Monday, November 28, 2016

Final Poem for Native American Heritage Month and Standing Rock

We are ending Native American Heritage Month in a few days, and throughout the entire month, militarized police have been violently attacking the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, leaving hundreds with hypothermia and injuries, especially one elder in cardiac arrest, one young woman with a torn retina, and one young woman with an arm that she may lose, even after several surgeries. This poem is one I wrote about rivers and the concept of river, and perhaps it will offer a different way of looking at these great entities of creation beyond the concept of commodity or barrier to profit. Too often we forget that water is truly life.


The Cherokee call me Long Man,
yun wi gun hi ta,
because my body stretches and unravels
with my head in the mountains
and my feet resting in the ocean.
I constantly speak words of wisdom
to those who can understand me—
fewer every day.
It takes a quality of attention
fit for magicians or poets.
I have much to tell those
who expend the time and energy to listen.
I have seen so many things.
I know the history of rain
intimately, leaning on the world
to feel it on my skin
and take it inside me
to swell my body. Maybe,
they should have called me Long Woman.

I remember when
the mountains were home only to gods.
I knew your ancestors,
now tangled in the ground.
I swallowed my share and more.
I have seen innumerable generations
living into their deaths.
I am acquainted with the bones of earth,
ancient as the word of God
and stronger by far.
Men have tried forever
to change me and chain me,
but I still wander where I will
when I grow tired of being tame.
I remain the promise of tomorrow,
the hope of new growth
that haunts the night with hypnotic murmurs
and softens the edge between act and dream.

When all hope has fled,
come to me.

Published in TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism, 2015

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Dreaming Fox--A Poem for Native American Heritage Month

I wanted to put another poem up for Native American Heritage Month, and I decided to post this one.

I’ve always taken for granted that I could see more of the natural world’s plants and animals, even in the city, than most other people I know here, who seem totally oblivious to a pair of golden eagles stunt-flying on the thermals overhead or the waddle of a beaver across a grassy knoll to his creek home. I know I owe this gift to my grandmother and aunt and uncle who taught me when I was young to pay attention to the land around me and its plant and animal inhabitants—and thus vastly enriched the rest of my life.

When the rest of my family erupted in chaos and violence, focusing on the natural world of which I was a part saw me through the pain and desperation. Nothing pulls me out of despair like going to water to see the dawn in and watch the dance of the real world behind the shabby drapery of made-up, pretend, commodified daily existence. 


Early on a Sunday walking
past a bank drive-through on a hill
above a creek running through the city
surrounded by a narrow band of wild growth
I see him and freeze
big dog fox stopped at the sight of me
one foot still in the air
tail of fire just brushing the uphill
shrubbery from which he came
we stand and stare
unable to move or breathe
his eyes staring into mine
against a background
murmur of morning traffic
neither of us supposed to be here
not me at this just-after-dawn-in-summer hour
not him in the middle of the city
curiosity more than fear
behind his big eyes I had always
thought foxes had small close-together eyes
from cartoons or wildlife films or something
like that but his are set attractively
distant from each other
an intelligent face staring
me down wanting me to turn
and run from the predator
he must have a den nearby
with mate and kits so he will stand
against me forever
if need be he must be afraid
he knows humans are dangerous
to his kind especially
if he lives here in the heart of the city he must
dread the moment he will have to take
me on so many times his size
and probably with noisy metal weapons
against his needle teeth and claws
feeble in the world of cars motorcycles sirens
thrown rocks gunshots in this neighborhood he will
do it nonetheless I watch him set down his foot
lightly the muscles of his haunches tense
to spring in one final hopeless suicidal
attack to damage and drive me off
away from the den down among the brush
on the banks of the urban creek
hidden deep among the willows
I wish I could follow him down there
to see his mate and babies
he is right to fear me and attack
that human curiosity impulse to know
to somehow own experience fatal
to him if someone less harmless sees
and follows he hunkers down on his tail
silent no warning growl prepared
to launch himself through the air at my throat
only he will not be able to leap
that high from the lower ground
where he stands he will have to settle
for chewing my waist and legs
taking pity on us both
I back away slowly still
holding his vulpine gaze he turns back
to the shelter of the woods with only
one long look back
to make sure I don’t follow
to make sure I was real
one flash of movement and all trace
of red gone only undergrowth he might
never have stood and stared into my human eyes
so early on a Sunday morning
in the heart of the city
leaving us both to wonder
if we dreamed he of a human
who did no harm me of a fox
who did not run improbable dreams

© Linda Rodriguez 2016

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Native American Heritage Month--A Poem for Standing Rock and #NoDAPL

I've been so frigging mad about the news coverage of the Standing Rock protests. The media, for the most part, can't be bothered to go out and actually investigate what's actually going on. No lattes out on the prairie. So they just take the word of the lying sheriff and governor. After NPR's recently, I just blew, and my poor husband had to listen. Finally, I decided to try to tame the anger in form. So, a sestina for Standing Rock.


I have run out of time
and patience with news coverage so
lazy and biased with a bow
always to
the company owners, powerful and rich,
and to what they want said.

It never matters what my people have said
again and again. Every time
government or corporate forces, so
violent and powerful, require us to bow
in submission, and we won't, the rich
dictate what's broadcast—and written, too.

When I try to explain to
well-meaning white friends, they've said,
“But disorder!” to which I reply each time,
“But oppression!” and sow
seeds of doubt in their comfort. The bough
must break some time and dump the rich

into the mud with the rest of us. The rich
tapestry of cultures that we are can't be reduced to
only WASP—Native, Black, Latino said
to be lesser, negligible, inferior. Each time
I hear this, the fire of anger grows within, so
hot and fierce. It's time for the ruling class's farewell bow.

