing like that were quite rare in our part of the world; we felt self-conscious and yes, a little fearful.  It’s still a big deal for us to hold hands on the street.  This morning, I waited for an airport employee to walk past before putting my arms around Margo.  Progress is all relative, right?  As Margo quips, “Well, it SAYS ‘kiss and fly,’ we’re just following directions.  It doesn’t say, ‘heterosexually kiss and fly.’”

Kind of like those t-shirts, bumper stickers and mugs that all say, “Virginia is for Lovers” with the big red heart.  What they really mean is “Virginia is for HETEROSEXUAL lovers.”  Before the Supreme Court decision that same-sex marriages must be viewed as legal in all states, I used to fantasize about using a big chisel-tipped Sharpie to draw an arrow on one of these shirts with the word “heterosexual” inserted between for and lovers.  Just to be clear that I knew MY love and I were not included, and I loved her in Virginia, anyway, as well as everywhere else.

So we kissed and told each other to take care, and she walked into the airport pulling the shiny blueberry rolling bag, her back pack on her shoulders. Once through security, I knew Margo would have to go into a restroom and put on all of her braces: a big back brace (it has to go under her jeans in order to work), wrists, maybe her neck brace, though that can wait until she’s actually on the plane.  I sat for a few minutes and checked my email on my phone, waiting – as I always do – to see if Margo came back for something she’d forgotten, or if there’s some complication ...  She never does, but I always wait.  Finally I put away my phone, belted up, checked my mirrors, and pulled out of the Kiss & Fly zone.  Headed home slowly in the fog as the sun rose and the darkness pulled back like a thick tide.  After about 20 minutes, the dashboard of our little car lit up with an incoming text from Margo.  I hit “listen” and a robotic voice said, “So far so good.  Boarding area without setting off any alarms.”  I had to smile to myself.  She knows I worry.

I’m not the only wife who worries about her wife going out into the world of gendered rest rooms.

Yesterday, Margo and I had “the talk.”  The talk that anyone who loves a transgender person or butch-identified woman must have with their beloved these days: please be careful when and where you pee; have Megan (Margo’s daughter) go with you if she’s there; look for unisex restrooms; prepare yourself emotionally so you won’t be taken by surprise if you ARE challenged; think about what you might say …

It was a talk about being realistic.  But it was also a talk about fear.

Even though restrooms have always been fraught with possible confrontations for anyone whose gendered appearance seems outside the norm, I have more reason to worry than ever.  Here in Virginia, we live next door to North Carolina and the unbelievable yet frighteningly real “Bathroom Bill” (H.B. 2), stating that everyone must pee in the bathroom that matches their original birth certificate.  Although she didn’t plan it that way, this time my wife’s connecting flight is through Philly; normally, she goes through Charlotte, North Carolina.  Also, due to her disability, we usually fly together, so I often serve as a kind of deflector in bathroom situations (we’ve gotten some dirty looks when people realize we’re ‘together,’ but we’ve never had anyone mistake Margo for a man when I’m at her side in a public restroom).  I’m really relieved that she’s avoiding Charlotte, even though Philly is NOT my favorite connecting hub.  Still, the stories I’m hearing and reading about come from all over the U.S.; North Carolina’s state law speaks quite clearly to those susceptible to mob mentality everywhere.

My wife is not trans, but she was born butch.  That means, she gets “sirred” at least once a week (this happened most of her life, even before she cut her waist-length straight black hair to a short and curly ‘do), wears dark Sauconeys, jeans and t-shirts or button-up shirts marketed as men’s clothing.  The only jewelry she wears is a pair of small silver hoops in her ears, and our wedding band – nothing particularly feminine.  Her voice is a little husky and deep.  She’s a small person, 5’2” (“AND A QUARTER”), slender, not threatening; she just has this butch vibe going on.  Friends and family (including myself) who buy her clothing as gifts often mistakenly get Large sizes because that’s how we think of Margo.  She jokes that she’s really 6’2” and 160 pounds; the truth is, she projects a big presence, one of the many things I love about her.  Still, it would take a big imagination to see Margo as a predator of anything more than a handful of delicious alfalfa sprouts.

She took her earrings out a month ago for an MRI and we never put them back in.  Now I’m sitting here worrying about that, wondering if that would prove a key part of someone else’s perceptions about her, if that little touch of bling might tip the scales in favor of seeing my wife as a biological woman if someone challenged her.  You just never know, and in the current climate about binary gender, now folks seem to feel they have permission to police gender in loud, aggressive, bullying ways.

