T∫B∫R TIDAL BASIN REVIEW Summer 2010
T∫B∫R TIDAL BASIN REVIEW Summer 2010
Tidal Basin Press Founded 2010 Washington, DC
Editors Tori Arthur - Fiction & Non-Fiction Editor Truth Thomas - Poetry Editor Melanie Henderson - Managing Editor Randall Horton - Editor-in-Chief TBR Editorial Review Team Marlene Hawthrone-Thomas Fred Joiner
Tidal Basin Press, LLC Tidal Basin Review Founded 2010, Washington, DC
www.tidalbasinpress.org A Publication of Tidal Basin Press, LLC
Cover Art by Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Self Portrait, Hotel Isabel, Mexico City, 2010 Layout Design, Melanie Henderson
For broad distribution. Electronic version not for sale. To purchase print version, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.tidalbasinpress.org. ÂŠ All Rights Reserved, Tidal Basin Press, LLC, Washington, DC.
Plainsong Sky Dog
Kim Coleman Foote
Yellow Brick Secrets
Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Song Around Him, Mexico City, 2010
Marian Kaplun Shapiro
The Finger Pointing to the Moon Is Not the Moon
Rachel Eliza Griffiths
ARTIST FEATURE/INTERVIEW Self Portrait, Casa Azul, Coyoacan, 2010
Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Excerpt, from the Eves' Narrative, 2008
―Cloudy‖: Average White Band
I Got Five on it: A Review of John Murillo‘s Up Jump the Boogie
The Coldest Sounds
50 Bullets, One Dead, and Many Questions
Prelude To the Young Warriors
Tamara J. Madison
Found Body (for Aimé Césaire)
Scraping the Blackened Bottom
Product of Compression
Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Oyster Bar, Grand Central Station, New York, 2010
Inmate 155413 (for James Brown) Ojai Dusk (Camping at Wheeler Hot Springs) For Etheridge Knight (and his reading of As You leave Me) Hickory (circa 1890-1940)
the abuserâ€Ś Without Him
Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Man and Child, Mexico City, 2010
Phillip B. Williams
Transit Ars Poetica: Before the Illuminated Instruments
Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Self Portrait, Hotel Isabel, Mexico City, 2010
The Neighborhood We Left
Butterfly Story 1944
Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Death, Open, 2010
Adrian S. Potter
The Blues Almanac Education
BY THE TIME I GET TO ARIZONA: SB 1070 SPECIAL 87
Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Holding His Cross, Mexico City, 2010
Lydia Muñoz (age 13) Samantha Negrón (age 13) How to Become a United States Citizen
Introduction: Memo to the Mother of Exiles
Carmen Giménez Smith
On Immigration and Roanoke Island
Runagate, Runagate: Historical Noncompliance, Pre-Emption and Moral Justice
[white paper #3] [white paper #9] [white paper #42]
The ―A‖ Word
Diane Harriford Becky Thompson
Dressed for America
An Arizona State of Mind
How We Become the Poems
CNN, U.S. Edition San(s) Diego
All our fields we plant with bone. Our sons rise and fight and fall and we cover them. All our daughterâ€˜s tears are stones. Their wombs weep and bleed. Poisoned by enemy seed. All war yearns for its own end. Scarred lands wait to bloom again, to feed our children rather than be fed by them.
AMYX âˆŤ 7
Your fathers brought the bearded soldiers through sand-bottomed canyons – ablaze, astride, amid a din of hammered metals. They called you esclavo. I name you
Suk-tanka, and borrow your fleetness to race the sacred buffalo. You offer your back to carry my village. The people sing, Oleohneh, thank you, Brother-Warrior. You hold sun in your right eye. The other is moon. Your face is my wide sky. Your breath – the perfume of sweet grasses, clear waters, crisp air of high passes. From mountain – your withers – rushes fast water: power of river, shoulder to loin. Your legs are my wind, and I thank you, Oleohneh. We are Kola – Brothers. Warriors.
AMYX ∫ 8
YELLOW BRICK SECRETS
Kim Coleman Foote
Edina (West African coast), 1744 A strip of grey, the same dirty color as the raging sky—that‘s what Adwoa had waited most of her life for. She had always hoped to see the ocean before she died, but not if it meant having rain run down her cheeks, with a muzzle clamped across her mouth, crushing her lips. She didn‘t expect to be standing amongst a group of war prisoners and other men and women captured or sold into slavery, wearing an unrefined blue cloth, tied around her waist like some common woman. Her calves were stiff and burning, and her feet were numb, but at least her neck no longer strained from the weight of the elephant tusk. Of all things, she didn‘t dream of arriving to the ocean without her hair. The coffle‘s guards had spared them nothing, not even their eyebrows or the wiry patches beneath their arms and at their center. When the guards had shaved them all the night before, Adwoa almost hadn‘t recognized her sister Tawia until the girl brought her water to drink. Now, staring at that sea, Adwoa wished for a mouth like her grandmother Nana Esi‘s, to speak to the Creators and ask why they‘d given her this destiny. As the coffle marched through the forest, she still tasted her freedom. That forest had stretched for so long that she‘d almost convinced herself that the ocean didn‘t truly exist. Now that she‘d reached it, she felt herself filling with doubt that she‘d never see her lover, Owusu, again. And what had she done to deserve it? It couldn‘t be just because of breaking the taboos with Owusu and lying with him before marriage. Everyone on that coffle couldn‘t be guilty of similar acts. And what had Tawia done, other than tag behind Adwoa that night she‘d slept with Owusu? The others on the coffle had never traveled to the edge of the earth either. They chattered about the ocean and pointed at the nearby village, which Paa Kwesi, the fat Fantse leader of the coffle, called Edina. Ribbons of smoke greyer than the sky rose in a few places. Many things down there were strange but too far away to make out, such as the structure Paa Kwesi called kasteel—the largest building Adwoa had ever seen. As the women around her debated about what it was, she realized it must be one of the Abroad men‘s houses. Its bricks were yellow, like the raffia fences used for animal pens. Adwoa guessed that the soil in Abroad was yellow as well. She also noticed objects similar to fishing canoes on the ocean, but canoes shouldn‘t have been visible at that distance. If they were the boats from Abroad, it would mean that Owusu‘s stories were true: that she and everyone on the coffle would sail to Abroad, the land where the air became chillier than the dry season winds. FOOTE ∫ 9
Paa Kwesi confirmed it: after entering the yellow brick kasteel, he said, there would be no turning back. He told the men and women on the coffle that a new, better home awaited them, but Adwoa wanted to keep pretending. She didn‘t want to believe Paa Kwesi‘s wife, either. The woman had told them the same thing as she sprayed them with the blood of a chicken at the river the night before, before they bathed and changed into the rough blue cloth. ―With this blood,‖ she‘d told them, ―you will forget your mothers. Forget your fathers. Forget your wives, your sisters and brothers, your husbands. Forget your names.‖ As the guards roughly shaved away the men and women‘s hair, Paa Kwesi‘s wife waved the smoke from her pipe around them, saying, ―You are no more. Your past is no more. You are reborn. The sea will be your mother, your protector. She awaits your arrival like the womanwater that precedes birth. Accept her as your mother. Accept her, and your worries will be no more.‖ Adwoa had never doubted such spiritually significant words before, but how could she forget her hometown, her Nana Esi, and the rest of her family? How could she forget Owusu, with the bulge of his gold snake pendant beneath her tongue? She hadn‘t been swallowing it every night and digging through her excrement, and putting the filth back into her mouth, to forget him. She hadn‘t bitten six holes into her cloth and strained to memorize the names of those forest towns to forget the way back to Assin Nkwanta, where Paa Kwesi had sold Owusu. The Abroad men would have to humiliate them so much that they‘d be too ashamed to return home. And how much more could they do? Castrate the men and make them all eunuchs? Impregnate the women against their will? Make them eat with their left hand? Paa Kwesi had already done that, and Adwoa had grown accustomed to the taste of her own shit. And what of his wife‘s words of comfort about the sea, who was to be their new ―mother‖? Many of the war prisoners amongst the coffle had been on trade missions to the coast, and they talked about how the Abroad men would lock them inside manmade caves and take them to their land across the ocean. Yet, the most frightening thing she‘d heard about that place wasn‘t the weather, or the color of the people, but the nature of their creator deity. Some on the coffle claimed he could do the impossible, like create palm wine from water. They said he also feasted on black skin. Adwoa knew that some parts of their tales must be true, because Owusu‘s had contained variations, as all stories do. Only, that deity FOOTE ∫ 10
had not scared her before, because she never entertained the belief that he existed. Now, being one on a coffle that could have populated half of Kwakrom, her hometown, Adwoa wondered about the appetite of such a being. Traders continually raided for captives and sold war prisoners at the coast, so their creator must be insatiable. After all, the previous night after they‘d bathed, Paa Kwesi had fed them the finest foods they‘d seen since ending up on the coffle: the smoothest fufu for dinner, submerged in a spicy palm nut soup, with dried fish and land snail bought from a trade caravan headed north. Even roasted bush meat was provided for clan members who had a taboo against eating the fish. Paa Kwesi also offered plenty of palm wine and beer. If others on the coffle were anything like Adwoa, they ate in pleasure and fear, sensing they were being fattened like goats prepared for a festival meal.
The first people they saw in that place called Edina were three of its teenagers, who looked slightly younger than Adwoa. But two of them were not black like her, and not pink like the Abroad men they were all told to expect. The color was hard to describe—groundnut stew, maybe, mixed with the red of too much palm oil. The boys‘ hair was short, like normal, but the girl‘s was longer than any Adwoa had seen. The color was also hard to define: brown, but at the same time, gold. Little sharp-eyed beings with gold hair and too-light eyes. One of the boys was normal looking, with black skin and dark eyes, but he wore the same fat wooden shoes, and clothing like that of Paa Kwesi and his guards. Adwoa felt fear creeping up her neck. What if they were really not children, but magic beings created by the Abroad men, who might look even more bizarre? She calmed somewhat, reminding herself that she didn‘t have eyes like her Nana Esi, who knew where the mmoetia dwarves were hiding in the forest long before anyone else heard their eerie whistles, and who knew which trees were too consecrated to chop for firewood. Adwoa wondered if a witch had produced those groundnut-colored people. Almost everyone on the coffle blinked through the drizzle, focusing on the teenagers. One of the boys picked his nose with disinterest and called to the others in a strange language. Whatever he said made them laugh. Adwoa was surprised to see that their tongues were the normal pink, and their teeth white. Paa Kwesi‘s guards tried to shoo them away, but they FOOTE ∫ 11
trailed the coffle like mosquitoes. The girl ran alongside Paa Kwesi, shouting, ―Ei, kwasea! Paa Kwasea-o!‖ The familiar offensive sounds made most of the coffle break into nervous laughter. It was the first time they‘d laughed or smiled in weeks. Even Adwoa choked out a giggle behind the muzzle to hear Paa Kwesi called the worst insult she knew: ―fool.‖ She was shocked that young people would use such language, but glad that it was directed to the right person. The teenagers were poking out their bellies and stomping through the wet grass, imitating Paa Kwesi‘s wide-legged walk. Adwoa laughed so hard that she couldn‘t tell the difference between the rain and tears rolling down her face. ―Paa Kwasea, the fat Fantse-o!‖ A furious Paa Kwesi fumbled at his breeches and fired his pistol at the three teenagers‘ feet. Adwoa and others on the coffle started at the explosion. Several of them dropped their head loads. The teens had scattered and run away but were still poking out their bellies and wagging their tongues like the he-goat. Paa Kwesi fired again and spat on the ground. ―You Edina people,‖ he growled, ―I spit on you! You fuck the strangers from Abroad and forget you are Fantse.‖ He turned to rage at the coffle and even his guards, some of whom were still laughing. ―Be quiet, all of you! I will kill the next one of you who laughs.‖ But that is how they arrived at the river Benya—laughing.
The sight of the kasteel up close made Adwoa gasp. It rose beyond the height of seven tall men. She was amazed that those yellow bricks, no bigger than her feet, could support so much weight. She wondered for a moment if the tales had omitted the most unbelievable deformity of the Abroad men: that they were giants said to have roamed the earth before humankind existed. Even the two flags that flapped in the wind at the kasteel‘s pinnacles were the most enormous she‘d seen. One had two blue and one white stripe, and the other was white with black marks like crooked sticks.
FOOTE ∫ 12
A hush fell over the coffle. Some of them pointed to the upper deck of the kasteel, where normal-sized men with skin bright like fufu, appeared at the square-cut spaces. Another group approached the coffle on foot, walking like people but dressed in clothes stranger than Paa Kwesi‘s: uncomfortable-looking shoes that covered their feet whole, tight white fabric around their lower legs, and breeches and shirts like Paa Kwesi‘s. A few had clouds of unbelievably long hair that was white or grey, but they did not appear old enough to be elders. The one who seemed to be their leader wore a ridiculously large hat decorated with feathers. Their skin was not much like an albino‘s but more like roasted pig meat. Some of them had the colorless eyes and hair of albinos, but others‘ were dark. They all had too much nose, no lips to speak of, and straight hair like a goat‘s. A barefoot black-skinned man wearing the same clothes shielded them from the rain with a large red umbrella, as though they were royal leaders. Adwoa and the others watched in awe as those men shook Paa Kwesi‘s hand properly, ending with a snap. The men could also speak some Mfantse, the language of the coast, though with accents like none Adwoa had heard. ―Paa Kwesi, akwaaba,‖ they said in welcome. His response, ―Yaa enua,‖ sounded odd to Adwoa. It was the common reply to a greeting of one‘s peers, but she refused to accept that these men were fully human. The only skin they exposed were their faces and hands. She thought that their hands were bone-white, but as the coffle passed, she saw that they wore some sort of covering. As they spoke amongst themselves, she discerned the same harsh sounds the children had made. Like the children, their tongues were the right color, and their teeth as well, if not a bit yellow. She noticed that neither the Abroad men nor those groundnut-colored children startled other people in Edina. The others had the right color—blackish brown like a coconut shell—and the proper facial features and hair. If not for the Edina people‘s short stature, and the fact that some of them wore Abroad clothing, she would have thought they were neighbors from beyond Kwakrom‘s hills. The people of Edina went about carrying food, water, and firewood, and strolling idly in the rain, as though the sight of a fifty-person caravan was normal. In Kwakrom, the coffles passing through fascinated the adults and children alike. They marveled at the wares FOOTE ∫ 13
carried atop the people‘s heads, and tried to guess their nationhood by their physique and facial cuts. It had been a pastime to Adwoa. She had never considered their feelings as her eyes probed them. Now, she could only feel gratitude that those Edina people ignored them as they trudged by.
