Monday, August 13, 2018



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.


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