As I see the stories about these kinds of bullying appear in my FB feed, or read news stories about straight women with short hair, lesbians with hats (?!), and actual trans people, all being harassed in or around restrooms, I see all too clearly how fragile the safe space around us has always been.  The transphobia around public bathrooms encourages the same phobic people to unleash their homophobia as well.  Now it can show itself under the guise of “protecting” women and children who appear heteronormative.  As Shannon Minter writes, “But while HB2’s attack on transgender people has attracted the lion’s share of attention, its negative impact on others is just as real. Among the many groups harmed by HB2, gender-nonconforming women, including many who are lesbian or bisexual, are especially at risk.  In the words of one butch blogger, ‘Bathrooms are spaces of extreme vulnerability for gender nonconforming folk.’”

I said earlier that “Margo and I had ‘the talk’.”  But the truth is, I was doing all the talking.  My wife didn’t have much to say.  She ducked her head and nodded a lot.  I hope I didn’t scare her.  I wonder what was going on in her head.  She has spent a lifetime being independent, mobile, and brave.  Now, in addition to her genetic disability slowing her down with loss of mobility and severe, chronic pain, there is the very real possibility of having to defend herself if she needs to adjust her brace, take a pain pill, or god forbid, actually pee.  Yet I couldn’t send her out into the world without warning her, could I?  We live in a small southeastern college town where most people have known my wife for years; it’s a safe little bubble in many ways.  Leaving it reminds us of that fact.

A suit against H.B. 2 asserts that the law is unconstitutional in that it allows discrimination on the basis of gender.  I’m glad that some North Carolinians have stepped up to fight the law, but that doesn’t protect my wife or other non-binary/trans folks from being harassed or even physically escorted out of a bathroom by security or police, being asked to “prove” their gender identity matches that of the bathroom in question, and all sorts of traumatizing and potentially explosive situations. 

And no, I’m not bashing ALL of North Carolina by association.  Many North Carolinians are taking stands as allies and compassionate human beings. 




(Interestingly, the FB page where the owners of that pizza parlor posted their sign has been made private since the sign appeared in January.  I’m pretty sure that harassment about the sign caused that to happen.  How many businesses have to make their FB site private?)  And on my own campus, the Hillel House bathrooms have recently been re-signed:



Hillel Restroom

All in all, I’m glad that once my wife arrives at her destination, she’ll be in the company of family for the remainder of the trip, until she flies out alone again to come home.  I mean, it helps a little.  She’d have back-up.  My anger and anxiety levels are exhausted by the tone and political climate that has made using a public restroom one more thing to keep me awake at night because of someone else’s whacked-out imagination. 

Because the truth of the matter is, if a woman or child is going to be harassed anywhere – bathroom, waiting room, dark hallway, parking deck, library, school, public transportation – sheer statistics point not at a transgender person, but the predictable straight, white male.  Demetrios Psichopaidas, a doctoral student at the University of Southern California, writes that “As of 2014, there has not been a reported incident of violence or peeping by trans men or women in bathrooms in the U.S., according to data from Media Matters. There is absolutely zero evidence of any violence ever committed in a restroom by such individuals. However,” – and this is an important point – “violence against these persons [transgender individuals] is quite commonplace,” (TakePart). 

That’s right.  In fact, Justice Department statistics show that 8 out of 10 of sexual assaults are committed by people already known to the victim, not strangers, while 64% of transgender people will experience sexual assault in their lifetime (study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality). 

I’m sure someday, some brilliant psychologist will connect the dots about this restroom rage in a way that helps us understand the psychosis behind it, similar to the way we know that the loudest homophobic voices typically belong to people who doubt their own heterosexuality.  In other words, those who are so vigorous about “defending” women and children in public bathrooms may quite likely be the very ones who fantasize about attacking women and children in public bathrooms. 

Fear, as always, is the monster here.  Not someone looking for a place to empty a bladder with a little dignity and comfort before simply going on with their lives. 

One of those someones is my wife. 

So I worry.  And write.  Oh yeah – and I vote. 

Take care, everyone.  Take care.




Saturday, May 7, 2016

Find a Better Word



I snapped.  At a colleague, that is.  ‘Snapped’ as in, barked out an objection without pre-thinking, pre-phrasing, or otherwise considering how my comment might sound or be received by that colleague.  ‘Snapped’ as in, not stopping to carefully construct my objection in such a way as to avoid hurting this colleague’s feelings or making sure my remark didn’t make this colleague feel targeted or called out.  ‘Snapped’ as in, when you hit my kneecap with a little silver hammer, my foot is going to catch you in the crotch if you don’t move out of the way.