A few days later, Adwoa had been reduced to a prisoner, filthy and half-starved in a kasteel dungeon crowded with women. When the Abroad soldiers first marched her there, the stench alone had made her heave. She‘d lost count of how many times she‘d vomited since entering that place, where the endless humid days melted into chilly nights that made them all huddle together. If she pressed her face to the metal bars locking them inside, she could see a sliver of the sky beyond the courtyard‘s dour stones and bricks. The sky was always gray, as on the day they arrived to the sea. The lump of gold in her mouth reassured her. Owusu was out there somewhere, and that meant she could find him. And she still had her sister Tawia to look after her. They‘d ended up in the same dungeon. When Adwoa‘s stomach eventually settled, she wasn‘t quite happy; it meant that she‘d gotten accustomed to the lifestyle of a pig. The urine, menstrual blood, and other fluids on the floor no longer pierced her nose like daggers. The brand on her arm hurt less. She cringed at the memory of the kasteel soldiers, who had pushed a piece of wood between her teeth and asked her to bite. It reminded her of the time during her blood ceremony, when the women did the same thing before making the small cuts down her spine. She had squeezed her eyes shut, wanting to reverse time, wake up, and find herself back at that ceremony, sincerely promising to heed their warnings about intercourse before marriage. Anything to avoid this destiny, which would certainly lead to an unclean death. She would not become an ancestor, and the future generations would forget her name. In that dungeon, she found herself full of so much shame that she refused to speak to anyone, even Tawia. Adwoa wasn‘t the only silent one. Many of the women sat slumped over, or lay prone against the filthy floor, eyes wide and hollow. She was shocked to see their bellies still rising and releasing air. Most of their hair had grown back, but it was the length of a man‘s—not long enough to style it after the latest fashions of their nations. Those FOOTE ∫ 14
who weren‘t completely nude wore the rough scrap of indigo they‘d arrived to the kasteel wearing. Adwoa didn‘t want to look at the women, but they were everywhere. If she focused her gaze through the bars, she could spot more sad faces in the cells situated around the perimeter of the small courtyard. Adwoa could understand most of the women who did speak, even though their accents were different, and they used several unfamiliar words. And then there was Tawia, whose lisp was all too familiar. It was her blabbering—telling Adwoa and Owusu to quickly finish whatever they were doing on the hill that night—that had alerted their kidnappers to their presence. ―My sister here will help us all escape-o,‖ Tawia announced to anyone who cared to listen. ―They shall kill her if she tries,‖ one of the women responded. ―Not Adwoa. Do not let her size mislead you. Where we come from, she hunted with the men. She killed an elephant all by herself.‖ Adwoa had been resting her head on Tawia‘s thigh so her face wouldn‘t touch the floor. She met the girl‘s eyes and gave her a warning look as the women tsked in disbelief. She didn‘t bother to correct Tawia. It had been boys, not men, that she hunted with, and only in secrecy, trailing far behind them. No one realized what she‘d done until the master hunter discovered her standing over her catch, a young roebuck. She‘d almost laughed at his panic. He had thought the animal was attacking her, until he saw the neat slit in its throat. ―Save your tales for children,‖ said a woman who rested her forehead against the bars. ―I do not lie. I am telling the truth-o.‖ ―Wherever it is you come from,‖ said another, ―the men must have breasts and wear waist beads.‖ The insult almost made Adwoa lift her head from Tawia‘s thigh and spit out curses, but she was too tired. Tawia jerked her head around in search of the women‘s laughter. ―Only if they are brothers of yours,‖ she retorted. FOOTE ∫ 15
In spite of herself, Adwoa smiled. She had always thought of Tawia as being meek because she was so obedient. Sometimes, her mother had complained of Tawia‘s sharp tongue, but Adwoa had never spent enough time around her to notice. Looking up at the girl, Adwoa noticed that her eyeteeth were narrowed to points. Adwoa‘s four front teeth had been shaved similarly, at their father‘s request. She‘d thought she was the only daughter he‘d done it to. It was as though he‘d decided to mold the younger Tawia after her. How had she not realized that? One of the women called out, ―Our small huntress there is from Akyem-land.‖ ―Akyem, eh?‖ asked a woman with a big gap between her front teeth. Her accent was unmistakably Asante. ―It is no wonder they let their women hunt, then. Why do you think Asante so easily defeated them?‖ ―If Adwoa had been fighting in the war,‖ Tawia muttered, ―there would be another dead Asante soldier, which to me is a good thing-o.‖ The gap-toothed woman‘s foot would have landed on Adwoa‘s face if Tawia hadn‘t leaned over. Adwoa pulled her knees to her chest to avoid being trampled by the other women who‘d crowded around Tawia. She felt her sister‘s arms flinging out and heard the smacks and screams of women all around them. They didn‘t settle down until the Abroad soldiers outside threw cold water through the bars of the cell. When Tawia pulled away, Adwoa noticed that her nose was bleeding. Several of the women around them had scrapes and cuts on their faces and chests. She also discovered that the women had separated themselves into groups. It was hard to tell that they‘d separated by nation until some of them spoke, especially since not all of them had facial cuts. The large group at the back of the cell was from Asante. They sat clustered around the gap-toothed woman who‘d started the fighting. Surrounding Adwoa and Tawia were other Akyems. The women sitting nearest the waste box were Fantses. Others had scattered to the corners, watching one another sullenly. Adwoa supposed they would have done the same on the march through the forests, but their chains had prevented them from disrupting the formation. Adwoa wanted the shush the woman who suddenly sucked her teeth and muttered, ―If this Akyem girl manages to free us, I shall not go. It was Akyem soldiers who raided my village and sold everyone they did not kill.‖ Adwoa refused to believe that. The majority of the people she‘d seen on the coffles FOOTE ∫ 16
passing through Kwakrom had been men. From the glowers on their faces, everyone understood most of them to be Asante or Akwamu soldiers, captured in retaliation attacks. She and other children would sometimes entertain themselves throwing stones at them and singing the song they‘d invented during the great war between Akyem and Asante: ―See the Asante porcupine! He has lost his quills-o. Even a child‘s rocks can hurt him. He has become a rat-o!‖ They had occasion to sing it so much that the song could be heard by women as they cooked, and by whole families as they worked their farms. If the people of Kwakrom had seen the cells where those men would stay when they reached the coast, maybe they would have stopped singing. They would have let the coffles pass without insult, as those Edina people did when Adwoa and her group had arrived. They would have been satisfied in knowing that fewer Asante soldiers roamed the forest, eager to raid other nations and force them to pay tributes to their king at Kumase. ―Does it matter what any of us have done?‖ a Fantse woman cried. ―Is there anyone here who thinks she deserved this?‖ All was silent. ―I thought I knew hate before, but I would not wish this life on my enemies. And who were my enemies but Asantes and now Akyem? We women did not create these wars. These men who have bought us—the Abroad men— they know nothing of who we are. When it comes to trading, a Fantse is the same as an Asante to them. They do not care-o.‖
The vomiting had returned. Adwoa dry-heaved over the waste box, too weak to care about the maggots squirming in the overflowing muck. Flies circled her, but she didn‘t push them away. The Abroad soldiers had been offering them little to eat, so nothing emerged from her mouth but a trail of thick saliva and Owusu‘s gold snake. She retrieved the snake and stuffed it into her mouth before anyone could see its shine. After touching the slimy floor, it had the taste of rot that should never be eaten, only expelled. But she swallowed anyway, hoping it wouldn‘t come up again too soon. She crawled back to Tawia, who sat amongst a cluster of women near the bars, furthest from the waste box. The women had stopped grouping themselves by nation several days earlier, when new captives had arrived. Just when they‘d thought no one else could fit into their cell, the soldiers had brought at least thirty more women. At night, it was impossible FOOTE ∫ 17
for them to all lie down at once, even if they wanted to. Most had propped themselves against a wall or against each other, and slept sitting upright. The new women spoke in tongues Adwoa didn‘t know, and even some of them could not understand each other. They looked to be no more than sixteen—Adwoa‘s age—but they were so tall that she felt like a child beside them. That morning, when Adwoa collapsed by the bars and rested her cheek against Tawia‘s thigh, hands waved flies away from her mouth. ―This is the third time this morning,‖ Tawia said. The old woman sweeping in the courtyard outside the cell approached the bars. ―Maybe it is the fever,‖ she whispered in Mfantse, referring to the one that had given several women loose bloody stools. ―If so, you should leave her in the corner.‖ Adwoa felt a cool hand on her forehead. Tawia said, ―She is not hot. Perhaps she is pregnant. Her husband—‖ ―She should remove it-o,‖ interrupted the old woman. ―Ah! They have put us in this filth, but we are still women. Why would a mother want to remove her baby?‖ The old woman swept harder. ―A red-skinned baby was birthed here before you arrived. At least ten of these red-necked Abroad men spoiled her, and then locked her in here for her whole time.‖ The women near the bars drew a collective breath. Tawia rubbed Adwoa‘s cheek. ―What happened to them, the girl and her baby?‖ ―The girl refused to eat or give the baby her breast. Both became very weak. The men threw them into the sea.‖ The nearby women gasped again. Adwoa squeezed Tawia‘s hand. Tawia cuddled her closer, probably thinking that she was in pain. For the moment, though, Adwoa was grateful that Tawia had maintained the lie about Owusu. She had seen the disapproval in Tawia‘s eyes when she first told the girl to pretend that Owusu had taken her for his wife. FOOTE ∫ 18
One of the soldiers yelled at the old woman for lingering by their cell. She scuttled away, sweeping up a dust cloud. She returned shortly and whispered as she swept, ―In town, there is a komfo called Nana Mensuah, one of our best-o. She makes medicines to remove birth. When this one is strong enough, I can bring her.‖ ―Ei!‖ Tawia cried. ―This place is evil-o.‖ Adwoa groaned against the churning in her stomach and her eyes fluttered shut. Hours later, she awoke to the sound of screaming. Her face had hit the slimy floor. It was so dark in the cell that she didn‘t understand what was happening. She felt the jumble of bodies, pushing at each other. Tawia screamed her name. She swung her head towards the bars. A soldier in the courtyard was holding a lantern. Its dim flame illuminated a few soldiers clustered around him, but not much else. She soon discovered that Tawia was gone. Muffled screams came from somewhere above. The women were sucking their teeth all around. ―I think they took three,‖ one said. ―No, it was one,‖ said another. ―Why?‖ Adwoa cried, edging her way to the bars. ―What are they doing to them?‖ No one answered, but she felt she knew already. At the bars, she could make out the usual five night watchmen holding lanterns in the yard. The screams were coming from a lit room two levels above. Adwoa could see a bit of the ceiling. Its wooden beams were distorted through the thick glass of the windows. Just then, she heard Tawia‘s voice coming from that room: ―I am pregnant-o!‖ Screamed over and over, until the sound was muffled. Adwoa pushed her face between the bars and yelled Tawia‘s name, but one of the soldiers in the yard raced over, threatening in Mfantse to beat her. The women‘s screaming continued up there, along with the voices of men, who sounded like they were cheering on a race, or a hunt. Adwoa clung to the bars, moaning. The sister she‘d never really known had become almost like an extension of herself those past several weeks. She couldn‘t imagine what horrors they might be inflicting on her, but from the lie Tawia had screamed about FOOTE ∫ 19
being pregnant, Adwoa knew it could only be one thing. She felt pain in her body, as though she were sensing it through Tawia. Her joints ached, as though malaria had attacked her body, and she felt something sharp slice down the center of her chest. The women began to sing a lament to Onyame, but Adwoa couldn‘t join them. Their voices soothed her into closing her eyes, but she flinched as a hand touched her shoulder. One of the women whispered in her ear, ―They shall be fine-eh?‖ It was the biggest lie she‘d heard since being captured with Owusu and Tawia on that hill outside Kwakrom. After a long while, there was a commotion in the far corner of the yard. The men were coming back down. The women cried out and pulled themselves away from the cell doors, but the men were only returning those they‘d taken. There were three women total. Two, they dragged into the cell on the opposite side of the yard. Adwoa could see by the light of their lanterns that the third woman was naked and limp. They chained her ankles to two of the cannonballs littering the yard. Adwoa gasped Tawia‘s name, but no response came from the far cells or from woman slumped in the yard. She strained to stay awake most of the night, waiting to see if they would bring down any more women, but the soldiers retired and all was quiet. The only sound heard was the two returned women on the other side of the yard. They whined and cried as though at a funeral. Sleep visited Adwoa, but her memory kept snubbing it. The sick feeling returned to her stomach. She kept seeing Tawia‘s downcast eyes that day a few months ago, when they snuck to the forest and practiced with the plantain to satisfy Adwoa‘s curiosity about intercourse. And Tawia saying, ―But it pains the first time-o.‖ Adwoa was awakened the next morning by men‘s angry shouting. She saw them kicking at the naked woman chained to the cannonballs. A soldier the color of groundnuts shouted at the others, clearly angry. They shoved each other above the woman. One fell beside her, reaching for his musket. The other soldiers grabbed him. So many women rushed to witness the fight that they pressed Adwoa against the bars, paining her. They all watched the men unlock the fetters on the woman‘s ankles and gasped. Death had locked her body into the fetal position. As the soldiers pulled her stiff body across the stones, Adwoa shrieked, startling them. If the girl‘s mouth hadn‘t been open, revealing extra sharp canines, Adwoa wouldn‘t have recognized her as Tawia. The last image she had of her sister, her ever-obedient servant, which would haunt her through the rest of her stay in that dungeon, was Tawia‗s feet: purple and bloated like overripe gourds, and being dragged away. FOOTE ∫ 20
Song Around Him, Mexico City, 2010
GRIFFITHS ∫ 21
THE FINGER POINTING TO THE MOON IS NOT THE MOON (A BUDDHIST SAYING)
Marian Kaplun Shapiro You. Me. You-Me. MeYou. Do we
meet in some unhung mirror in a hall of mirrors, ever smaller doppelgangers of our haunted selves? Tide, you know. You keep the saffron secrets of the moon, leaving us your empty shells some broken some singing.
SHAPIRO âˆŤ 22
RACHEL ELIZA GRIFFITHS PHOTOGRAPHER, PAINTER AND POET
GRIFFITHS ∫ 23
SISTERS IN THE FRAME: AN INTERVIEW OF PHOTOGRAPHER, RACHEL ELIZA GRIFFITHS BY FELLOW PHOTOGRAPHER , MARLENE HAWTHRONE THOMAS
(conducted via email correspondence in June 2010)
MHT: Have you always known that you were called to be an artist? If not, when did you have the revelation? What inspired your interest in photography? REG: I don‘t think I called myself an ―artist‖ until very recently. When I was quite young I perceived it as something I just did. It was an act/action (and absolute resistance) and way of being that pleased and bewildered me simultaneously, even then. It still does. MHT: How would you describe your style of photography and what (or who) have been your creative influences in developing that style? Are there any contemporary photographers or artists whose works inspire you? REG: One of the most elemental aspects of my photography is simplicity. I would also like to think it applies to my poetry. I bring a genre of imagination to photography in a way that‘s difficult to articulate without just simply letting the poem or the image show it. I find photography highly imaginative while it is usually perceived as a truth-teller. A means for evidence. Abacus of memory. I use it for witnessing. Which is truth, but deeper. MHT: I know that you are an accomplished poet and painter as well. Did you discover your love for poetry and painting before or after photography? Who or what are your writing influences? Did you receive guidance from mentors? Do you feel these three directions influence each other?
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REG: The writing and visual work always existed together. And it remains so. It took some time for me to develop a way to understand and appreciate the voices and articulations of each medium and they are usually in conversation with one another, however harmonious and/or cacophonous. Tension in creation. When I think about influences, I would have to begin years ago. And then I‘d have to think about what influenced my mother and my father, my grandmothers and grandfathers. I‘d have to think about the living and the dead. I gather from so many sources and I don‘t just mean in regards to poets or writers or artists. The ocean is always with me. The moon and birds too. Museums of solitude. Self Portrait, Casa Azul, Coyoacan, 2010
Some of the poets and artists in my tribe would be James Baldwin, Frida Kahlo, Giacometti, Basquiat, Gordon Parks, Neruda, Toni Morrison, Joseph Cornell, Avedon, Gayle Jones, Lorca, Rilke, Bearden, Lola Alvarez Bravo, August Wilson, Diane Arbus, Roy DeCarava, Lucille Clifton – I can list names of those who are dead and live yet. And music, particularly jazz, haunt my work. There are so many living poets in my life who impress me and make me grateful.
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MHT: Do you at all see a connection between photography and poetry? If so, how does one influence or inform the other? How do you successfully manage both crafts? Does one outweigh the other in terms of the time and energy devoted to each? REG: There is an acute union between photography and poetry. I use a mode of lyric with each. Mood, intuition, craft, and imagery surface repeatedly for both. One of my focuses, in regards to photography, is my devotion to photographing poets and artists. Portraiture. But the idea of a portrait, unless it is a self-portrait, often remains in the photographic realm. And I tend to be in a constant conversation with the realm of photography regarding ethics, context, narrative, (in)visibility, etc. in a way that I remain conscious where poems are. A dear poet and friend said to me some time ago that he noticed the consistent presence of light and shadow in my poems and whether that had to do with my identity as a photographer. That was amazing, as I had never once perceived it that way. I guess I don‘t think about ―managing‖ either craft – I just have to be open. And I have to listen. Not everything is translatable to each genre so it‘s important to hear the voice of the story and how it should be told – a poem or an image or by hand via painting or collage? Lately I‘ve been working on some collages that marry text and image together and that‘s a bit terrifying but utterly engaging. Whichever insists most is where I give my energy and focus. Often I split time in a way so that I can develop many ideas at once and that seems (mostly) to feed these appetites. MHT: I would like for you to talk a little bit about your upcoming book Miracle Arrhythmia and how your works in photography help to shake the poetics of this collection of poems. The reason I ask this question is that some of the poems seem so visual that, perhaps, they could be still frames in an ever-forming collage of the narrative you are trying to weave. Perhaps if I had to name it I would call it the poetics of a still event. Your poems seem very detail oriented. I am thinking of the poems: ―Portrait: Working as A Girl‖ & ―Beyond this Ocean.‖ How does poetry and photography intersect to help you be the best artist that you can be aesthetically?