So long we've stayed peaceful. Soon, it may be time for bow
and lance and rifle, if the rich
can't be compelled to lift the boot, too
sure of their own power to listen to what we've said.
They don't realize it, but they're running out of time.
In arrogance, they rip the fabric of the nation we sew

back together in new, shiny shapes, so
colorful, strange, stronger, tied with the bright bow
of human dignity and rich
gleam of equality and justice. To
those who've always had power and said
to the rest of us, “Give us time
to dole out bits of freedom,” we say, “No,” so...

You've run out of time. Now, reap what you sow.
We'll no longer bow in submission to
the demands of the white and rich. Hear what we've said.

© Linda Rodriguez 2016

Monday, November 7, 2016

Enough Already, 2016!

I have had it. I'm fed up with this year. We won't even talk about all the talented, loved figures who've died this year. There are always deaths like that, but this year, we were hit hard in this arena. Aside from the Angel of Death hovering over our favorite writers, actors, musicians, and other artists, this year has been downright ugly and mean—one could even say, nasty.

The election has thrown its grotesque, sinister shadow over the entire year, dredging up thousands of people who are happy to do and say—nay, shout—things that insult and demean whole swathes of the citizenry—immigrants, women, Latinos, Blacks, Muslims, Natives, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA people, teachers, veterans, journalists, and just about every other segment of society you can think of that isn't privileged White male. We've had one candidate running who's made no secret of his admiration for ruthless dictators and intention to become one himself and another candidate who's faced accusation and investigation after accusation and investigation, only to be repeatedly found innocent but tarred with the constant scandals, and we've had a national media who've falsely focused on those faux scandals while giving the would-be dictator a pass and billions of dollars of free publicity.

Every day, we think we've seen a new low in this election, surely the lowest it could ever go, only to have a newer, lower low replace the old one in the next day or so. We've watched Nazis, white nationalists, and the Ku Klux Klan roll out from under the rocks beneath which they'd had to hide for decades and parade openly with swastikas and Confederate flags in the would-be dictator's rallies, unashamedly retweeted by him and his campaign. The election has become a sickness infecting the entire country.

Then, there are the extrajudicial executions of people of color by modern, militarized police, the same police that our would-be dictator intends to use as shock troops to impose his will on the country, rounding up millions of people “from the first hour of [his] presidency,” the same police who enthusiastically endorse this man who openly brags about breaking laws and disregarding our constitution.

Add to all this, the standoff at Standing Rock, where Native nations from all over the United States have gathered to protect the Missouri River and their own sacred lands from destruction by a rapacious corporation. I have friends and relatives with the Oceti Sakowin Water Protectors, who are being attacked by dogs, pepper-sprayed, maced, teargassed, beaten, shot at, dragged from ceremonies and sweat lodges, strip-searched in public view, and caged, naked, in dog kennels by militarized police from seven different states—sort of a preview of what many of us in this country could expect at the hands of the would-be dictator if we're foolish enough to give him that power over us. When young students must throw themselves physically on top of elders to protect their more fragile bodies and bones from beatings with billy clubs and batons by men in law enforcement uniforms and combat gear, it seems the final straw in an ugly, hateful year.

The election will be over in a couple of days, and I hope and pray that the majority of voters in this land prove themselves to be sane and decent. But that will not do anything about the many others who have proved not to be either. As a country, we'll still have to deal with them, especially since they talk loudly about riots and violence if their dictator doesn't get the chance to rule us all. We'll still be dealing with militarized police who act like an occupying army in their own country. (I've had combat vets tell me they never rolled out in Afghanistan or even Fallujah in all the equipment these guys are using against their own citizens.) My relations will still be standing firm and peacefully as they're attacked, humiliated, and caged out in North Dakota. I want all of this nightmare to be over with the election, but I know it won't be. 2016, hateful year that it's been, seems determined to carry on its ugliness and hate into 2017.

Against this, I try to impose the facts that my husband and I are happier than we've ever been in our own private life, even as the public world seems more dangerous to us and more frightening, that I've come through a dark, physically threatening personal ordeal and am heading back to normal, that I have so many wonderful friends of all colors, races, ethnicities, classes, religions, and all other backgrounds who believe in the same love and tolerance that I do, that I do believe—in the long run—goodness, love, truth, and justice eventually triumph over hate and bigotry (though I fear that sometimes the long run is awfully long), that there are an awful lot of us working to bring decency and equality back into our public sphere.

2016, you've made it downright hard to remember these good truths, but I keep reasserting them against your miserable meanness. I can hardly wait to see your backside, nasty year. Good riddance, even though we won't be rid of most of your pestilent detritus. But it won't be the first time in this country's history that we've had a big moral cleanup job to face after a horrible paroxysm, i.e., mass deportations of citizens of Mexican descent in the 1930s, the camps for Japanese-Americans in the 1940s, the McCarthyism of the 1950s, the violent segregationists of the 1960s, and more before and after those. Every so often, the worst this country contains comes out publicly. Then, the good, decent folks, who usually spend their time quietly minding their own business, have to come out and clean house—and then work hard to mop up the resulting mess. But we always do. I remind myself of that.

2016, you've done your worst, and it's been pretty bad, but we decent folks of the U.S. are coming after you finally. We've had enough, and we're bringing our brooms, mops, and disinfectants with us. Your time has finally come.