Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Questions on the Sixteenth Anniversary of Your Death

Questions on the Sixteenth Anniversary of Your Death
            for my mother

Where do you walk now? 
What new maps have you drawn,
or have you left maps behind? 
How is your heart? Does turquoise
in a stone or lake still bring you joy?
Wars have ended, and begun,
since your soul and body parted ways.
Trees have fallen in brutal derechos,
acorns burrowed into the soft earth
with one green root.  I have slept,
and dreamt, and walked in rain;
my skin has burnt, healed,
darkened.  A million words
swarm around me, but
I do not know if any of mine
reach you, nor do I have any of yours
to hold to my heart and praise. 
Are you humming as you travel?  
Which road will you take next? 
Do you think of me?
I keep your memory
like a singing cricket
on the hearth of my heart. 
Those notes, steady as footsteps,
will outlive both of us.
That’s all I know for sure.

Deborah A. Miranda

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dear World: Yes I Wrote a Poem About Dicks Let Me Explain

Dear World:

You've been waiting for this book: a celebration of renowned scholar, poet, novelist and all-around-phenomenal woman, Paula Gunn Allen.  These pieces started out as a special insert in a literary journal, then (through a series of unfortunate events that turned out to be fortuitous) morphed into an even better, richer collection with beautiful editing and a perfect press (West End Press in Albuquerque) of its own.  And now, here it is, in your hands, with a classic Paula photo on the front.

So you open it and start flipping through the poems, essays, stories, and lovely artwork.  Such an elegant design! Such wonderful insights!  Such -

                           wait a minute.
Ha! You thought you saw . . .  wait.  You did see . . .  a series of words . . .

Naughty words. Bad words. Silly words.

It's a penis . . .
a prick,
a cock, ,
a dangler,
a clamdigger ...

Well, who the heck would put a poem like that in a collection honoring one of the most revered Native American scholar/writers in the 20th century?  What a jerk. How inappropriate.  How disrespectful.

But wait!  I wrote that poem! I swear, my intentions were good!  Yes, I admit, it's a bit odd that a lesbian poet would write a poem for another lesbian poet about male genitalia.  

The problem here is context.  This poem was actually sent off to the editors (many years ago) with an epigraph that Made It All Perfectly Clear.  It included a quote from Paula Gunn Allen herself.  It was the intersection of Paula's quote and a news story that inspired this poem.  

Unfortunately, the epigraph was inadvertently left off the published version - my fault? editorial mistake? printing error? -- I have no idea.  And, for the record, I have never worked with two more determined, honorable editors than Stephanie Sellers and Menouka Case. So let's chalk it up to the trickster energy generated by the poem and which, as Menouka reminds me, Paula would have deeply appreciated.

Future printings of the book will be corrected. For now, I provide the epigraph here for you (below).  I'm curious to know how, or if, access to the epigraph changes how the poem reads within this collection.

By the way, here is the statue in question, created by Joe Pachak.  In the end, the statue was not actually removed from the park, but instead, moved to a less conspicuous area.

Yup. There it is.

For the White Lady Who Had Kokopelli's Statue Removed From a State Park

In her introduction to Off the Reservation, Paula Gunn Allen mourns, "…poor Kokopelli! … he capers sadly about on wall hangings, tea towels, pot holders, tote bags, t-shirts and pricey bronze cutouts sans his joyful manhood . . . Perhaps this sorry loss is symptomatic of all that is wrong with colonization, and indicative of all that fills Native hearts with rage."

It's a penis.
Your father has one.
Your brother has one.
Your son has one.
Your grandson has one.
It's a penis,
not the Mark of Cain.
It's a penis,
a prick,
a cock,
a dangler,
a clamdigger,
a babymaker,
a lovemaker,
a dick,
a dong,
a one-eyed snake
a pee pee
a wiener
a wanker
but it's not
the Mark of Cain.
Your father has one.
Your son has one.
Hell, if you believe
in the Bible
God has one
(we are made
in His Image,
right?)  I've got
news for you:
have 'em
or we wouldn't
still be
and maybe that's
your problem
with Mr. Kokopelli
and his joyful
Indians having sex
means more Indians,
happy Indians,
and gay,
mono or poly,
mixed or full.
Still here,
still happy:
is that too much
for you
to take?

Deborah A. Miranda

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"You Bring Out the Abalone In Me" Broadside Fundraiser for Turtle Girl

$10 (plus $3 shipping) 

What is this?! "You Bring Out the Abalone in Me" is my California Indian take on an gloriously incendiary poem by Latinx poet Sandra Cisneros, "You Bring Out the Mexican in Me."  It's presented on a glossy 11 x 17 broadside, signed by the poet, and suitable for framing and gift-giving!