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As a woman of color I would like for you to talk about how identity, gender and social stations come into play when you begin to translate what you have seen into a poem? Or does it come in play at all? REG: The use of imagery in the poems of Miracle Arrhythmia and the way they refract my identity as a visual artist don‘t align themselves in a way that I‘m particularly conscious of – I trust my guts most and then of course, craft. Obviously, photography and painting have provided me with a particular philosophy about sight/seeing that is both interior and exterior. Some of the titles in the book reflect my admiration for the simplicity and mystery of how visual artists name works of art. I know how to do this because I must do it for photographs and painting. Sometimes the intersection is seamless. Other attempts require more effort. Others are just collisions and those can be interesting too. I try to keep all of the eyes open. What happens as I'm creating an image or poem doesn't exist in a vacuum. So the "facts" of my identity always are present. And they should be. And then there is the spirit and the politics of humanity itself. Creating as a woman also, for me, means creating as a man. Creating as a woman of color also means creating in conversation with whiteness if it's necessary. I'm also creating in conversation with color. With blackness, I feel I'm writing and seeing every color. Creating anything involves politics. Creating in regards to sexuality and identity - I need to use and be all of it. I have experienced so much. MHT: One of your recent projects involves photographing members of Cave Canem, and presenting each portrait as a high contrast black and white image against a muted solid background. What was the genesis of this project and how difficult was it to organize? What made you opt for black and white instead of color? Where were the photos taken? Describe the experience of engaging fellow poets in a medium other than poetry. REG: Ars Poetica is a work-in-progress. During my lifetime I hope to photograph as many members of the Cave Canem collective as possible. This desire is very layered – I‘m bringing together, I hope, a historical and cultural archive of a significant movement in American GRIFFITHS ∫ 27
poetry. I am also a member of the collective so I‘m looking inward and from the outside at once. I often feel like I‘m looking at a family album. Also, I‘m bringing my experience as a photographer and artist to the portraits. I‘m grateful for the sense of collaboration that‘s always involved with each shoot. When I think about this collective I know that the poems are as diaspora-esque as the poets and that, for me, is thrilling. And then the practical thing is that the photographs can be used wherever they are needed. The photographs taken thus far consist of wonderful stories of how and where and when. I ask the poets to wear white and I use either black or white as the background unless the shoot is outdoors. I feel comfortable with the lawlessness of Nature. I‘m most interested in the faces and I don‘t want clothing to distract from that. The more specific I am about how the poets are photographed the more universal I feel towards all of it. And when I look at certain faces, the way the eyes and bones are arranged, I know I am traveling back through centuries. Forward too. Also, I like to think of text as a visual body, the way texts mostly appear as black-and-white and yet I see so many colors on any page – what can happen to pages and ink when they are left in the sun or in the dark, when things spill, things that die between a page – say a little insect, or a flower is pressed and discovered years later, a handwritten scribble in a margin, etc. The use of white clothing also brings a sense of cohesion that doesn‘t obliterate distinction. In fact, I believe it helps to focus the eye. I rarely photograph in color though I use color and adore it when I‘m painting. I have to understand color even when I‘m working at black-and-white images. Some of the photographs were taken during the Cave Canem Retreats over the last few years. Others were taken in makeshift and/or professional studios with lighting, etc. Against walls, in hallways. In trees. In the fall I will begin to work vigorously again on the project. Whenever I am traveling I have usually contacted fellows in advance to try and set up shoots and their assistance and enthusiasm has been a delight. I get to meet fellows whose names I recognize but whose faces I don‘t know yet. I love when I'm smitten with a poet's work and then I get to work with him or her in a totally different genre while poetry remains the mutual dominator. At some part during the shoot we usually have, what I call, a ―conversation.‖ I‘m not sure how the fellows feel toward their experiences with me when suddenly a camera is between us. I would like to believe there is trust and sincerity. And of course the presence of poetry, being poets, is very important. I have been overwhelmed, in the best sense, that several poets have included their experiences in poems that they are writing and some of them are
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writing ekphrastic poems in response to portraits of other fellows. I mean, I think that is gorgeous! You know, what would happen if there was a series of poems in conversation with the portraits – I have been fortunate in every sense. MHT: Your portraits appear to have quite a narrative to them. Many portrait photographers get to know their subjects as they photograph them. Portrait sessions, for me, unravel a narrative; the summation of that person, captured at the moment presents itself in the journey of photographing them. To me, poets live within the realm of persistent narrative. Do you attach narratives from each poet‘s work as you photograph them? REG: I don‘t apply to a narrative to all of the portraits. I often see, however slightly, a strain of aesthetics surface in the portrait that relates to how the poet may write and read poems. Then again I love to be surprised during the shoot when we begin to talk. I don‘t ever try to override the face with my own aesthetics. That‘s not interesting or good for what I‘m creating. In fact, those are profound moments – the surprise (as they often are in poems as well) and I get interested in the narrative that I am forming with the poet. I like that breathless moment when it‘s happening in my eyes and heart and I feel that the poet and myself are traveling deeply, riffing. I find most poets so utterly expressive and engaging in a visual sense. What they do with their eyes. Hands, mouths. How they pose or don‘t, the slope of their feet and necks. All of their colors and textures and moods. How their presence shifts depending on whether they are being photographed alone or with other fellows. Which object they bring to the shoot with them. Their glances of awkwardness or confidence. How they might respond to the music they‘ve selected for the shoot. I can remember nearly every song request. The most requested musician, as I have been working on Ars Poetica, has been Nina Simone. MHT: Your most recent project, and one that Tidal Basin Review is happy to debut in the Summer 2010 issue, involves photographing Frida Kahlo‘s home in Mexico. Another notable photographer, comes to mind, Graciela Iturbide, who also photographed at Kahlo's residence, in her bedroom that had been closed to the public for 50 years after her death. If
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at all, how did your ethnic background, gender, and affinity to art contribute to the perspective captured in the Frida Kahlo project? Can you talk to us about this experience? What compelled you to take this on? What do you hope the resulting work will contribute to previous projects involving Frida Kahlo's life and legacy? REG: I‘m not sure when I began developing a relationship with Frida Kahlo‘s work. I could, I think, remember when I decided to write about her. A few years ago I traveled, with friends, to view her huge retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Although I‘d accepted her as a kindred force some time earlier in my life this was probably the first experience, because it was ―exterior‖ in a sense, that I asked myself if I could generate work, visual and/or literary, because of her. Frida seems to be a patron saint for so many artists and women; I felt it would be dangerous to create anything connected to her. That sense of daring, in regards to work, is important. So the first small experiment was a poem I‘d written called Two Elizas, which was inspired by her painting Two Fridas, 1939. This is probably my favorite painting of hers. After I‘d written the poem I began to challenge myself to continue my conversation with Frida and her work by creating, through photography, a double self-portrait of my own. My obsession with the metaphysical concept of the ―heart‖ as well as a connection to Nature happened when I was very young, before language fully entered my life. Frida‘s odyssey with ―self-ness‖ is something that haunts me and has surfaced in my own work in various incarnations. That and her relationship with her body, with beauty and violence, her relationships to the spectrum of joy, suffering, and desire, interest me. ―Interest‖ being an inadequate verb for my experience. They reflect me, and I‘m not alone, autobiographically. Like Frida, I‘m probably guilty of ―over-living.‖ Every moment is intense, balanced by light, shadow, and passion. The ability to gaze at the self through the hands that hold the pen, the mirror of a camera lens, and through the act of creating, bewilder and (un)balance me in the best ways. Lorca called it duende and Frida had a hell of a lot it. Suddenly, I‘m thinking of Mexican woman photographers, Lola Alvarez Bravo and Graciela Iturbide. I believe that my photographs, or where I pull from within, belong in the company of such artists. I‘m smitten with our senses, even the ones that work rather mystically. After writing poems related to Frida, Diego, other artists who lived and had some relationship with her or Mexico, I realized that my imagination was at its outer banks. I‘d never gone to Mexico; I‘d never visited Casa Azul except in my imagination; I‘d never, except through photographs, gotten an immediate union with this artist. I mean I could only write so much about the way her bed was made (with its inset mirror) or what her kitchen might be like or what the sky was like about the house. The hummingbirds there. I felt I GRIFFITHS ∫ 30
needed to see Diego‘s murals and walk through Casa Azul and the neighborhood where she lived in Coyoacan. I needed to have my own sense of her life without screen or translation. I traveled to Mexico in May, only knowing that this would be a kind of pilgrimage and artistic odyssey. MHT: If you had the opportunity to have dialogue with a photographer who is no longer with us, who would it be? What would you most like to discuss with them? What do you think they would say about your photography? REG: I think I‘d like to talk with Gordon Parks or Lola Alvarez Bravo. I would love to glimpse Graciela Ibertide at work. Ask me tomorrow and I‘d give you another trio of names. Anyway, I have no clue what either might think of my photographs or what advice they might give. I haven‘t lived long enough is something I understand though I‘ve lived hard. Parks possessed a certain moral and creative code that I‘d love to explore further given the
social, racial, and political context during which he completed a large part of his oeuvre. His integrity and generosity. What would be quite amazing would be to watch Parks or Bravo work or say, for all of us to walk through a city for an afternoon taking pictures, and then share our images, or discuss whatever the light was doing at two o‘clock, over a good meal.
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Only much later remembered, her fingers, softly, plate‘s edge, discreet, plucking one fry from the tangle slender hedge, salt-tuber transgression ... ... boundaries also crossed neatly on(e) some evening hour at sea everyone safe-stowed, forgotten, sliding leviathan blackness, neptune‘s swell; shoulders swift monstrous while icebergs split sleep-frozen eyes.
O‘BRIEN ∫ 32
Excerpt, from the Eves' Narrative, 2008
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―CLOUDY‖: AVERAGE WHITE BAND
It happens any time. Any place. Take now, choosing tomatoes & picking dates at the market on North Henry & Broad could be you or you or even you & this time the XM crooner‘s falsetto‘s the fuck up, the lyric riffing atop a back beat you just hold on & rock to, forehead to forehead, a song, had I any wisdom I‘d have asked X or Y or Z to dance to one last time.
Funny thing love can bring sunny days make me think of you X, you wore pearls & leather. Y, you matched shot for shot. Z your love was a shout of fire that incinerated our house (& when did we stop dancing anyway?) Minor 70‘s lover‘s rock where were you the night X threw every plate, that week Y didn‘t come home, the first time Z turned the new locks behind me? Kiss of peace or just peace sign & Deuces—when does Done complete its doing & how long‘s it take to take?
Funny thing love can bring sunny days make me think of you How long until the satellite shuffles songs? X we‗re caught in a doorway in a spring storm, without looking Y you sink the 9th ball & Z we are in that car with the bad muffler that made the kids plug their ears as we‘d drive by. Three tomatoes. Bag of dates. Old lover‘s rock. I‘d neither thought of you, nor you, nor even you at all.
Funny thing love can bring sunny days make me think of you
MERCER ∫ 34
I GOT FIVE ON IT: A REVIEW OF JOHN MURILLO‘S UP JUMP THE BOOGIE
―JOHN MURILLO IS DANGEROUS‖ says Martin Espada in his foreword to Up Jump the Boogie. If asked to provide five adjectives describing Murillo‘s debut collection of poetry, I would concur with Espada and start with DANGEROUS. Up Jump the Boogie imparts a true poetic voice to the hip hop generation. The opening poem, ―Ode to the Crossfader,‖ sets the narrative tone for the collection. The reader is immediately made privy to the poetic journey we will soon undertake; we will get close to the streets, our tour guide is a pro. Lines such as ―This deep-bass buckshot/ thump in the chest‖ not only ring sonically, but also contextually; onomatopoeia drives the first section, which also introduces characters who we love and then lose in a matter of lines: ― ‗The Sandman‘/… Smooth talker with an itch for older guys‘ girlfriends./ One Sunday morning, they found him stabbed to death/ Outside the Motel 6, pockets untouched.‖ The book‘s subsequent section is INTIMATE, providing the reader an eavesdropper‘s viewpoint, as we play fly on the wall to some personal moments. In ―Sin Verguenza,‖ two cousins drink without shame and reminisce. ―The years spread between us like the black/ Between stars. My cousin and me in a Chicago bar,/ Meeting for the first time in fifteen years.‖ Through eloquent and honest narrative, these two hanging apples revisit the family tree. ―We now have, between us, one dead grandfather,/ Two dead fathers-cancer claiming one, cirrhosis the other,/ Alcoholics both.‖ Heavy moments like this will compel the reader to ask the cousins if there is room at this table: I too have regrets I‘d like to share, I too have no shame.
Up Jump the Boogie is most BENEVOLENT in the third section: ―Flowers for Etheridge.‖ The twelve part poem of mostly couplets and tercets functions as a somber lament for the famed poet Etheridge Knight. It begins with an epigraph locating the poem in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, IN- Knight‘s burial location, ―I‘m spending half this afternoon apologizing to ghosts,/ Stepping over gravestones, the poet‘s Belly Song/ In one hand, a ten dollar bouquet in the other.‖ The language is authentic and conversational. Rather than assuming Knight‘s poetic voice, Murillo speaks to the poet in his own words - the true flowers. And although readers leave this section overwhelmed and quite possibly tearful, Murillo lands us in a lover‘s SOULFUL arms by the book‘s end. Considering all the pleasures and dangers of romance, the speaker in these love poems remind us that love can not only hurt the heart, but also the head: ―the ring on your finger/ framed photo on the nightstand/ say you his woman/ your funk in my beard/ the cold heft of a .38 in my palm/ beg different.‖ HARRIELL ∫ 35
As the title suggests, Up Jump the Boogie is a FUNKY collection bridging Blues and Hip Hop. After my initial reading, I sat for a while staring out the window and began seeing Murilloâ€˜s characters, some walking, others jumping, all very much alive.
HARRIELL âˆŤ 36
Be-jeweled weapon of execution. Be-spoke s|word you‘ll choose. Which, scythe, w|ill S|ever cords of cords — Great trunk-splitter, GodBe-sotted, s|harp-edged, H|and-held
Now coup de g|race.
A|head — Haunted.
Dear P|earls before s|wine. Butchery‘s holy t|error.
OWEN ∫ 37
Be-hold! Be-headed! Hostage to broadcast media Streaming, I couldn‘t look a|way. My accomplice e|yes rolled in my head. Cut to, clear through, Be-lovèds fell, be-reaped.
Then I, too, died — Be-headed, in a patriot d|ream. Caput mortuum. Reamed in skull-duggery‘s war-theatre. I was stumped; Blood be-dezined, a streamer.
But I n|ever suffered, saved by The i|mage‘s undreamt-of Kindness. Which, inshallah, s|pared me, S|till —
OWEN ∫ 38
My soul f|led from my body, Initiate —
A sign to other headless
Horsemen of t|his apocalypse.
Uncapped caryatid, Oracle, I finger war criminals, While the martyred be-lie our state. And in that state (Department of —) they lie.
S|hades, fouled and fooled, The dead‘s incensed consciousness floats, Survivor-savor seeking mercy. Dead-headed, b|looming, be-nighted, They‘d‘ be-wreath peace. N|one‘s found.
Be-hold, they stand at y|our door — Angel-torsoed. Be-wingèd. Tourniquetted. Torches. Lady Liberties. Lazaruses, Heads-in-hand —
and knock. OWEN ∫ 39
Be-hold! Y|our political capital! Y|our state banquet! Y|our ritual s|laughter!
For they‘ve come back, Body-baggèd-sattvas.
Not enemies | anemones.
OWEN ∫ 40
THE COLDEST SOUNDS
Fired salutes echo off West Virginia hills like sad thunder Gloved hands fold silent flags into triangles for women who cry through Taps Skinny-legged dogs with graying muzzles click sharp toenails across the linoleum floor of cold kitchens where we eat ham sandwiches with the crying women.
FLETCHER âˆŤ 41
50 BULLETS, ONE DEAD, AND MANY QUESTIONS1
Teach that the alphabet begins with n. Ask the question: how many bullets does it take? Remember every bullet is a hymn every hymn a taut line of rope a row in a cotton field a path to the back of the bus a razor‘s edge as it cuts. There are other ways. Before the bullet there was the whip. Before the whip there was the fist. Take a wooden stick. Insert it with force inside the rectum. Name it poetry. Don‘t call it blood. Consider it pomegranate stain, hibiscus leaf your mama‘s lipstick, a cherry lollipop, fire hydrant red. Then promote the word peace, and see how their men are pieced together like wood rot. Put one of them in high office. Tell the press we have gone post-black. Whisper their names: Sean Bell Abner Louima Amadou Diallo Rodney King James Byrd Emmett Till
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…………… …………… …………… …………… …………… Fill in the blanks. Remember the alphabet always begins with n. Swallow. Regurgitate. Spit out. Say it: Say it: Say it: Say it: Say it: Repeat after me:
n n-i n-i-g n-i-g-g n-i-g-g-e n-i-g-g-e-r
Whisper their names: Robbie Tolan Oscar Grant …………… …………… …………… Listen. Skin as shattered glass. Sound of rain on a tin roof. Butterfly or bird perched on wire. Never mistake their winged song for spring. They are watchers of the dead.
Title was the headline for the December 6, 2006 New York Times story detailing the killing of Sean Bell by NYPD officers. 1
HERD ∫ 43
PRELUDE TO THE YOUNG WARRIORS
I was a girl when he died he was a devoted father and husband he occasionally slept with men I was a girl when he died sparing his wife and children his mistress a month later I was a girl when he, who sang in the choir wasted away And died I was a woman when I realized the magnitude of family community secrets that we were living in the down low before any body knew it was low down I grew up with these secrets and myths hearing snippets of grown folks conversations about symptoms consequences going to funerals of victims of fictitious ailments that were finally revealed So by the time I heard Mrs. Thornton speak I was tired of AIDS I wanted a black woman to expose it for the hell it was and to tell me and all the teenagers in the room to avoid it at all costs RUTH âˆŤ 44
and I was angry when she didn‘t I wrote to the young warriors years later when I heard she had found God
RUTH ∫ 45
FOUND BODY (FOR AIMÉ CÉSAIRE)
Tamara J. Madison
Why, Aimé, these poems, not mere ferrements, but ringworms, bedbugs, searing leeches lodged in our skin nègre; even with razors as claws, never enough scratch, this itch, Aimé.
Marronant, beneath bruised night and lynched sky, we bathe in rain from the slashed tongues of stars, swallow one another, conjure amrita blessed to plant as seed.
MADISON ∫ 46
PRODUCT OF COMPRESSION
Rock, salt and sand give way to beach rose to bright pink flesh, to hips. Time rose rock still water wears it down. I forgot the sea could be calm and I am disappointed. I crave the height and hard. The gull mourner moans get away and the black duck seems to have emerged from oil. Another slick today, I heard. My hair became a net. Here beach grass lies in strands of forgotten calligraphy. When does a body cease to be? The water comes to rock and imitates the rain. When all that fell evaporates, then will my voice return? It‘s easy to forget the gull‘s down‘s camouflage all grey and white when we only saw them diving for hotdog halves through black top steam Dead crab, dead bird, sea bottle throat. I wanted to pick the poison ivy spread its oil between my finger tips and rub it to my lips, my eyes like night cream. I wanted to be home. FLESCHER ∫ 47
SCRAPING THE BLACKENED BOTTOM
In heaven, it was thought (by the Puritans), only male bodies would be resurrected. - Eve LaPlante, SALEM WITCH JUDGE Stomping upstairs downstairs all day yesterday thinking Puritans men and women believed banging pots I put away pounding out two miles uphill on the treadmill only male bodies pounding chicken breasts lopping off the ends of green beans only male would be resurrected in heaven women allowed it was true lugging the glass storm door up from the basement shaking out towels and sheets from the washer the dryer this body mine were I alive then but isn‘t that what Anne Bradstreet meant what she knew If ever two were one, then surely we Dan you and I only yesterday scraping the blackened bottom of one more pot without you each day a long glass year it all lifts toward you oh won‘t I
That when we live no more we may live ever.