My colleague was fighting the good fight.  Making a case for not moving a very important program out of a primo piece of campus real estate and relocating it somewhere else difficult to access (both for able-bodied and disabled-bodied folks), and all the implications about devaluing that program that would come with such a move.  But what my colleague said was, “So the solution is not, hey, let’s move them out into a tipi.”

Now, I don’t teach at a tribal college.  In fact the most North American tribal things around my university are myself, one Native student about to graduate, and the land upon which the university sits.  So the use of ‘tipi’ was not a casual reference to a familiar Indigenous piece of culture used to house Indian families. 

‘Tipi’ was used, in this case, as a pejorative, the way we might say “out in the boonies” or “beyond civilization.”  Someplace where nobody wants to go, someplace where only savages live.  There be dragons.  That sort of thing.

My mouth popped open and my clever retort sang out like the proverbial arrow: “HEY! … find a better word.”

Damn!  Who said that?!  I guess it was me, because everyone turned and looked.  
Yes.  You see the problem, don’t you?  I wasn’t polite, or quiet; I didn’t even have the grace to frame my comment as a question (“could you please find a better word, please?”). 

“Well, whatever,” replied my colleague before he deflated back into his seat.

What just happened? I asked myself, feeling my heart accelerate, my face blush, and my body coming to full alert.  What the heck just happened here?


A.     I called out a senior colleague who is well-known for being liberal and progressive.

B.     I told this colleague to ‘find a better word.’  Demanded, in fact.

C.     I wasn’t nice.

During a discussion break, my colleague came over and said, “Deborah, I didn’t say that to be intentionally racist.”

That was not an apology.  I replied, “I know you didn’t say that to be intentionally racist.  But as the sole Native professor present, it’s my job to redirect language that perpetuates stereotypes about Indians.”

That was not an apology, either.

Others in the room began to chime in about why they supported my remark, and my colleague faded away.

This same colleague often wears a Redskins jacket.  I have never said anything about that to this professor.  I let it slide.  He does a lot of good work, you know?

Over the years, I have let slide joking requests that I go out on the front lawn and do a ‘rain dance’ during dry spells, being called ‘the Indian in the attic’ when my office was moved to the third floor, and comments that I ‘should wear your hair in braids more often, it makes you look really authentic.’

I have also, however, asked a colleague not to use the phrase, “circle the wagons,” pointed out the problematic nature of a student’s Chief Illini T-shirt, asked repeatedly why our university has a plaque dedicated to the first Black student but not the first Native American (Robert Latham Owens, look him up, he’s kind of a big deal), and a myriad of other microaggressions that frankly, I am too tired to repeat.

Is it too glib to just say in my own defense that I unexpectedly hit my overload point?  That my filter is so clogged with microaggressions that I no longer have control over what comes out of my mouth when confronted with yet another thoughtless comment negating Native lives?  That I backed up like a sewer and let it spew?

I feel bad that my colleague feels bad.  I feel bad that what I said came out so harshly.  Really?!  Yes, it’s true.  That’s how I’m conditioned.  Even now, as a full professor with tenure and a 3 year term endowed chair, I don’t actually want to hurt people to get my point across. 

IT JUST HAPPENED.  If by "just happened" you take into account 55 years of taking in similar kinds of references to Native people and culture as less than, as inferior, as examples of sub-human behaviorI’m not a saint.  I’m not an Earth Mother (although I grow rounder every year).  I’m just an Indian in the academy whose tolerance for crap has hit its limit. 

But am I sorry?  Complicated question.  In other situations, I have done the polite request.  What it usually gets me is a condescending “oh that’s so PC of you” attitude, or a “Come on, it’s just a saying, you know I’m not that kind of person” retort, as if I had insulted the person who used the stereotype. Rarely has anyone swallowed their pride, faced me, and said, “You are absolutely right, thank you for bringing that to my attention,” (Jim Warren, looking gratefully at you).  So I’m not sorry that I objected; it needed to be said, particularly in the context of our discussion. 

I do regret that my colleague feels hurt.  But I’m wondering if that hurt might not be a better lesson than anything else I could have said or done – for my colleague, not me.  I’m wondering if my colleague might not think about that choice of words, and all the years of ignoring or bypassing Indigenous issues and history that allowed the word “tipi” to come out, a little more than if I’d simply smiled tightly, taken him aside later, and said quietly, “Can you use a better word, please?”

Because I have felt hurt, marginalized, belittled, and targeted many more times than I have spoken up about it.  Because I’ve bitten my tongue enough times to know that my own blood tastes bitter.  Because, let’s be honest, my white male colleague has enough privilege to overcome this small moment and, if willing to do the work, come out a better person.

Decolonizing language is a painful process. 

