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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Namo'esa [to cleanse]

Back in February, I took part in a three-day Digital Storytelling Workshop at my university.  I've been collecting video, photographs and documents for many years now, but finding the time to master even the basics of iMovie has been difficult.  This workshop gave me the chance to do my favorite thing: obsess over a project for three whole days (I would have gone longer, but that was the limit of the workshop, and since I don't own an iPad, the files for the video are stored and I haven't received them back from the workshop leaders yet).  Multi-media presentation, mixing historical documents with story, photographs, recorded voice ... this, to me, allows so much more story to happen!

We brought a script to class - what we thought we'd be using as our narration - and workshopped it with peers and the two wonderful workshop leaders.  Mine changed considerably over the first two days, as I cut away, invented and honed what could be done in the 3-4 minutes of storytelling time allowed.  This time restriction is partly human attention span, and partly what can be managed in a three day workshop.  I pushed the limit, as I'm in love with the video footage and the sense of being close to the Ancestors that the song included gives me.

The version of iMovie we used was limited to iPad's less flexible edition (the workshop was focused on using iPads with students in the classroom), so some of my desired outcomes were impossible.  I could rework this video in my copious free time using better software, but given my other commitments, I'm going to let it go for now. 

I thought this video might stand as an introduction to the group of poems I'm working on that explore the voices of the California missions themselves - what they think and feel about their roles in the subjugation and wounding of California Indians.  It became a poem of its own, as language is wont to do when the poet lets it take over and stops being so bossy.

Here is the video, followed by the script.  I offer it up to the Ancestors.

Namo'esa: Cleansing

Namo'esa [to cleanse]



They call the California Missions the “21 beads of the mission rosary.”  They call this road El Camino Real.

What would these missions say, if they could speak?  What would I ask them, if they would answer?

Were you complicit in war crimes?  Or were you, too, victims of Spanish colonial greed and conquest?  What skeletons did you tuck away in those adobe walls?  What is your secret name?

Some missions give me an alias, an alibi.
Some missions confess as if I were their priest. 
Some spit at me for my pagan ways.
One mission, national landmark, wanted me to burn her down.
Some deny any knowledge of floggings, rapes, angry neophytes who torched fields.
Some missions have committed suicide, leave me only a brief note.
Some missions swell fat with lies manufactured for profit by Disney.

I listen.  I listen to them all.  I listen to swallows.  I listen to clay bricks.  Adobe.  Ghosts hiding in a fourth grade mission diorama.  Bells.

I listen, but it’s not easy.  Sometimes I don’t like what I hear.  Sometimes I cry. 
I offer tobacco.  Sage.  Mugwort.
I offer poems, prayers.
I offer my blistered feet, promises made of sweat.
I sit in the shade of two hundred year old olive trees, wear the stains of their black fruit on my skin and clothing.
I run my fingers beneath the breathless music of twenty-one fountains afraid of drought.
I taste the bruised sweet flesh of fig trees whose roots clenched around memory like a club.

Beneath the missions, our homeland stirs.  Beneath this unhealed scar running up the side of my homeland, I follow the tracks of a time-traveling coyote.

Deborah A. Miranda

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