LINEHAN ∫ 48
Oyster Bar, Grand Central Station, New York, 2010
GRIFFITHS âˆŤ 49
INMATE 1554131 (FOR JAMES BROWN)
It was best on the way to the show big-ass limo, wife would always go early to make sure everything was right: lights, band, money. Damn, she watched the money. Soon she out the door my boy would roll up with champagne, a little something and two fresh fine things. Then we would cruise the hood. City didn‘t matter-projects in Oakland shotgun shacks in Savannah, cold water flats in Watts, I was home wherever Black folks was, pull that big black limo to the curb, roll down the window, hand out fifties, hundreds just for the God-damn joy of it: let black folks see how far from shine rags this choir boy took his singing. The young ones, they go crazy when they see me but the folks my age, they just smile nod their heads, because they know, they know what it means to pull this voice out of pews gritty with cotton dust and damnation. Shit, all my limos had more room than this even if they can‘t double cell me, this cage same size as that first one forty years back: took a mother fucking jacket, pants from parked cars, did two years – two damn years for wanting to look decent on stage, cause I wasn‘t bending over no wooden box with a brush spit and polishing my whole damn life. But it ain‘t the smallness, the no women, no liquor, no taste of anything I hate the most: nah, nah the worse thing is the damn noise night and all fucking day rising up around FLOOD ∫ 51
you, the screaming yelling cursing and crying that don‘t stop, but peoples take care of me, even in here, they takes care: nobody messes with me when I am on the yard white cats leave me alone, brothers walk by show respect, cause they know any night I can change this whole place up don‘t need no horns, don‘t need no announcer talking bout how I‘m the hardest working anything, nobody here to pull me off this floor, but I can change it all up by opening my mouth starting low then letting it rise gravel sweet to fill this concrete and iron cause by the second verse of It‘s A Man‘s, Man‘s, Man‘s World all them tiers is quiet with a hard silence that remembers me back to who I am.
155413 was James Brown‘s inmate number in the State Park Correctional Institute in South Carolinaa pertinent quote ―I started shining shoes at 3 cents, then went up to 5 cents, then 6 cents. I never did 1
get up to a dime …‖
FLOOD ∫ 51
OJAI DUSK (CAMPING AT WHEELER HOT SPRINGS)
Big drops surprise the sagebrush and sumac keeping the mosquitoes from final victory over folks huddled under tarps escaping a history no one remembers-even walking on the facts, this adobe, that trail, mission fields echoing back past basket exhibits dressing up the slaughter, but now I will hear from you and the daughter― c‘mon, home deserves a love poem,‖ not misery fronting as verse in this old colonial form, all right– remember parrots glinting green at dusk stars staggered against ink black sky into a worm snaking back to gold, abalone and the holy lust offering salvation to what was already sacred rinsing that chaparral red: acre by acre.
FLOOD ∫ 52
FOR ETHERIDGE KNIGHT (AND HIS READING OF AS YOU LEAVE ME)
There was always that sobbing. When you finally asked – after seven days of a solitary wail after lights out – he fleshed out the hollow sounds of regret telling you he just could not forget her face transformed by the lipstick and the paint from sister to woman that could be purchased for two hours pay. Etheridge, I thought I had learned all I could from you three decades ago, watching you make poems from memory in that Syracuse bar, but now at fifty without a father between me and the ground I wish I could hear you talk again about that con. about the way pain and regret weave into a suffering no narrative can answer, about how he could never forget her chattering away while she slipped on the mini-skirt and he smoked the way she laughed zipping the white boots and he smoked how he handed her the joint, then the big leather purse and he smoked, before watching her walk into the scattered glow from the broken streetlight, to whistle and smile at the johns.
FLOOD ∫ 53
HICKORY (CIRCA 1890-1940)
Reginald Flood hands
No easy damn way to let it go boy jug been calling fifty years, since fourteen: these hands, their dirt, dollar a day destroys want for anything more than whiskey, and clean cool water from same well my daddy dug for them while he raised us up for better. These fields harden a man to what he can‘t lug, blessings don‘t matter: you a mule fettered to a rented plow, watching sweat salt rain that don‘t quench nothing, don‘t redeem nothing not thirst inside, not hands shaking with shame, until knife, chisel, file, pain starts cutting truth from hickory to face jug, field boss searching each sliver for what has been lost.
wood At first, gramps would just let me finish up his cuttings, not touch the chisel or blade. After carving piece out, old man would cup a long pour of the good: whiskey best made for celebrating something, then hand me what he knifed with the dull file and a stone, to make tongue touch good seasoned hickory. That old man took scrap, released flesh and bone into more than pipes, plates; because he heard folks changing the old stories into talk had no breaking pens, no shackle sores, no dirge the women folks back there chanted on walk to mourn before cotton, before whiskey forced him to let a boy finish memory.
FLOOD ∫ 54
tin Yeah cousin, hemp looped in hangman‘s knot always set on top them tools in the old sack. Old man would wipe tin cup, fill it to top not taking a taste, because he wanted back them nights I think, when quiet didn‘t slice bone from the swept floor, from the full plate, from her. I saw him pick out wood, put steel to stone to cut clean before eyes begin to blur, but in three, four strokes tremors took his hands so while log offered up itself to shape he‘d loop right wrist, toss end round neck to land like hemp necktie, pull rope gently down nape with left hand: steadying right to raise tin to lips with stories he can‘t no longer end.
scrap Boy, I don‘t think out my special things from scrap, nah, not them pieces, because I want my head hands to work what‘s there, not what they lack, tight grain, no knots: your grand pop always said, ―if what you cut don‘t get worn with the touch of folks you lives with, then it‘s not from us not about us,‖ he didn‘t care how much you attack that log with knife, chisel, lust to conjure that wood into a rare thing; not to roll out biscuits or stir cornbread but cheeks, lips, that breathe on a face that sings stories your fingers won‘t leave to the dead because you know they haven‘t been heard: not like this, not like this, outside their words
FLOOD ∫ 55
whiskey Its been hard, hard as hell to get it right just a taste, a taste to settle the hands, before I can rightly use the damn knife. Shit, want to sip till I canâ€˜t hardly stand but waking on this porch holding uncut branch hurts worse than my head or stares from my folks like I a fat boil they need to lance. Damn them! I cut things before made them choke into silence when laid on the table: that first mask: old eyes, proud cheeks, honest nose, they learned it werenâ€˜t just about being able to make bowls and spoons, but carve back to those times when we understood most the words to stories that call the quiet to be heard.
FLOOD âˆŤ 56
Christine Celise POWer hungry POWer hu(a)ngry POW(h)er hungry CunTroL
CELISE ∫ 57
Christine Celise Daughter sleeps Not settled. Not safe. (Sans) sound Blank stares in darkness Searching for cause effect logic To assemble puzzle of father‘s last days Loose moments in time Above daughter‘s head Like garments on old clothes line Sullied With father‘s blood Not at ease Turned against (Him)
Cells grow Cells attack and grow Cells multiply and attack and grow Cells permeate and multiply and attack and grow Daughter sees cells in father‘s eyes In and exhaled with father‘s breaths She notes he sleeps a dead man‘s sleep Eyes piercing open mouth wide Gone Daughter shattered Tears blemish sterile surface No father His life through Daughter sleeps Not settled. Not safe. Without sound Sans Him
CELISE ∫ 58
Man and Child, Mexico City, 2010
GRIFFITHS ∫ 59
Joseph Ross Thinking of her is kind of a search, a voyage of looking for signs and moments, shadows and gasps of her. I still move toward the phone then stop myself, a foolish son who doesnâ€˜t remember his mother is dead. So begins the search. A hummingbird dips into a blood-colored flower and I strain my eyes to search, to see the other side of my breath.
ROSS âˆŤ 60
Phillip B. Williams 1. Subway, the train slick through its tunnel toward 95th St. Billboards flash by, advertisements for Friday‘s theater release and online dating profiles where a woman laughs in the circlehold of a man, laughing as sparks tickle a poster‘s lower edge, splash freckles of light and piss-laced water onto each metal frame beneath each train car. 2. Two balding men sing coins into their guitar cases, dollar bills limp in the foam-lined mouths molded into the shape of the hollow wooden instrument strung like a hooker‘s corset. When trains approach then leave, the men stop for a drink of lukewarm bottled water, sip and tune their chords to suit their croons. 3. Weed‘s ripe skunk stink on the Goth girl‘s lips licks wisps around her younger sister‘s brows. Mickey Mouse iron-printed on her T-shirt is high as a kite when big sister leans in to kiss her sibling on the forehead, her areolas fat as Bosc pears. They rock on the metallic benches, light falling victim to the final cut of its circumcision as the little sister yawns. Opens her eyes. Closes. 4. Baby shoe in standing water between the tracks. A train has passed. 5. Sibilant sparks spew from metal streams, cut through stone canals, toward here-quick end through lines of light shaken from hoops of wire,
WILLIAMS ∫ 61
loosely dangling their noose ring across hushed beams of piping where steam and rust rush fiercely to bend air in impatient arcs. Through windows squared off like Bibled obituaries, citizens watch their approaching stops, dust off their pants, fan open their papers. The doors open. The doors close. Some exit. Some enter. There are no abstractions. Only this. Only that. 6. On the ―L‖, elevated above the city, tin slugs pump through the Loop. On the platforms, Chicago Transit Authority installed spikes on every bird-landable surface to keep pigeons from shitting on the concrete, to stop them from switching crooked-footed down the paths like nude kingpins pecking at civilian feet. Not long before, the train station was flooded in purple and white blotches, and bird coos drowned train arrival announcements: Green Line to Brown Line, transfers to the Blue Line, the Purple Line delayed five minutes. Two birds swoop in and negotiate the spikes, antlers freshly bloomed from the metallic frames and railings. They land on the walk-space instead at Clark and Lake, wobble like cups of coffee in a nervous hand—a meeting in two hours:
Am I prepared? Are the slides all in order? Did the Power Point save properly? Dear God, let the Power Point have saved properly.
Where to go to now? How to get there on time? There is nothing to rely on. Each step a cautious tightrope parallel to some place that does not want you. The tracks weave their courses like nests. Trains that should crash into the other do not, manage to X and U, even K with the grace of birds on their way to some better place, some place to land their terrible feet. To begin again.
WILLIAMS ∫ 62
ARS POETICA: BEFORE THE ILLUMINATED INSTRUMENTS (AFTER ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE‘S PHOTOGRAPHS ―PHILLIP PRIOLEAU, 1979‖)
Phillip B. Williams
Flash is speculum; opens me—a whorehouse door— in search of a primal is. Intangible to speculate anything of this, he calls, art of flesh. No more than click, pose, click; sit, stand, sit. Skin opaque. In search of a primal is intangible to speculate, he maneuvers my head till raised, more impossible bone than click, pose, click; sit, stand, sit. Skin, opaque in negative light, becomes what his hands hone: he maneuvers my head till razed, more impossible bone in his grip. My hair coils, snaps at his fingertips in negative light. Becoming what his hands hone, my spine‘s throat chokes down its radiant discs. In his grip, my hair coils, snaps at his fingertips. I can smell my testes‘ roiling sweat, ass cheeks tense as my spine‘s throat chokes down its radiant discs. In his work, he says, part your legs. His lens clasps. I can smell my testes‘ roiling sweat. Ass cheeks tense as I open my legs to pose. My lips part to question. In his work he says, part your legs. His lens clasps my inquiry at the rind, unpeels the phrase. Foreskin. I open my legs to pose. My lips part to question, ―Can you see my face?‖ I cannot see the flash. My face, my inquiry at the rind, unpeels. The phrase, foreskin cut: I can see your eyes. Drop your chin. Façade of waste. ―Can you see my face? I cannot see the flash, my face, anything‖. Of this he calls, art of flesh. No more. Cut: I can see your eyes. Drop your chin. Façade of waste, flash is speculum; opens me, a whorehouse door. WILLIAMS ∫ 63
Self Portrait, Hotel Isabel, Mexico City, 2010
GRIFFITHS âˆŤ 64
Henrietta Lacks, a poor black tobacco farmer, died in 1951of cervical cancer at age 30. Her harvested cancer cells became known as ―HeLa‖ super cells, and they are used in scientific experiments even today. Could it be the tobacco of old days? Her cells survive, stubborn white knuckles refusing to be buried. She had walked through the heavy green leaves hanging by stems in barns - that smell. What kind of heaven did god invent for you, Henrietta? And you are still you aren‘t you, or the tumor that was you, or not quite, but the tumor that took the you out of your own mouth? No. I think you are far away from this place, though the journey has been unbearably slow. LARRABEE ∫ 65
Now you are only a spectacle of science, as we try desperately to beat the ticking clock, but you, Henrietta, are the second hand moving steadily in the background, mocking those of us who want to live forever. Not me. I have known love. And if it can die, then I will take my own turn one day like a slow drag on a Robusto cigar, and call it even, and let my cells spill like unspent pennies no heads, no tails.