A little history:  When I teach beginning poetry workshops, I often assign an "imitation" poem as our first piece; learning a good poem from the inside out is both a close-reading exercise, and a celebration of the original poem.  I've gotten some amazing student responses: "You Bring Out the Norwegian in Me" (complete with lefse), "You Bring Out the Thelma and Louise in Me," "You Bring Out the Rock-Climber in Me" and of course, "You Bring Out the Feminist in Me."  Sandra's poem lends itself to the kind of imitation that pushes young poets to claim their own identities in specific and unique ways.

I often do in-class freewrites with my students, but for this particular assignment I had never struck that vein of inspiration that led to my own "You Bring Out the..." poem - until one year all the images of being California Indian came together and demanded to be heard!

This is the second version of this broadside poem; I've made a few little revisions to the way the poem sits on the page, and polished it a bit in place.  Most noticably, I've changed the abalone background from pure abalone colors to a pre-contact (possibly Miwok) necklace on display at the Oakland Museum in California.  This allows the poem more space to breathe, and at the same time, brings the Ancestors even more fully into the image.

I brought this broadside with me on my October mini-tour of California, and it was embraced by many.  Some folks asked if I could make this available online; with a little coaxing, I've made it happen!

Props:  It's one thing to have students play around with Sandra Cisneros' poem in a classroom, but a whole 'nother thing to make a broadside based on that poem, and sell it.  I've checked with Sandra, and she gave her blessing for all proceeds from the broadside to go towards helping my granddaughter, Georgia "Turtle Girl," receive the care she needs for a rare genetic disorder called Adenylosuccinate lyase deficiency (ADSL).  

Details:  The poem is printed on 11 x 17 cardstock with a shiny finish.  I'll mail them out in cardboard tube mailers, first class.  

How to order:  PayPal.  Send $13.00 (10 for the broadside, 3 for shipping) to me by clicking this link - this is the easiest way for me to handle payments. If you'd like to order more than one broadside, simply multiply 10 x quantity desired.  For example, two broadsides would be $20, plus $3 for shipping. The shipping amount is the same for up to five broadsides. Please include your shipping address for me in the comment section!

As we head into winter, Turtle Girl's family is facing a housing crisis.  Your purchase of this broadside will help her mom and dad make sure that the whole family, including new baby Jhonathan, will be safe and warm.


Text of the poem:  

You bring out the abalone in me. The slick, slippery flesh in me. The hard-silk iridescent shell. The bitter tannin. The acorn meat on a wide flat stone, the pounding that goes on for days. For you, I would give up my white flour, white sugar, lactose-laden milk addiction. Eat your gourmet locavore meals, decolonize my diet. uh-huh. Uh-huh. For you.

You bring out the frenzied tail-whipping salmon in me. The sweet mother-of-pearl in me. The Monterey estuary thick with silver backs. The thrashing homeward past grizzlies gorging with scaly grins. The strategic wildfire in me. The trigger of seeds snapping open. The green flash of life in ashes. The Big Sur tempest in me. The rogue wave surge, swallow-tourists-sweep-them-halfway-to-Hawaii-in-seconds in me. The dolphin in me. The legend of rainbow bridge, sinewy people of the sea in me. The San Francisco quake n’ bake in me. The fear of drought in me. Yes, you do. You do.

You bring out the Bear Dance in me. The Deer Dance of desire in me. The Swordfish Dance stab in me. The dove gray cocoon rattles in me. The elderberry clappersticks in me. The all night all day all night again Solstice song in me. The Spanish soldado de cuera cruelty in me. The priest’s cross decorated with feathers and shells in me. Deer one. Mi tulecita, I am the hunter you will lie down for, obsidian knife kisses along your jugular. Your heart belongs to me; no amar dios, no neofita, no kidnapped conversion.

I want to bathe in your blood and be cleansed. I want to strip you naked as only pagans can be. I want to caste out your demons in the thick black air of the sweat lodge. You bring out the abalone in me, tanoch, and you like it.

You bring out the martyrdom of priests in me. The burning-arrows-in-the-Mission-thatched-roofs in me. The Tears of the Sun Rebellion in me. The Toypurina guerilla woman leader in me. The 1802 measles epidemic in me. The God’s Will fever of smallpox in me. The bad aguaguardiente home brew in me. The San Andreas rattlesnake of jealousy. The intergenerational postcolonial stress syndrome, late-night craving for wine in me.


I am savage. I am Coyote’s heathen twin. I am the flooder of continents. The hard white marble mountain top of creation. The single footprint of the only survivor. You bring out the pre-contact Eden in me. The love medicine basket weaving in me. The U.S. government lie and ‘49er lust in me. The Eighteen Unratified Treaties in me.
Green turtle. Quicksilver. Black sand. Gold. Mugwort. Cedar. White sage. Angelica root. All you ancestors, saved and unsaved, Momoy, Eagle, I see you. kaiusen cha’a me. sinne me xawan. sinne me. kaiusen inlam. ka muisin. ka mec mui’sin exe. Love the way an abalone woman loves. Iridescent, salty, untamed.  Let me uncivilize you.                 

Deborah A. Miranda