Sometimes the hardest people to educate about race and class are people who define themselves as liberal and progressive. 

Sometimes we have to look closely at what comes out of our mouths ‘naturally’ or ‘unintentionally’ in order to see how deeply embedded racist language really is in our culture and our lives, and we must think about what that means for us as individuals committed to social justice.

And yes, sometimes a reflexive objection speaks more truthfully than pre-composed remarks.  

And now that I have spent three hours processing this brief interaction, I'm going to go reward myself with a mountain.  Where, by the way, I stay in a cabin.  Not a tipi in sight.








Friday, May 6, 2016

Shiprock: for Ashlynn Mike

-->
Shiprock



For Ashlynn Mike


She was a little girl, light bending through a prism, a dream on its way towards awakening.  Her footsteps on the face of this earth leave behind small imprints that will exist and exist even as her Ancestors take her into their arms and tend her wounds.  She was a story unfolding its wings and drying them under the heat of a beloved yellow sun.  They say her brother escaped, but I know he will bear that unfinished story the rest of his life, unable to tell it, unable to put it down.  And the tragedy comes back on us like a riptide when we hear that an Indian man did this to them: One of our own.  No theory of historical trauma or lateral colonization makes this death make any sense.  No religion dulls the way the breath of the world catches, seizes, can’t recover.  How many of us have walked that same road, how many of us have been that little girl looking into the van, that brother who wouldn’t let her get in alone but still can’t stop what happens?  How many of us felt our hearts clutch up like the fist of lightning so close we could smell the scorch on the back of our necks?  I did.  I was lucky.  I walked back out of that van.  I don’t know why my life was spared; his hands fit around my neck like a steel choke collar forged beyond mercy.  Afterwards, he let me go.  I shouldn’t have to be grateful for that.  I am.  I shouldn’t have to wish that for her.  I do.  Because it’s precious, that thin strand of spirit singing in our flesh; it’s holy.  Even when it is twisted and made to curse in ugly notes of fear and pain, the sound is worth enduring for what tenderness and compassion may come later, in hands that cherish the raw music we will learn to make.  Hands that comfort, reach back in time, lead us through grief.  She’ll never know this.  She was a little girl whose foot hurt; she was taken by someone traveling with brutal, invisible companions beneath his skin.  We can’t save her now.  We can only save the ones still out there, walking on our roads, living in our homes, seen out of the corner of our eyes.  How shall we save them?  Oh my relatives - there are as many ways to save them as there are girls, or little brothers left behind, or blue butterflies fanning their cocoon-damp wings before flight into early May air.

Deborah A. Miranda
Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation

Ashlynn Mike was 11 years old. She and her brother Ian were abducted on Monday, May 2, 2016 after disembarking from their school bus near their home in New Mexico. Ian was later released; Ashlynn was sexually assaulted and killed. Her body was discovered on Tuesday.  A funeral service for Ashlynn will be held at 10 a.m. Friday May 6 at the Farmington Civic Center.

RISE: Radical Indigenous Survivance & Empowerment's photo.

 

Friday, April 22, 2016

How to Wrestle With Sorrow

 




How to Wrestle With Sorrow


If you have to mourn, do it on a screened-in front porch of a tin-roofed house on the cemetery side of a small southeastern town, on a day when raindrops plunge from the sky like suicides off some cloud-obscured bridge, ramming their determined little heads into the pavement as if they are on a mission from God.  If you can’t escape grief, invite your dogs over to curl by your side, dogs with round brown eyes lifting now and then to make sure your sobs mean you’re at least still breathing and dinner may be delayed but not cancelled altogether.  If you cannot beat back the heaps of sorrow layered like so many socks stuffed into a drawer, no not one more minute, then put on your absent lover’s flannel shirt against the chill, watch the sodden redbud blossoms wash down the street’s sudden asphalt river, spit out every curse your father ever uttered, and a few you’ve learned from friends he would never have approved of.  Blow your nose so loudly you startle the hormonal robins wading through wet grass in avian lust for worms or nesting materials; their silly feathers dripping, beaks bright as lanterns.  You’ve been there.  You know.  If you must give yourself over to lamentation, do it right: keen all the names of those you’ve lost, offer up what shattered pieces of heart you’ve got left; question faith, justice, and the point of creation in a world that worships the un-dead.  But just remember this: it was real.  That hatchet of joy sunk into your chest?  That opening up of the sealed tomb?  That sliver of connection to your own immaculate beauty and strength?  It was all real, every bit of it.  And once known, that is a wound you’ve earned, a brilliant seed sown that no one can ever uproot.

Deborah A. Miranda