LARRABEE âˆŤ 66
Driving in the car was something my father did with me when he and Mother were not getting along. I guess in some ways, now that I look at it, I was his buffer: his chamois and sponge full of Armor All, which shined him repeatedly when he felt down. And I didn‘t mind much. We usually drove on Fridays and Saturdays because those were the days they would argue most. Rent was due on Saturday at the end of each month. We lived in a four-story apartment building on Chicago‘s southwest side. Our building was almost green; it was only painted green in certain precise spots: along the window pillars, at the door, which was too heavy for me to push even at eight years old, and the thin banister that led you up to the front entrance was, as well. I can‘t remember the other colors. But, whenever anyone walked in or out of the building, small speckles of paint would flutter like beautiful snowflakes onto your shoulders. I‘d pretend that winter was green and each snowflake gliding down was twenty-five-cents that accumulated in an imaginary bank I‘d stored under my bed. ―It‘s cool that you dream, son,‖ my father would say each time I entered and exited the building with him. ―But, I‘m not dreaming, Dad. Look.‖ My inch-and-a-half long fingers would point in each direction. ―Grab a quarter for yourself,‖ I continued. ―Grab a hundred quarters!‖ I said and took a breath. ―You‘re always talking about how you have no money and there‘s so many bills.‖ He grinned a bit when I said that. He then would turn to me and release and full smile. ―It‘s not that easy, son,‖ he replied. The left side of Father‘s face held a deep dimple that even if he was merely smirking, or chewing gun, or slightly pressing a toothpick in his thick mouth, the spot was so deep it looked as though it had been dug with a shovel. His skin was a lighter brown than mine, and he always said I looked more like Mother‘s side of the family: thin face, round nose, small lips, NO DIMPLES. DRAIN ∫ 67
On this particular argument-drive I continued standing just outside the door to our apartment building, allowing the green-dust-snowflakes to flap into my hands and shoulders without the heavy weight of coins. I dreamed those coins had butterfly wings, or small pieces of leftover feather from my cheap bed. ―Come, son,‖ he said after allowing me to stand there for maybe five or six minutes. ―We have to go.‖ I felt guilty on that day because I didn‘t get a chance to say goodbye to Mother before we left. I always said goodbye. But, I hopped from the two stairs that led up to our building as though I was a girl jumping rope. It wasn‘t very warm outside so I buttoned my jacket. The wind blew hard in Chicago that fall. Harder than usual. Father stood on the sidewalk, patient, twirling the toothpick in his mouth. His dimple made his cheek look as if it took small lunch breaks. When I reached him on the sidewalk, after kicking an empty aluminum can of soda pop and grinding dirt from the crack in the concrete, his hand was extended. ―We need to hurry this time, Son,‖ he said while clenching my hand tightly. His fingers were a lighter tone than his face and rather long. When he held me they swallowed my hand and absorbed a few inches of skin heading up my wrist. ―Why we need to hurry, Dad?‖ ―I have some stops to make on our ride today.‖ I nodded and continued kicking whatever trace of trash I could find along the street like I was playing soccer. As we walked down the street of our block, moving briskly, I consistently glanced from the pavement while heading to the corner, and back to Father‘s face as he chewed on that toothpick nervously. He was facing forward down the street. It took five or six my footsteps to equal just one of his. Probably looked as though I was running alongside him, like small puppies do. Our car was at the corner, about ten or so small paces from the stop sign. When we got the car I stood next to the door waiting for Father. He was something similar to my DRAIN ∫ 68
chauffeur. Each time we‘d go for our buffer-argument-ride, he came to the passenger‘s side and stood next to me. He‘d use his large hand, which resembled a lighter version of a Brookfield Zoo gorilla‘s, to put the key into the door, unlock it softly with the keys slightly jingling, and lift the handle. I‘d slide to the seat after hopping across the first step. It was like being on a first date. My father‘s car was an expansive, black, Lincoln. Something close to a limo without the extra window. On most streets, especially ours, it seemed as though it absorbed two parking spaces instead of the allotted one. He‘d scoot it as close to fire hydrants as he could, garnering a ticket here and there, and the large dent on the front panel – another failed attempt at parking close to a hydrant – was rusted badly enough for a hole to form. However, our first date routine didn‘t occur that day. Father pointed me to the passenger side of the car and rushed into the street as cars barely missed hitting him. He opened his door first, jumped in, then reached over to pull the knob for me. It was the first time I‘d noticed how the rusty metal hinges on the inside of the door shrieked while opening. ―Hurry up, Son,‖ Father said while shoving the keys into the ignition. ―We need to get going.‖ We had never been in a hurry previously. The buffer-drives were our leisure roll around the neighborhood, with Father talking extensively about 70‘s music and how he planned to do better with his life and how tired he was of living in expensive Chicago. And the dimple in his left cheek was not visible from the passenger‘s side. I always imagined at that point he had two. But he grabbed me by the arm once the door opened on the hurried day, almost yanking me into the seat. I didn‘t get a chance to fasten my seatbelt before we‘d shot into free-flowing traffic. Cars honked at Father aggressively like they were fists against his mustache-heavy face. He didn‘t move, but continued chewing on that toothpick with a slight jitter. The Lincoln had an engine Father called a 1977 Ford 460, and was gurgling loudly as we flew down the narrow street. Everything in my view was distorted because of how fast we were moving. I was used to reading the green street signs of my neighborhood: Winchester, Wolcott, Paulina, Marshfield. Father was driving so rapidly down the street that those signs began resembling the small particles of dust I dreamed were quarters. DRAIN ∫ 69
―Why are you driving so fast, Dad?‖ ―I‘m on a tight schedule today, son,‖ he replied while moving the toothpick to the other side of his mouth. ―We‘ll slow down soon.‖ I didn‘t understand what that meant because he continued shooting past street after street, dodging oncoming cars like we were in a video game, running yellow lights with such momentum that they were turning orange; he was honking, and allowing the toothpick to dangle from his bottom lip the entire time. ―This isn‘t like our other rides,‖ I said. ―It will be, son. It will be.‖ He sat upright in the seat. ―I just have to take care of a few things.‖ He lifted his hand and placed it on my legs; it covered both knees completely. The ride got smoother as we approached the busier streets. He eased from the gas and the car began coasting. That‘s when I realized why my father adored his Lincoln. It felt as though we were cruising Lake Michigan in an extended sail boat. Our faces were both forward although I couldn‘t see clearly over the front dash. Most of the time I‘d stare into the heat vent which was broken in certain points and listen to the rhythm of the car‘s engine, or listen to the green blinking turn signals clicking when they actually worked. ―Where are we going?‖ I asked. He didn‘t respond. The car then made a sharp left turn and over the panel of the passenger window, which was layered in maroon synthetic leather with numerous cuts and rips, I witnessed the car-filled parking lot of a department store. ―Wait here, Son,‖ he said as he reached over and re-fastened my belt. ―I‘ll be right back.‖ ―Can I go with you?‖ ―No.‖ Father opened his palm toward me, showing me each of his five fingers. ―I need to get in there and come out. Sit tight and watch your father‘s car while he‘s in the store, son.‖ He looked at me directly when he spoke. DRAIN ∫ 70
My father‘s car had been stolen four or five times while sitting on the streets of our neighborhood. He said they continued stealing it because other men in the neighborhood wanted his antique engine. But each time he‘d get the car back, it would be minus two wheels, or the grill that made it seem shiny upon approach, or a phony leather seat from the interior. Nothing was ever wrong with the engine. But the thieves always left the ignition column peeled like a potato, revealing metal and power wires. Father continued using the key to start the car but there was no need. ―Ok, Dad,‖ I replied. ―I will be back in a few short moments.‖ He leaned closer. ―Listen to some music.‖ Since the ignition of the car was still stripped, plastic split and broken randomly around the neck like a cracked walnut, he was able to turn on the radio, pop the trunk, or do anything in his Lincoln that would have otherwise taken a key. Father turned the radio on low before leaving. And I sat there the entire time, hands folded into my lap, sun beating my face, strapped in with a seat belt as though it were a straightjacket, and staring out the window. There was a dog sitting in the car parked next to ours. It was a Doberman and our faces had to be reflections of one another. The dog‘s eyes hung terribly and he continued darting his narrow head left to right anticipating the moment his master would be returning. I followed suit. There were other kids playing with red shopping carts while in the parking lot, pushing them as fast as possible as though they were NASCAR drivers. Father would never have allowed me to run around a busy department store parking lot. Scolded continuously when I‘d play in the neighborhood about how insistently careless people in Chicago drove. In other areas of the parking lot were long steel rails which aligned the carts that were not being used. When I pressed my hands to the seats, extending my fingers and using them as makeshift stilts, I was able to see everything. Those same kids, who were probably my age, continued firing themselves through the empty parking lot spaces. There were teenaged boys with red department store shirts and beige pants gathering the loose carts and placing them between the steel bars, and couples came out hand in hand, walking toward their cars. My father and mother never went anywhere together. Especially not the department store. They would argue over how much tissue was needed for the house, whether we DRAIN ∫ 71
needed clothes or not, what kind of shampoo to purchase – although neither had very much hair – and at the end, while standing at the cashier and holding up a fifteen-person line, they‘d eventually argue over who would pay for the merchandise. Father and Mother disputed any subject available: who was the taller of the two, why we lived in Chicago instead of some city further north with a cheaper cost of living, or who would cook dinner that night. I‘ve even heard them argue over who would get custody of me if ever there was a divorce. At the time, I was standing in the living room window watching green quarters fall from the first floor ledge. But their arguments were always the result of one thing: lack of money. They simply switched numerators in their fraction for variety. ―Was I gone long, son?‖ Father asked when he returned. He entered the car with such swiftness I barely heard the door handle release. When he smiled I saw the dimple in his cheek. I relaxed. That had to have been what kept him and Mother eventually settling their disputes. My father had one of those warm faces which was full of expressions acting like peroxide on wounds. He then pat my knees a few times when he sat in the car and used his left hand to toss a large bag into the back seat. Father then adjusted something along the revealed metal of the car‘s steering column and shoved the key inside the cylinder. He sat upright in the seat, legs extending to the edge of the floor. Father then turned the key. Each time the Lincoln started it sounded as though a year had been subtracted from its age. I stared at those kids racing the shopping carts around the parking lot as we drove away. We continued driving for miles down Racine Street, which was the next red light after Loomis Ave. We passed a park where there were tall and firm trees and different colored swings that looked as though they could fly you to the clouds. ―Can we go over there for a little while?‖ I asked. His foot seemed to get heavier because the car sped through another light that was turning orange. When we approached Halsted Street my father moved the car into the left lane. He placed his hand on the lever opposite the ignition column and began manually pulling the turn signal switch up and down. The arrow on the dashboard made a clicking sound each time it flashed. After we turned left on Halsted, he began dodging cars again, doing something similar to those kids pushing shopping carts in the parking lot. Other drivers along the two lane road stared at him; some honked and honked; others that drove directly on the side of us shoved the forbidden finger into the air while looking at me.
DRAIN ∫ 72
The numbers on the street signs continued to lessen. They became unfamiliar: 55 th St, 47th St, and there was a street called Pershing Rd, and 35th St. That‘s where I witnessed a large sign that read: ―Welcome to Bridgeport.‖ The Bridgeport neighborhood was something I‘d overheard my parents arguing about. Mother wanted to move into an apartment that was on the outer edge but Father was strongly against that idea. He complained consistently of how much violence occurred there toward black people; said that he would not have his son growing up in fear of his neighbors. After dark in that neighborhood black people‘s tires were slashed, car windows ended up broken, and a few beatings occurred which were barely reported on the news. ―One day I‘m going to take you away from the segregation and madness of Chicago,‖ Father said during one of our buffer-argument-drives. Surely he used those soothing facial expressions and that deep dimple in his left cheek to calm Mother as well. But I could understand why she wanted to live there. Flooding the streets were fancy restaurants; people dressed in ties and collared shirts, and the sidewalks were immaculately cleaned. As we drove the neighborhood, father‘s face continued to grow stiff as he stared at white men along the streets of Bridgeport. But the further we rode, the more the stiffness of his face turned into a smirk, a smirk without the warm dimple. He looked like an Indy car driver passing you on the track toward winning the race. You realize that you will never catch up. And Father turned sharply right on 35th St, passing those smirking, over the shoulder glares at any man he could view. We began approaching streets with names I‘d never seen. ―Look there, son,‖ he said after we drove under a viaduct. ―That‘s Comiskey Park.‖ But all I noticed were the twenty story project buildings which were just across the expressway and the black men standing on the street‘s corners. They were peddling bags filled with sweat socks, barrettes for a young girl‘s hair, and lighters for smokers. Father rode down the expressway ramp and immediately picked up speed. We passed more green signs that read: Lake Shore Drive, Cermak Rd., Division St. I wondered did those enormous signs drop even larger quarters than the ones I imagined from our apartment building. ―Where are we going?‖ I asked. DRAIN ∫ 73
He turned up the radio, tuning it to his favorite station. The signal continued to fade as we drove; it was uneven and static-filled, with the voices of singers or the deejay barely audible. Father paid that no mind. He hummed along in tune, eventually singing and snapping his fingers while smiling. We rode in the car so long that I‘d dozed off many times along the way. When I finally awoke, we‘d been riding almost five hours, according to the clock on the car‘s dashboard. The radio released nothing but static and random distorted sounds. Outside, it had grown quite dark. Father pulled off the expressway, onto a gravel-filled path that sounded like popcorn in a microwave when the car rode over it. ―You hungry?‖ he asked. ―A little.‖ He pulled into a gas station that looked as though it had been built a hundred years previous, parked the car next to a pump closest to the door, and went inside. Father returned quickly. I heard him opening the gas tank and inserting the nozzle. ―Here,‖ he said through the window. He handed me a white plastic bag which held a hot dog wrapped in foil, two packets of mustard, a bag of plain chips – no salt, a package of fruit candy, and a bottle of strawberry soda pop. ―Eat up, son,‖ he started again while leaning inside. ―We have a long road ahead of us.‖ ―Where are we going?‖ He didn‘t answer. Father raced back to the edge of the car and placed the cap on the gas tank. I could read that the fuel gauge had gone to full. He came back in and sat down, breathing hard. The static-drenched radio continued playing in the background. He then reached into the back of the car, grabbing the bag he received from the department store. From inside he pulled four blandly colored shirts, two pairs of beige pants, and a new pair of cheap white tennis shoes. The clothes were then held up to my body as though Father was measuring them against me. ―When is Mother coming?‖ I asked while chewing on the hot dog. Father put the bag of clothes on the backseat and turned the volume of the radio louder. He shook his head left to right a few times and pulled back onto the expressway. Although I was still rather sleepy, I looked up at the green sign above the road as Father picked up pace. DRAIN ∫ 74
―When is Mother coming?‖ I raised my voice slightly. Father continued ignoring me for a moment. But, he shook his head again, left to right, and increased the volume of the radio further. He then looked at me with one of those peroxide-expressions. As we approached a high speed, he resumed snapping his fingers and singing. The overhead green sign that we passed read: Bismark, North Dakota: 565 miles. And there were no fluffy-winged quarters falling.
DRAIN ∫ 75
THE NEIGHBORHOOD WE LEFT
Position is where you put it... —Robert Creeley, ―The Window‖
1 Sure we can know without words, this place for instance, what it means, and what it will mean not being here. Bodies, of each other, comfort each other with just a little proximity. Much as I want to say this happened right here, that right there (sucker for the firm of location, the calm of fixing), sooner or later, near is about it, all I have, somewhere around here, one of these things. 2 A jet draws a horizontal line beneath the New Year‘s Eve full moon, sweet minimalist sky. At the northern end of Barton, gaudy prickness of Udo‘s lights, hail of electric puke woven into a fishing net, cast about the house, the flashing set to ―This will get that Virginia bastard at 858.‖ But the southern end‘s older couple with their tasteful, all white, non-blinking Christmas lights, on the same front porch where they hold quiet newspaper mornings, worship over coffee‘s gorgeous abyss, say a simple, smiling FOGLE ∫ 76
hello to my saintly dog-walking wholesomeness—get the picture? That‘s what I've done to myself. 3 Across the salt-scrimmed street, behind the gnarly oaks, her cartoon haunted house‘s pale blue paint, electric in January‘s downcast, splits and rots, dements and divines
what was before, what was before? Word is, a cracked foundation. 4 Before the sounds begin, walk halfway through, a man on his front step trims his nails, falling to the bush below, his and my breath visible only as it leaves. 5 Among thigh-high grass, thought‘s ragged fence browns in rain. It must be one of those things. Rust‘s way is to flake and sing, like the loss of track by tracking, how an end FOGLE ∫ 77
nears, then all before goes first. Lordy. To know of knowing‘s horny latenight slipaway.
6 On the bottom step, knees high as chest,
comes to mind. She smokes and watches her husband in short shorts and no-sock loafers, a white slickness working the mower: oversized back wheels, the wet clumps of clippings, the dark rows it makes between human and divine. That‘s the word.
FOGLE ∫ 78
when bombs were empowered by physicists to split atoms, school kids made bomb shelters with sugar cubs and thought they knew how to survive today we face the failed miracles of chemists that poison our planet -- without the comforting belief that sugar can save us
STAUBACH âˆŤ 79
Beebe Barksdale-Bruner They say an African butterfly dipping to sip from a rainwater depression maybe, or erratically dancing as butterflies will do flits a spinning of microscopic dust and moisture that freezes at the top of the atmosphere, and falls, gathering speed, wind and twist in mad tarantellas across the ocean while those humans on the east coast laze and watch weather and romance on the tube, stuffed in fat couches, snacks at hand and only by the god of NOAA do they finally understand that butterflies mean business.
BARKSDALE-BRUNER âˆŤ 80
Beebe Barksdale-Bruner The power was off. I remember someone saying too cold to snow. White sifted from a bruised sky as Doug and I flew into freezing air ill–protected by short sleeves. Hit midsection by an ice missile I dropped to the ground, hard. He laughed and ran the other way. One summer he started up the old Ford; Someone had left the keys. Bored at five he led a neighbor‘s cow home. Doug and I related in mood but for intensity, me playing fool for the king, both of us acting out our misery. Years later I planted my feet in summer and he loaded a gun.
BARKSDALE-BRUNER ∫ 81
Death, Open, 2010
GRIFFITHS ∫ 82
THE BLUES ALMANAC
Adrian S. Potter
Domestic disputes, gold-toothed insults, short-with-my-money-again backhands, the gentle cadence of shower water on bruises, I‘m going to have to take your keys, drunk driving, car wrecks, approaching sirens, mutterings over rosaries, missed appointments, leftover wedding invitations tossed in a dumpster, regrets only, gambling debts, barren cupboards, divorce papers both anticipated and unforeseen, snagged zippers, the failure to decide between spouse and lover, passion killings, relapses, overdoses, pills, pornography, booze and the hostile gospel of reality – these are the lyrics trapped in our throats like fishbones, the secondhand inspiration of disaster humming its half-hearted hymn to our history of false starts and failed New Year‘s resolutions, the hush of our spirits singing odes to the wrong side of mercy, the ad-libbed declarations of defeat – an inventory of what‘s missing, stolen, gone – our lives skidding out of control into the wrong lane or the next verse, hope dissolving like sugar in sun tea until the chorus or the bridge, removing the humiliation that infects our souls and replacing it with guitar glissandos and guttural moans, POTTER ∫ 83
as if happiness and its estranged brother, the blues, possess equal powers of liberation, as if deliverance can be discovered in the tempo of a strangerâ€˜s stilettos or the survival notes tattooed at the end of her spine.
POTTER âˆŤ 84
Adrian S. Potter Properly touching a female, she said, is akin to the complex task of refolding an open map or unraveling the knot of complicated feelings that accompanies love in the age of HIV (long pause that sounded like fear). It's not a sin to pray aloud for more than a mundane wash-rinse-and-repeat life with the saliva-moistened halos of our mouths and itâ€˜s not a crime to crave hearing the echo of our rum-sweetened names moaned repeatedly within the dark architecture of backseats: her neck arched beautifully backwards, throat vulnerable to my judgmental kiss. Voiceless, I became Technicolor blue, past tense. Weighted by vertigo and hundred-proof logic. The realization that when your woman opens up like a wound, you are obligated to be the stitch.
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TIDAL BASIN REVIEW SB 1070 SPECIAL
―BY THE TIME I GET TO ARIZONA‖ 1
This section of Tidal Basin Review speaks to the concerns of those most affected by of Arizona‘s Immigration law, SB 1070. On Wednesday, July 28, 2010, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked key provisions of the law, granting an injunction requested by the Obama Administration. The injunction applies to the parts of the law that require a police officer to determine the immigration status of an arrested/detained individual while enforcing other laws against other possible crimes. Though parts of the law have been struck down, the remaining body of SB 1070 went into effect on Thursday, July 29, 2010. SB 1070 stands to cause a wave of similar legislation in other states. 1
By the Time I Get to Arizona, Apocalypse 91, Public Enemy.
Holding His Cross, Mexico City, 2010
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LYDIA MUﾃ前Z (AGE 13) Los Angeles, CA
Tony Medina Dear Santa,
My mother and father came here when I was nine years old from Mexico. My father works on a farm in California where he has to pick grapes all day that are sprayed with chemicals to kill the bugs that get on them. And he's been getting sick alot lately because of it. The doctor at the clinic that he goes to said it might be related to the spray that they use and that he should sue the company he works for because they knew how bad those chemicals were for people. But my father is scared he might lose his job because he still doesn't have his citizenship and he might get deported by immigration. And my mother argues with him alot about it because she hates to see him suffer like that and she's worried something might happen to him and we won't have him to take care of us. He wakes up tired and coughing and he always has these bad headaches and he never has time or energy to take me nowhere
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like he use to. And he doesn't take the doctors advice and still goes to work every day because he has to take care of his family. But what will happen to us if god forbid he dies?
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SAMANTHA NEGRĂ“N (AGE 13) Los Angeles, CA
Tony Medina Dear Santa,
I hate my teacher because she got my friend Sonia kicked out of our school because she said she was a illegal alien and that the govament told her to squeal or tattle tail on people who dont got there green card. She said the classroom was over crowded anyway. But that doesn't mean that kids like Sonia shouldn't get an education. I wish I didn't have a teacher like her because I think she's prejudice and racist and also because of her big mouth I lost my best friend. Please bring Sonia back and get rid of her, huh Santa?
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HOW TO BECOME A UNITED STATES CITIZEN1
Place a TV on your altar Wallpaper the cross on your rosary with dollars Sing The Star Spangled Banner while rinsing with Scope or Listerine Paint each and every individual one of your pubic hairs red white and blue (in that order) Bang your head against an ATM door for stars Shoplift a loaf of day-old bread for stripes Watch The Brady Brunch for the rest of your life, chanting: Uh, my
nose! Uh, my nose! Uh, my nose! or Marcia-Marcia-Marcia!
Eat at McDonald‘s three times a week Name your first born John Wayne or Elvis, even if it is a boy Have respect for sailors Memorize the names: the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria Snort decaf in shopping malls Soak your feet in cappuccino Give your corns and bunions electric shock treatment Show up at Whites Only surprise parties in Tennessee thrown by the FBI Impersonate J Edgar Hoover impersonating Barbara Bush Place your right hand on the bible and repeat these immortal words of Justice Clarence Thomas: Hey, who put pubic hairs on my
Lip synch the entire soundtrack to Shaft Perform all the stunt scenes of the house negroes in DW Griffith‘s
Send a bottle of E & J or OE to every Indian reservation still standing Hang a picture of Hitler in your living room next to the one of Jesus, the Pope, and the most recent President Purchase a copy of Newt Gingrich‘s book To Re-Write America, and read it as if it were the new Gideon‘s bible Repeat the only line from that old capitalist spiritual: Oonga boonga/Oonga boonga until you get sick, swallow your tongue, or die of lethargy MEDINA ∫ 91
Birth of a Nation
Sell your daughter to US troopers for a VCR and Polka lessons Believe everything they tell you in school and everything you see on TV
How to Become a United States Citizen, Committed to Breathing, Third World Press, Chicago.
Reprinted with permission of author.
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INTRODUCTION: MEMO TO THE MOTHER OF EXILES
A pimp at the Player‘s Ball display is made of patriotism in America, as it relates to the connection between God and country. The phrase, ―In God We Trust,‖ appears on US currency.1 The words ―under God‖ add salt of solemnity to the Pledge of Allegiance.2 Indeed, every Fourth of July, the song ―God Bless America‖ makes many Americans prisoners of tears, while fireworks ride rainbows in the night. Ironically, the words and music to this quintessential American classic did not emerge from the mind of an artist born in America. ―God Bless America‖ was written by an immigrant.3 Irving Berlin (born Israel Baline in the western Siberian town of Tyumen, Russia) wrote ―God Bless America‖ after he and his family immigrated to New York.4 Berlin, who is called ―The Dean of American Songwriters,‖5 wrote the song when he was nineteen years old.6 Incredible. Twenty years later the D.C. born songstress, Kate Smith, recorded the song and it became an instant hit.7 At the time of its release, Armistice Day in 1938, it is said that the song rivaled ―The National Anthem‖ in the avalanche of its appeal.8
1. United States Department of the Treasury, ―Fact Sheets: Currency & Coins,‖ United States Department of the Treasury, http://www.ustreas.gov/education/fact-sheets/currency/in-god-wetrust.shtml (accessed July 6, 2010). 2. Richard Ellis, To the flag: the unlikely history of the Pledge of Allegiance (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005)130. 3. Laurence Bergreen, As thousands cheer: the life of Irving Berlin (New York: Viking, 1990) 370. 4. Ibid., 5. 5. Parlor Songs: Popular Sheet Music from the 1800s to the 1900s, ―Irving Berlin: The Dean of American Songwriters,‖ Parlor Songs: Popular Sheet Music from the 1800s to the 1900s, July 3, 2003, http://parlorsongs.com/bios/berlin/iberlin.php (accessed, July 6, 2010). 6. Voice of America, ―Irving Berlin, 1888-1989: He Wrote Songs that Made America Sing,‖ Voice of America, December 23, 2006, http://www1.voanews.com/learningenglish/home/a-232006-12-23-voa1-83130552.html (accessed July 7, 2010). 7. Kate Smith Commemorative Society, ―Kate Smith‘s Biography,‖ Kate Smith Commemorative Society, May, 25, 2000, http://katesmith.org/katebio.html (accessed July 8, 2010). 8. Kate Smith Commemorative Society, ―God Bless America, Land That I Love,‖ Kate Smith Commemorative Society, November 8, 2009, http://katesmith.org/gba.html (accessed July 6, 2010).
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To escape the systematic persecution of Jews in Russia, Berlin and his family crossed borders into the United States seeking a better life, not unlike many Jews in the early twentieth century.9 In the course of his legendary songwriting career, he wrote close to 1500 songs.10 Again, incredible. Based on the volume of patriotic songs Berlin wrote (with titles like, ―For Your Country and My Country,‖ ―Let‘s All Be Americans Now,‖ ―Miss Liberty,‖ and more), I think it is fair to say that he loved America for giving a poor man a chance to prosper. Without question, the United States has been blessed by the genius of immigrants like Irving Berlin. I love his work. Like him, I embrace the dream of America‘s highest ethical promise. The Tidal Basin Review does the same. However, I cannot help but wonder what Berlin‘s songs would have sounded like had he been racially profiled, or if his family had been held in detention centers shortly after passing through Ellis Island. I wonder what he would have written if, perhaps, he had left his ID on the piano one day, and was stopped by the police and asked ―to show his papers.‖ ―Puttin on the Ritz‖ is not an easy thing to do in handcuffs. Some might argue that the exercise of envisioning a Gestapo-like America is an exercise in absurdity—that it could never come to pass. However in Arizona today, specifically for Latinos, this is exactly the America that is making news.11 On Friday, April 23, 2010, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed S.B. 1070 into law—a measure that ―makes the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and it gives the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.‖12 It was not a Good Friday for justice. As undocumented workers come in all colors, disturbing questions of enforcement criteria, and issues of constitutionality of this law abound.13 For example, in the context of 9. Laurence Bergreen, As thousands cheer: the life of Irving Berlin, 10. 10. Marilyn Berger, ―Irving Berlin, Nation‘s Songwriter Dies,‖ New York Times, September 23, 1989, Obituaries section, New York edition. 11. The Hill‘s Blog Briefing Room, ―Mack (R) compares Ariz. law to Nazi Germany,‖ The Hill‘s Blog Briefing Room, April 29, 2010, http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/95123-mackr-compares-ariz-law-to-nazi-germany?page=60 (accessed July 8, 2010). 12. Randal C. Archibold, ―Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration,‖ New York Times, April 24, 2010, Politics section, New York edition. 13. National Conference of State Legislators, ―Arizona's Immigration Enforcement Laws: An Overview of SB1070 and HB2162,‖ National Conference of State Legislators, July 7, 2010, http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=20263 (accessed July 8, 2010).
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immigration status, what makes ―anyone‖ suspicious? Is it a question of skin color? Is it a matter of language? If one has an accent that is not deemed American enough, will that be grounds for interrogation? Will Canadians and Europeans be the focus of this legislation, or will Latinos and other immigrants of color continue to be the only targets of this law? In the words of Omar Jadwat, a staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project ―SB 1070 is a disastrous law that would endanger public safety, increase racial profiling, and create an un-American 'show me your papers' regime if allowed to go into effect…Every day this law would be in effect would be a day too long.‖14 The Tidal Basin Review stands in agreement. It would seem that the torch of freedom held in Lady Liberty‘s hand is dimming like a signal flare tossed on the briny skin of the sea. Apparently, one unjust law is not enough for the Sun Devil State. On Wednesday, May 12, 2010, Governor Brewer extended her almost surrealistic assault on people of color in Arizona by banning ethnic studies (H.B. 2281).15 This law prohibits the teaching of courses that:
Promote the overthrow of the United States government. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
While it may come as a surprise to some Arizona lawmakers, America is not a ―melting pot.‖ America is a glorious gumbo. The study and practice of ethnic solidarity is, and will continue to be, an irrevocable fact of life in our land. It is as real as Prince Nelson Roger‘s commitment to the color purple and as wholesome as harmony on a Grand Ole Opry stage. Our country is a coat of many colors, and it is that multicolored coat that makes our country golden.
14. National Immigration Law Center, ―NILC and Civil Rights Groups Ask Court to Block Implementation of Arizona's Racial Profiling Law During Legal Battle,‖ National Immigration Law Center, June 5, 2010, http://www.nilc.org/pubs/news-releases/nr017.htm (accessed July 6, 2010). 15. Nicole Santa Cruz, ―Arizona bill targeting ethnic studies signed into law,‖ Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2010, http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/12/nation/la-na-ethnic-studies20100512 (accessed July 6, 2010).
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Consider the Chicago River dyed green on St. Patrick‘s Day16—ethnic solidarity. Mardi Gras17 in New Orleans pulses with the life blood of that city. Its parades and feasting grew out of old French traditions—ethnic solidarity. Every year in Brooklyn, the Puerto Rican State Parade18 blocks off streets and warms up blocks with steamy salsa soul—beautiful Boricua ethnic solidarity. Every summer, the West Indian American Day Parade & Carnival (also held in Brooklyn), ―wines‖ the waist of New York City with its largest annual cultural celebration—43 years of ethnic solidarity.19 There is a virtual endless list of varied cultural celebrations that illuminate America, including Cinco de Mayo20 and, certainly, the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco, which is the largest celebration of its kind outside of Asia.21 All of these celebrations make tangible the blessing embedded in America‘s diversity—not the curse of it. The surest way to guarantee ―resentment toward a race or class of people‖ is to bully them into repressing their ethnic solidarity. Proponents of recent S.B 1070 and H.B 2281 appear to be doing a great job on this front. Arizona was the only territory west of Texas to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy during the Civil War.22 A century later, it fought recognition of the Martin Luther 16. Chicago‘s 2010 Saint Patrick‘s Day Parade, ―Dyeing of the River,‖ Chicago‘s 2010 Saint Patrick‘s Day Parade, http://www.chicagostpatsparade.com/index.html (accessed July 8, 2010). 17. Suzanne M. Coil, Mardi Gras!, (New York: Macmillan, 1994) 42. 18. NJ.com, ―Thousands attend New York City Puerto Rican Day Parade,‖ NJ.com, June 13, 2010, http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/06/thousands_attend_new_york_city.html (accessed July 7, 2010). 19. West Indian American Day Carnival Association, ―43rd Annual West Indian Carnival Festival 2010,‖ West Indian American Day Carnival Association, July 4, 2010, http://www.wiadca.com/ (accessed July 9, 2010). 20. ABCNews.com, ―Cinco de Mayo History: An American Celebration of the Battle of Puebla: Obama Plans Rose Garden Celebration Amid Immigration Debate,‖ ABCNews.com, May 5, 2010, http://abcnews.go.com/US/cinco-de-mayo-history-american-celebration-battlepuebla/story?id=10561976 (accessed July 9, 2010). 21. Examiner.com: Baltimore, ―San Francisco Bay Area Chinese New Year Parade,‖ Examiner.com: Baltimore, February 13, 2010, http://www.examiner.com/x-26847-SF-HolidaysExaminer~y2010m2d13-San-Francisco-Bay-Area-Chinese-New-Year-Parade-February-27th (accessed July 9, 2010). 22. Democracy Now, ―Boycotting Arizona‘s Racism,‖ Democracy Now, April 29, 2010, http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2010/4/29/boycotting_arizonas_racism (accessed July 7, 2010). THOMAS ∫ 96
King Jr. federal holiday. Like it or not, this is history that cannot be erased (much like the history of slavery, the Holocaust, and the near annihilation of Native Americans).23 What is good and what is bad about America exists like indelible ink on the body of history. It will not come off. The danger lies in the attempt to cover up all accurate portrayals of history. Given Arizona‘s aberrant past, it is not the confluence of Latinos crossing borders I worry about as an ―overthrowing‖ agency of the United States government. By the precedent of the successful passage of immoral laws, I would argue that the Arizona proponents of racism pose a greater threat to the freedom seams of the Union. Dishonorable statutes which they have passed are already working to undermine the highest self America aspires to represent in the world.24 It has been reported that Conservative lawmakers in Oklahoma have said they are planning to introduce immigration bills that copy Arizona‘s hotly debated statutes.25 Some Texas lawmakers have made it clear that they plan to follow Arizona‘s lead, as well, and introduce similar immigration measures.26 According to Kirk Adams (R), speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, at least 18 other states are considering adopting similar immigration laws.27 In a recent Huffington Post article we find these words by journalist Will Bunch: Two years before Arizona celebrates its centennial as the last of the 48 contiguous United States, I'm beginning to wonder if they can truly make it until 2012. If Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signs into law the harsh anti-immigration measure recently passed by state lawmakers—making racial profiling the law of 23. Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970) 204, 205. 24. Bishop Desmond Tutu, ―Arizona: The Wrong Answer,‖ The Huffington Post, April 29, 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/desmond-tutu/arizona----the-wrong-answ_b_557955.html (accessed July 9, 2010). 25. The Politifi Network, ―Oklahoma Immigration Law: Conservative Lawmakers Want Bill Like Arizona,‖ The Politifi Network, April 29, 2010, http://politifi.com/news/Oklahoma-ImmigrationLaw-Conservative-Lawmakers-Want-Bill-Like-Arizona-544687.html (accessed July 8, 2010). 26. CBS News.com, ―Will Other States Follow Arizona's Lead on Immigration?‖ CBS News.com, April 24, 2010, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20003648-503544.html (accessed July 9, 2010). 27. Kirk Adams, ―The truth behind Arizona's immigration law,‖ The Washington Post, May 28, 2010, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2010/05/27/AR2010052702527.html (accessed July 6, 2010).
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the land in a manner in which the term "police state" is not hyperbole—then the desert paradise will all but have seceded from the Union. Not legally—not yet, anyway, although in a few years who knows? —but morally.28 From its earliest inception, the goal of the Tidal Basin Review has been to reflect the highest ideals of American literature in its full and multi-cultural splendor. Its commitment is to lift up the mirror of our nation (whether that image is pretty or pockmarked) in the hope that democracy might see a clearer picture of its face—in the prayer that America will continually work to improve the integrity of its form. This edition of the Basin is one of the first anthologies of poetry and prose to be published in the United States directly addressing Arizona‘s anti-immigration policies. A diverse collection of poets, writers, and the work of visual artists is reflected within the following pages. Many of these writers are Arizona natives, and they are writing under the weight of the Third Reich transplanted to the desert. None of them will be (to quote Rev. Darrell S. Greene) ―...posturing the virtue of a nation whose virtues are often questionable.‖29 All of them express the truest form of patriotism. That patriotism is connected to a God that does not sanction the murder of immigrants at American borders.30 That patriotism moves beyond mere ball park flag waving. It attends to the needs of the poor. It keeps its lamp trimmed and burning for all those who wish to come to America to work for a better life— some who may even wish to make their way to Manhattan, and write a few stadium raising songs.
28. Will Bunch, ―Arizona Becoming First State to Secede From Union,‖ The Huffington Post, April 20, 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/will-bunch/arizona-becoming-1st-stat_b_545439.html (accessed July 8, 2010). 29. Reverend Darrell S. Greene, "A Different Kind of Patriotism," (Sermon, Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Church, Columbia, MD, July 4, 2010). 30. Laura Carlsen, ―Lethal Force on the Border,‖ The Huffington Post, June 18, 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-carlsen/lethal-force-on-the-borde_b_617065.html (accessed July 9, 2010).
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ON IMMIGRATION AND ROANOKE ISLAND
Carmen Giménez Smith
1. THE LEXICON OF IMMIGRATION Immigrant, unnaturalized citizen, wetback, alien, expatriate, outsider, and my favorite, fraught with literary import and agricultural innuendo, (think Peter Rabbit): usurper. The language describing those not born in the US, despite the best efforts of revisionists on every side of the conversation, is fraught with racial, class, educational and political undertones. These terms reflect, not the populations described, but the speaker's politics. The term "naturalized citizen," for example, evokes the image of those coming over being made part of the backdrop of faces depicted by the colors available in the new Crayola crayons that attempt to go beyond the peach tone once called "skin." Some of these people have won lotteries, for that golden ticket that is the green card or are made over into Americans through the regular avenues of red-tape and waiting lines and the gauntlet of being volleyed about different departments for hours as if this process was analogous to birth. Naturalized citizens stand in city hall, their hands raised, and denounce their former national allegiances for the heavy mantel of American-ness. Both my parents are naturalized, made one with this country in ceremonies reminiscent of a Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church mass wedding. They made pledges that spooked me because of the gravity of their commitment, one that is assumed to be implicit by birth. The word immigrant, thanks to film, summons up images of an old wizened woman in a kerchief leaning heavily onto a steamer trunk containing old photographs and wedding silver, the Statue of Liberty in the background. Ellis Island represents this particular portal into the United States, and it's also a site of revision: Tamio becomes Tommy. Anastasia Danilchenko becomes Annie Daniels. Then there‘s the illegal immigrant of Southern California curled in the trunk of a coyote's van or Haitians arriving on makeshift rafts. They break the laws of the country, many of them over and over again.
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The alien is the most "other" of these usurpers. Extra-terrestrial and wildly foreign in their guile, they sometimes make it over as if they were invisible. Their bodies are found in the waters that surround the eastern, western and southern coasts of America. Expatriates are only ever Americans who leave here. Sometimes people expatriate to this country, but they'd probably prefer not to come under Arizona's scrutiny. The usurper is here to take. I have no hard numbers. Many in my family are seen as usurpers. Usurper is the polite term-cousin to "wetback." There are other words from the mouths of ideologues buried deep in this term. They take our jobs and our country and our tax money, is what's said. 2. WALTER RALEIGH‘S LOST COLONY He left John Smith in charge of Roanoke Island's nascent community in 1587, but when an expedition group came back to find them, all that was left were the letters CROATOAN carved on one tree and CRO on another. This might have felt mystical, but is mostly described as ominous, a message that the entire community had been decimated or kidnapped by the Native people (physical brutality and rape and forced slavery). What had gone wrong for Raleigh's aliens? Since I was a girl, I've imagined two possibilities: a utopian alliance with the Native Americans who are credited with the massacre of the colonists or a reinvention of the terms of their occupation of the space. I imagine two young people, from each cultural group, as the agents for these changes in paradigm. This conflict was so new and fresh, so couldn't it be possible that both sides might have asked, Who are we in this dynamic? Why are we complicit with suspicion and destructive territorial preoccupations? This was, of course, the idealism of a girl, a burgeoning liberal. Call me a socialist, if you'd like. I suppose the impulse was driven by the mythology of Thanksgiving, the shared resources of the meal, the shared table. The colonists might be most closely akin to the "illegal aliens" of our day, no rationale for their presence to the current occupants of the territory, crossing over with what they could carry, attempting to construct a new society within an existing society1. They wandered the forests of their new landscape and were destroyed by its inhospitality. The conflict was based on the hostility of suspicion, the governing bodies' lack of a thoughtful consideration of the nuance of two cultural bodies attempting to make a space for their families and their The existing society of indigenous Americans was not seen as civilized, so the presence of Raleigh's colonies is still read as a civilizing and enlightening force. 1
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enterprises, their traditions and, finally, the unclear distribution of resources, especially the ones that felt ephemeral and limited like food, shelter and labor. Every day, as they walk through the deserts that border Mexico and the United States, they are navigating terrains occupied by suspicious packs of roving mercenariesâ€”not the Border Patrol, many of them the children of illegal immigrants, who work under the strict oversight of the American government2, but rogue groups of militants who have taken it upon themselves to "take back their country" by policing the edges of their country to threaten and intimidate those attempting to cross over. They don't offer water or aid. Instead, many of these organizations, armed to the hilt, threaten and hold people hostage until the sanctioned Border Patrol come to retrieve these nomads, many of them who will turn right around and make the voyage again, despite the threat of kidnapping, rape, murder and dehydration. They are Walter Raleigh's new pilgrims. Looking at a territory of promise, they come to make roots and to establish a community, some of them disappearing into the landscape or at the hands of those who resist their pilgrimage. They leave their marks on trees and with the detritus of their travel: the abandoned water bottles, shed clothing and backpacks, the wrappers of cheap portable foods. This is their mark, their CROATOAN.
The Border Patrol is not above reproach, but the oversight of local and federal governments as well as the local communities helps minimize some of the violence. The photographer David Kirby has a great monograph on the subject, Working the Line (Radius Books, 2010). 2
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RUNAGATE, RUNAGATE: HISTORICAL NONCOMPLIANCE, PRE-EMPTION, AND MORAL JUSTICE
Ricardo Guthrie Dinétah, Hopi Land, Arizona
IT WAS A LAW DESIGNED TO BRIDGE THE GAP between states‘ rights and federal hypocrisy; it criminalized those running away from unjust social, political and economic conditions which exploited labor and belittled human life; and it stated that those who supported runaways could be jailed, fined, or have their homes confiscated. It was the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and abolitionists opposed it, even as Congress ratified it as a means of keeping the United States unified—half slave and half free. Today, Americans all recognize that slavery was wrong, and that it was necessary for the U.S. to abolish the evil institution—although it took a bloody civil war, over 400,000 dead, and ―Reconstruction‖ to dismantle slavery. We all believe that we would have opposed slavery, but would we really have accepted punishment and penalties for assisting runaway slaves? In Arizona today, Americans are confronted with similar contradictory laws—not against escaped slaves, but against migrant laborers fleeing unjust political, economic and social conditions that threaten the lives of millions of exploited workers in Mexico and the Southwest.1 There is a vast difference between slavery and the oppressive economic system that exploits today‘s migrants—but the workings of legal repression and racism are no less evident. And the moral imperatives and penalties for supporting justice are as daunting today as they were in 1850. To support moral justice and migrant workers‘ rights in Arizona, we risk breaking the law if we assist undocumented workers seeking to remain in the United States. Just as escaped slaves were compelled to settle North to elude rapacious slavecatchers and moral hypocrites who turned runaways over to ―authorities,‖ today‘s ―illegals‖ are criminalized for seeking freedom, justice, and a better life here in the U.S./Mexico Borderlands. They are escaping joblessness, drug cartels and a declining Mexican economy crippled by the North
Connections between the images of runaway slaves and migrant workers running for their lives have been depicted in many different ways. Two examples can be found at: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/93505065/, and http://www.phototour.minneapolis.mn.us/5399. 1
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American Free Trade Agreement—NAFTA—which has lowered trade barriers between U.S., Canada and Mexico since 1994. Arizona might not be the new Mississippi, but it has enacted repressive laws that are as unjust and immoral as lynch laws of the past—and, in Dr. Martin Luther King‘s words: ―Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere…‖ Residents of Arizona have a choice to make: to uphold unjust laws that criminalize whole classes of people whose labor we depend upon; or to stand with those ―runaways‖ seeking a better life for their families still trapped by economic deprivation ―down South‖ in Mexico? Despite polls suggesting most Americans support laws such as SB 1070 which criminalize Mexican migrants, the open secret is that most Americans are dependent upon migrants to pick fruit and vegetables in the blazing sun; to labor in our front lawns or landscaped backyards; to clean our houses, cook our food, and even raise our children—all for minimum wages, tips, and few benefits. Some believe that ―illegals‖ don‘t deserve decent wages or health benefits for these jobs, even though most of us would not perform these menial, back-breaking chores for any amount of money! So, why focus on criminalizing workers who flee to the U.S. as a result of NAFTA? It‘s because, in part, Arizona‘s economy thrives on low-wage restaurant workers, agricultural laborers, construction workers, and landscapers, nannies and domestics. Arizona businesses cannot afford to pay migrants wages or benefits equal to those of U.S. citizens—and this fact confounds immigrants who are routinely denied access to citizenship. It will never happen so long as the economy requires their continued exploitation.2 Furthermore, Arizona‘s SB 1070 legalizes racial profiling that is very similar to statutes from the ―Black Codes‖ and Jim Crow eras. State and local police would be required to detain anyone they reasonably suspect to have immigrated illegally—but police must not use racial profiling to determine who is in the country illegally. In a state already noted for
See: MIGRA! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol (UC Press, 2010), by Kelly Lytle Hernández. Focusing on the daily challenges of policing the borderlands and bringing to light unexpected partners and forgotten dynamics, Migra! reveals how the U.S. Border Patrol translated the mandate for comprehensive migration control into a project of policing Mexicans in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. When the Border Patrol started in 1924, the main targets of the nation's immigration laws were not illegal Mexican immigrants. In fact, Mexican agricultural workers were valued by American farmers and were exempt from key restrictions, namely the national quota system that strictly limited the number of immigrants allowed to enter the U.S. each year. 2
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its racial profiling of Latinos, Blacks, and Indigenous peoples, it begs the question as to how police can ―reasonably‖ determine immigration status at a glance. In reality, it is not possible to enforce SB 1070 without engaging in racist behavior — just as it was impossible to maintain segregation without actively discriminating against Blacks based on physical appearance. This historical precedent provides a legal basis for challenging the current law. In every stage of American history, Blacks, immigrants, migrants, and religious groups have each been singled out for oppression and criminalization; but in each era, Americans of moral standing opposed the unjust laws, and ultimately overcame them. Today is no different, but it feels different because we assume ―we have overcome‖ the civil and moral wrongs of the past. Arizona is in a unique position to either affirm the successes of the past, or to repeat the errors of racists who hid their true intentions behind false legal statutes and questionable arguments for ―states‘ rights‖, opposition to ―federal pre-emption,‖ or blaming the very people they exploit for being criminal, deviant, or of the wrong racial or cultural background. ARIZONA IS ALSO UNIQUE, HOWEVER, BECAUSE OF ITS PEOPLE: it is home to the two largest Indigenous groups in the U.S.—the Hopi and Navajo (Diné)—whose connection to the land precedes any legal proscriptions created by legislators. Arizona also has the fastest-growing population of Latinos in the Southwest; and SB 1070 is a last-ditch effort to halt the demographic transformation that will make Anglos ―minorities‖ by 2020. It is this fact that compels zealots to enact pogroms such as SB 1070, HB 2281 (banning Ethnic Studies in Arizona), and legislation to deny citizenship to persons born in the U.S. to undocumented parents.3 The right to citizenship was ratified under the 14th Amendment in 1868—based on the struggles of enslaved African Americans to attain freedom after the Civil War. Attacking the rights of Mexican Americans undermines all that Blacks lived, struggled, and died for. SB 1070 threatens the lives of migrants, and it threatens the progress of the last 150 years. For these reasons, a growing movement to protect the rights of migrants has emerged. The Flagstaff City Council voted to oppose SB 1070, Northern Arizona University Faculty Senate and two other campuses in Arizona have condemned the law, and the Repeal Coalition is working to establish ―sanctuary cities‖—where migrant status will not affect the The chief sponsor of SB 1070, Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, is planning another round of legislation to strip the citizenship rights of children born in the United States to parents who are not citizens. He calls such legal citizens ―anchor babies,‖ because they often get left behind when their parents are deported or detained by Immigration/Customs pending immigration hearings. 3
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right to work, live or travel without being stopped by police. Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuits against SB 1070, civil disobedience, ―noncompliance‖ with unjust laws, and support for migrants will continue to be strategies implemented in the coming months. History demonstrates that unjust laws must not only be condemned, but actively resisted by all those concerned with justice. To lend your support, boycott Arizona, contribute to the City of Flagstaff legal fund for migrants, and support noncompliance or ―Repeal‖ coalitions in your state.4 Runagate Runagate5 Runs falls rises stumbles on from darkness into darkness and the darkness thicketed with shapes of terror and the hunters pursuing and the hounds pursuing and the night cold and the night long and the river to cross and the jack-muh-lanterns beckoning beckoning and blackness ahead and when shall I reach that somewhere morning and keep on going and never turn back and keep on going Runagate Runagate Runagate ... Mean mean mean to be free. Robert Hayden
Support the city's legal fund against SB 1070 by directing donations to "City of Flagstaff", reference account # 001-9067-591.29-02. Donations can be mailed to the City Clerk's Office in Flagstaff City Hall, 211 W. Aspen Avenue, Flagstaff AZ 86001; or call 928-779-7607 (can be done anonymously too). The Repeal Coalition campaign of noncompliance will begin July 29. Supporters can sign a pledge of noncompliance at www.repealcoalition.org. 5 The complete poem can be viewed at http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/runagate-runagate/. 4
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[white paper #3]
Martha Collins they lived
in the colored section of town though we lived in a city not a town it had a downtown where we saw them sometimes in stores on streets at the movies we didn‘t think much about it did we lived in Iowa where we saw them mostly saw ourselves what did we didn‘t know where we were living
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[white paper #9]
It pleased the Lord to open to us a trade with Barbados and other islands in the West Indies. —John Winthrop ▫ New England food to the West Indies for sugar molasses back to New England distilled into rum to Africa for slaves for West Indies plantations for sugar molasses back to New England ▫ 50 gallons rum = 1 man in prime ▫ Ships built in owned by captained by crewed by New England to Africa for slaves for the South for naval supplies to New England for ships to Africa for ▫ Brown University Faneuil Hall ▫ In 1808 the slave trade was abolished but not ended: still New England its white captains‘ merchants‘ bankers‘ houses because
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▫ In what year did Eli Whitney invent the cotton gin? How did this invention affect American commerce and industry? ▫ Food south for cotton north for textiles south as negro cloth for cotton north for textiles south and east to Britain for goods:
a union said Charles Sumner between the lords of the lash and the lords of the loom ▫ New England where I live
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[white paper #42]
Black people can turn white!
Black people can be white!
White people can turn black!
[see miscegenation, laws against]
▫ so they measured brain space lined up skulls invented a second creation for after-the-flood so they measured test scores not the test told us that we must reproduce told them to go back home ▫ because black people could brown people could brown people could yellow people could brown people could white people could disappear! ▫ because
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THE ―A‖ WORD
―if I could just reach the border…‖ – Gregory Isaacs
There is a law in the city of Takoma Park, Maryland, where I have lived for the last 12 years affectionately known as the ―City of Sanctuary‖ law. The law, among other things, forbids the local police from enforcing federal immigration laws. It has been in place since 1985, and in 2007 when local police insisted (urged is probably a better word) that they needed to enforce immigration laws in order to do their public duty to protect and serve, the local city council in Takoma Park issued a resolution that reaffirmed the city‘s commitment not to participate in enforcement of federal immigration laws. In other words, stand down. The police, of course, were arguing that sometimes when they arrested people for minor criminal violations, they would discover that the individuals were in the country illegally. A simple phone call to INS would get the person into the hands of federal officials and back over the border. Takoma Park, the government, was having none of it. In fact, one key part of the affirming resolution read as follows: ―WHEREAS, cooperation with or a perception of cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) creates a loss of trust and confidence of the immigrant community in the Takoma Park Police…‖ The conservative television talk show superstar, Glenn Beck, probably hasn‘t discovered Takoma Park, Maryland yet. Perhaps he has elected to live and let live on this one. Of course, my city‘s courageous protest against federal immigration policy came to mind when the state of Arizona decided to go in the opposite direction recently. The Arizona law, SB 1070, contains all sorts of attempts to stop the flow of individuals into the United States from Mexico and other parts south. There are sections that again attempt to deal with employment (make it illegal to hire undocumented individuals so they will not come); and there are sections on smuggling, among others. But the section that is the major cause of consternation for the Obama administration, civil rights attorneys, and for people of color in Arizona, is Article 8 Section 11-1051 (B). This section essentially orders law enforcement in Arizona to begin scrutinizing individuals regarding their status in the country. It also, in kind of a bold manner, uses the word ―ALIEN.‖ That seems, to a certain degree, at least at this point in time, to be the GILMORE ∫ 110
equivalent of ―Negro‖ or ―Retard,‖ a reference distinctively negative and hateful in intent. One would think a legislature with learned individuals would have retired such direct, negative terminology but ―Alien‖ is there. It struck me as a cheap attempt at belittling individuals. Call them aliens like they are invaders from Mars and people will hate them. You could replace ―Alien‖ with ―gay‖ and the result would be the same. This is because these are characteristics of a person that have nothing to do with personal characteristics. This is not race or age; this is what they are as opposed to who they are. I also had to wonder what would be a ―reasonable attempt.‖ If I am pulled over for speeding in Arizona, how is it possible for them to know if I am undocumented or not unless they ask me for my documentation? What documentation do I present? How do they tell the difference? What do they do that‘s reasonable? What if I say, ―I am legal, I was born here in the United States, Officer, but I don‘t walk around with my birth certificate anyway. Can I go now?‖ Is the officer now allowed to detain me? Is the officer allowed to call INS? How long before the detainment is deemed ―false imprisonment‖ so that I can sue the city and the officers? It is a difficult charge for law enforcement. I cannot wait until the Arizona law (the law is being challenged by the federal government) reaches the U.S. Supreme Court and the conservative bloc tries to create a legal theory that allows a state (Arizona in this case) to perform a legal duty that is the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government and without the federal government‘s permission. SB 1070 is also moving in this direction. Justices Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas, the reliable conservative voting bloc, have a juggernaut headed their way; do they do the bidding of their conservative brethren or dismiss this legislation as ridiculous, which it is just based on that one cataclysmic section that orders police officers to become INS on the street? To bring some sanity to this; lawyers, of all types, know that the police can stop people on the streets if they think they might have been engaged in illegal activity. This is short of probable cause. This is called a ―terry stop.‖ It is legal. A police officer reasonably believes a person has been engaged in a criminal act; the officer can stop someone briefly, GILMORE ∫ 111
and do a limited investigation. This seems to be what the police officers in Arizona are being asked to do. Stop and frisk. So this is an immigration terry stop. I get that. However, because of the alleged crime that is ongoing (in the country undocumented), the ―terry stop‖ is ongoing. Arizona, the state that gave us, Miranda warnings years ago, one of the great moments in criminal procedure, civil liberty, and in human affairs, now gives us the immigration terry stop SB 1070. It is an all-time low for liberty. Again, how will this work? He looks like he‘s undocumented; go ask him for his papers. He doesn‘t; don‘t ask him. It is arbitrary. Criminal defense attorneys will make a bunch of cash off of this one. This is the pursuit of civil order through political ideology and ambition, Governor Jan Brewer‘s ambition. Did our lawmakers forget in the rush to the throne that we actually have advanced a bit and have a document called the Constitution? It allows people to be free in their persons. It avoids the police state. Again, blame the current fervor on Jan Brewer, Governor of Arizona (she signed the law). Brewer, sensing her political future spinning aimlessly into nothing (she was a Republican who took over when Democrat, Janet Napolitano was picked by President Obama to run the Department of Homeland Security), joined hands with the anti-immigrant crowd and the bigots of Arizona and got going with quasi-border control. Profile, in other words, is the call. If they look like they don‘t have papers, ask them for papers, ask them how are they in the U.S. But how does one look if one does not have papers? What does ―undocumented‖ look like? It is very similar to when people say: he‘s gay or she‘s gay. How does one know that a person is gay? Did people know that Rock Hudson was gay? There is someone you know now who is gay and you don‘t know it, I guarantee it. Same with legal status; how can one tell who is undocumented? Did Slick Rick the rapper look like he was undocumented years ago when it was discovered he was, in fact, GILMORE ∫ 112
undocumented? The point is, the law is for Hispanics. We get that. It isn‘t for people from Senegal or Bosnia or Korea or Canada or anyone else other than the Hispanic population, specifically, individuals from Mexico. This is profiling because the law can‘t work unless officers profile. And we also know what this is about. We hear it every day. The President needs to show his birth certificate. We need to take ―our‖ country back. Macaca. Tea parties. Wasn‘t there slavery during the tea party period? Our diversity is our plague. We want it but don‘t want it. We have always said we want it but really we have never really wanted it. It is the American paradox. The Statue of Liberty says: ―give me, your tired, your poor…‖ Only problem is, no one crossing the border in Mexico ever sees that message. They cross in the dead of night. They are tired, poor, and that is why they keep trying to get here. No one considers why they are coming. 2. But I confess, I don‘t know Arizona. I was there two years ago and it is beautiful. I was treated well. Immigration was always on the minds of the locals but one barely noticed any problems. I was in Tucson anyway, some ways from the border. But I cannot profess to know how life is there now for people of color. Why is this happening, now? My friend, Michael Newsom, a retired law professor, who is in Arizona, and is living it, says everyone is sort of on pins and needles waiting to see what this all means. Here is what he recently wrote about the whole idea of illegality and the hysteria created by the law:
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…The obvious question is whether we can really have fifty states with their own idiosyncratic take on immigration law (and I mean law in the broadest possible sense of the word.) dealing with "illegal" immigrants. I put "illegal" in quotation marks because if we take an antiformalist view of law, it is not clear that many of the socalled illegal immigrants are in fact that. Many have been induced to come to the United States to fill the need of powerful interests to tap into a source of cheap labor. (It is a different question altogether whether such a "need" is legitimate, given the downward pressure on wages in at least some sectors of the economy that result from expanding the size of a low-wage labor pool.) Newsom makes a great point. If the highly partisan Supreme Court upholds the Arizona law, this action will green light every other state to do it their own way. This is why, in the legal sense, why the law must fail. If SB 1070 passes, it will instantly destroy the federal government‘s authority over one of its key functions: border and security. But mostly, Newsom‘s comments bring me back to my own house in Takoma Park, Maryland where I have lived for the last 12 years, thousands of miles away from border incursions (or so I thought). There is a running joke in the neighborhood that I heard on the bus once. A Hispanic male called the area – ―the border.‖ He and his buddy laughed when he said it. But I got it. I understood. This is where you enter the country because you can get lost in the community and not even be trying to get lost. There is acceptance. Not just because of the ―sanctuary‖ law but because of what the area has to offer on the most personal level. It is an area of immigrants probably like New York in 1900. I live in a part of Takoma Park that borders a large immigrant community. Hispanics and West Africans and West Indians and North Africans. There are East Indian restaurants and Ethiopian cafes. There are trucks that make Pollo a la Brasa all day long, and others that serve up Salvadoran pupusas. There are West Indian carry-outs and Halal butchers. This is why that joke on the bus is not even a joke. This is America. My mother, for years, employed an assistant from Trinidad. Though she is now a citizen, for years she was an undocumented worker. She came to America and simply never went home. She lived in that community near my house. She was afraid to go home after the September 11, 2001 bombing of the U.S. because she felt she would not get back into the
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country. She didn‘t even go home for her mother‘s funeral. But she eventually got in the line, did what she had to do, and has become a citizen. But originally, she found refuge in the community near my home – the border. She knew, like many people know, you don‘t enter the U.S. in Texas or Arizona or wherever; you enter it when you become welcome, when you find work and shelter and schools. When you make a life. A few years ago, I had a friend who hired a Hispanic day worker to help him remodel his home. They became great friends and I got to know him as well. He told my friend and me (in cryptic Spanish) that he spent 7 days on the desert and almost died, but he made it here. He then came to the Takoma Park area. The border. He called it that, too. It was like someone told him this. This is where he crossed for real. You don‘t really cross until you find work and a place to stay. He did, and he sank into his community, and like many, disappeared. Last time I saw him, my friend had paid him. He was headed to Western Union to send money back to Peru. His wife and kids are back there. This is America. 3. In the 1920‘s, after years and years of vibrant immigration, the U.S. cracked down on immigration. Just like this period of time, immigration had been robust and steady for years and our economy was fueled by the availability of labor from abroad. The gates to the shining city on the hill (this could come later) were not closed. People were flooding in from all over. Europe mostly, but they were not the right Europeans. Greeks. Italians. Jews. People from the Balkans. By the early 1920‘s, politicians were fed up, as they are now, and the familiar ―Americans for America‖ became the cry on the streets. Frederick Wallis, a Commissioner of Immigration at Ellis Island in New York during this time period, went as far to urge similar control over immigration as is being urged now. ―America is intended for Americans,‖ Wallis boomed in a 1922 speech, ―and every foreigner coming to these shores expecting to earn his livelihood, and probably send funds regularly to the old country, should be made not only to register but to become naturalized and a part of this Government.‖
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The same year, Congress set quotas on immigration and the call was for extremely rigid immigration. Secretary of State, Charles Hughes urged immigration laws that would make it ―impossible‖ for ―most‖ to ―enter the United States.‖ But Hughes was not talking about everyone, just like Arizona is not talking about anyone but Hispanics. In 1921, when Hughes made his call to get tough on entry, he was referring to Jews, Armenians, Russians, and individuals of Middle Eastern origin. Darker Europeans from the margins of society. Hughes, in a circulated memoranda, wrote that these are individuals who ―cannot be regarded as desirable populations for any country.‖ Isaac Siegel, a Jewish Congressmen from New York, called Hughes out for his bigotry. Much is the same now, some 90 years later. Bigots make statements about Hispanics crossing the border and committing crimes; people get mad. Polls indicate strong support for the law. Has anyone read it? Is crime up in Arizona? No. My friend, Michael Newsom, who is in the state now, again writes the following: One other piece of all of this is that it is really not clear that illegal immigrants have caused a spike in crime in Arizona, nor is it clear that the border has become some kind of war zone. Again, ―wingnuts‖ never let the facts get in the way of their rants and rages. So what‘s the story? The story is soon the U.S. will be a majority ―of color.‖ It should not be a problem but it is. SB 1070, we all know, is a delaying tactic. The U.S., many are sure, won‘t be the ―shining city on the hill‖ at least in the eyes of those who believed that ideal. How can it be that any longer with all of these people of color? The U.S. is also a debtor nation; some Chinese banks own us. We are a nation that is becoming more diverse and we are having trouble accepting it and we are also having trouble accepting the fact that we are not exceptional. How can you owe so much money and be exceptional? We have been outflanked. GILMORE ∫ 116
This is really the story of the Arizona law; the changing position of the U.S. in the world. In 1920, the U.S. was on the way up; we knew it. In 2010, everyone is wondering if the U.S. is on its way down just as fast. SB 1070 is said to be that hope to remain exceptional. Is Arizona some sort of legislative Alamo? But really, is it necessary? This is America, right?
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DRESSED FOR AMERICA
Diane Harriford and Becky Thompson During this inopportune time of Tea Parties and hot potatoes, we guess it is no surprise that Jan Brewer the Republican governor of Arizona—who signed a truly horrifying bill on April 23 making it a crime to be undocumented in her fair state—is running for reelection. Brewer, who became interim governor by default (when Janet Napolitano resigned to become US State Secretary of Homeland Security) is clearly dialing around for an American Idol vote to remain on as governor while riding the Tea Party waves, while failing to include on her campaign literature her own genealogy—her English grandmother Sarah Jane Marble who came to New York in 1886. Marble, along with other European immigrants, became documented if they were healthy the day they arrived. Meanwhile, as Jan Brewer, Sarah Palin and other conservative women are buying out Talbot‗s latest white-on-white-draped–with-pearls suits, we witness women whose ancestors have been in America far longer than Brewer‗s. They are draping themselves with American flags—this last decade‗s attire of choice for Black, Latina, Native American and Hispanic women who know, in their bones, that this is their land, even as they are being labeled ―internally displaced or ―illegal. Recall, for example, Milvertha Hendricks who sat outside of the convention center in New Orleans following the hurricane, wrapped in an American flag, waiting with strangers to see if she would be allowed a right of return. Recall now, Aurrela Saenz, an elderly woman who has been in the US for 25 years, among the thousands who protested the draconian law over the weekend in Phoenix. Riding in a wheelchair, holding onto her cane with one hand, and reaching up to express her outrage with the other, Aurrela Saenz wrapped herself in a beach towel sized American flag. Had Judge Susan Bolton not signed a temporary injunction against key aspects of the law (SB 1070), on the eve before it was to take effect, the police would have been authorized to question anyone they suspected may be undocumented about their immigrant status. This legitimizes racial profiling since only certain brown-skinned people look like immigrants in Arizona. With this latest juxtaposition—pearl suits vs. American flags—it is important to note that Aurrela Saenz is, in fact, the one protecting American ideals as Brewer appears to be doggedly anxious to trample on the Constitution. HARRIFORD/THOMPSON ∫ 118
AN ARIZONA STATE OF MIND
I live now in Vermont, state where so far, where the only Mexican I met was a farm hand. I am imminently visible and invisible at the same time. I have been party to conversations where 'those people ' have been referenced. I am those people. I am Chicana. I am also a Jew. I do not have a poem about Arizona, an elegy, an allegorical tale. What I have is grief, is anger, the slow burn of a wound that keeps being reopened and reopened and reopened. The rage and I feel is an acid that cannot be contained in free verse, a sestina, a couplet. There is no villanelle for my terror, for the nausea I felt when I was stopped by the state police last week. The Arizona bill is not a new wound. It is as old as the conquest, as Manifest Destiny. We are, and have been the other. America‘ needs, and has needed a scapegoat--needed to strap the failure of capital on the backs of the same dark people who have built it. It is the legacy of those who have toiled and bled and died, and for whom the fruit of the tree is always just out of their grasp. The tenor of this nation is more and more Beer Hall Putsch, a dark, crimson tug in my blood, a shadow fist tightening around my heart. Work camps and incinerators start with taking regular people‘s fears of not having and losing, and showing them there is a culprit, an answer. A dark, evil, enemy that snatches the bread from their tables. And step by step there will be a solution. Terrified people need a solution. People angry that no matter how hard they work, they lose and keep losing, crave a solution. Those in power, those with storehouses of money and the weapons to shape public opinion are glad to offer the means to feel in control again. The enemy, the cancer must be found. Find them, capture them, bring them to one place where the process of cutting down and cutting out can begin. This is the History 101 I know in the marrow of my bones. This is old history, this is Califas mission history, Wounded Knee and Trail of Tears history, slaveship Jim Crow history, Yellow menace history and relocation camps history. This is my America. This is yours.
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HOW WE BECOME THE POEMS
A poem can be a letter passing from the poet to my flashing computer screen to the cooperating copy machine on a Saturday morning so I may pass it – across banners and flags, over heads and strollers and backpacks – to waiting hands, hands hopeful for poems that build bridges instead of walls, for poems that leap walls, for poems that sing their way from here to there – my fear, her loneliness, your isolation, our anger – to what might be: to land, to picnics, to BBQ welcomes. A poem can ask for a hand, can offer a hand, can be a hand and a heart, a fishing line and a pole. We might call to one another in a poem. Ask for help with homework in a poem. Fall in love in a poem, fall into a poem. Wake up in a poem, stretch. Grow up in a poem. Find our full-throated selves in a poem. Become a poem. BROWNING ∫ 120
On May Day this year, 2010, just one week after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, a handful of Split This Rock poets protested for immigration reform outside the White House, three blocks from our offices at the Institute for Policy Studies. We carried with us a stack of poems chosen from among dozens – and now hundreds – posted to the Facebook page, Poets Responding to SB 1070. Like the Poets Against the War website set up by Sam Hamill in 2003, Poets Responding to SB 1070 is an open forum. Anyone may send a poem to organizers Francisco X. Alarcón and Alma Luz Villanueva. That day, we chose to copy and distribute four , both by poets we knew and poets new to us. One, by Alarcón himself, was posted on the site in both Spanish and English. The others were in English only. Here‘s one we used by Odilia Galván Rodríguez: Bridges v. Borders in another world a border would be a bridge crossing an answer We offered the poems without commentary. ―Poems?‖ The reaction from protesters stunned me. Hands reached through the crowd; we were met with enormous smiles, shy yeses. A rowdy young guy in the bright yellow T-shirt of his Latino fraternity reacted with pleasure and surprise as he took a poem: ―It‘s not every day someone hands you a poem.‖ No, it is not every day someone hands you a poem. When they do, the earth shifts the tiniest bit, the air between you shimmers a bit, daily life is disturbed. A poem can yank us, like that, just a little out of our normal orbit. By its very nature – a solo venture, an idiosyncratic voice – a poem is resistance to propaganda, a crazy dance in the face of conformity. Ignorant myself of all but the basic outlines of Southwestern history, I turned to that grab bag of facts, Wikipedia. On the ―History of Mexican Americans‖ page I learned that many Mexican residents of what is now Arizona lost their land to Anglos as a result of the 19th century treaties that annexed the territory to the United States. I learned of Jim Crow-style laws that prevented Mexican Americans from testifying in court. I learned of hundreds of lynchings of Mexican Americans. I found none of this on the ―History of Arizona‖ page, as if this ugliness and horror were only the history of Mexican Americans and not America‘s own BROWNING ∫ 121
history. (Similarly, the white poet Martha Collins, whose book Blue Front chronicles the story of the lynching of a Black man witnessed by her father when he was five, is often asked by white readers, ―What does it feel like to be writing Black history?‖) Now, with SB 1070‘s companion law, HB 2281, forbidding the teaching of ―ethnic studies‖ in Arizona public schools, will it be illegal to teach this history of theft and oppression, which is the origin of so much white wealth in the state? And what‘s next? Will it become illegal to teach slavery, whereby I acquired education and privilege and comparative wealth, as the descendent of slave owners? ―Poetry gives politics and history a human face,‖ says poet and essayist Martín Espada. A poem can be a history lesson – sometimes the only one we have. Poem For Raza Studies Students at Police State University I pray no arrest while probing the library records of my ancestry - Michael Medrano On the Census Bureau site, I learned that 30% of Arizona residents are of ―Hispanic or Latino origin.‖ Because of SB 1070, then, a police officer, whose parents perhaps arrived in the state in 1950, can stop anyone who looks Latino – 30% of his or her neighbors – whose ancestors may have lived in that land for years, and demand proof that they belong. Do you carry your passport or your social security card at all times? I do not. I have a family history in this country I expect I share with many Latinos in Arizona: One of my parents arrived here as a child; the other is descended from some of the first Europeans to cross the Atlantic. And yet no one is demanding that I prove my right to live here, to raise my child here, to walk in my own neighborhood – for the simple reason that my mother and my dad‘s ancestors arrived here from England, rather than from Mexico. That‘s it. That is the only difference. ―Racial profiling‖ is a grossly inadequate term. It cannot begin to encompass the history of dispossession and oppression, what makes my experience so dramatically different from that of my Mexican American neighbor. For that, we need a radical act of imagination. We need a poem. We need a thousand poems. Let‘s write them today. BROWNING ∫ 122
CNN, U.S. EDITION
Saran wrapping the neighborhood, Ms. Official As though you were never aware of mi tierra mexicana and her ―Virtual border‖ or that ―Latinos constitute the largest minority group in the United States,‖ We can hear your whispers Underneath the Legislative table While talking taxes, policy, congressional POVs, and eating tacos Hiring Mexico‘s citrus soaked sons to protect your ivory gloved hands, You deny ever having hired her Windex mothers Our construction building fathers We all stayed silent, grooming your lawn Washing your windows and scrubbing the Spanish from our tongues
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Cinnamon Stuckey You are most beautiful, my prohibido Light ladled on your skin Shaven head and calloused hands and (perfect) english and forgotten Memories and paperless parents and weeping Cousins and Americanized children and chili crusted earlobes With your pupils nested like crows, waiting and surveilling The border, its swollen underbelly and ―God shed his grace on thee‖ regurgitating all who are copper and gold, and highly combative and rushing Towards a Constitution that spins and twirls and frays and bleeds Struggling against the current, affairs Ashen eyes are watching you, and their hands are torching Seeded fields of amber grain
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∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Lisa Alvarado is an educator, poet, novelist, and journalist. She is the founder of La Onda Negra Press, and is author of Reclamo and The Housekeeper‘s Diary, Her first novel, Sister Chicas (written with Ann Hagman Cardinal and Jane Alberdeston) was bought by Penguin/NAL, and released in April 2006. Sister Chicas won 2nd place Best First Novel in English (Latino Literacy Now/2007) Her book of poetry, Raw Silk Suture, is the newest release by Floricanto Press, and was reviewed by Rigoberto Gonzalez. She has curated multimedia exhibits and mounted her own multimedia piece, Reclamo in the Pilsen art corridor in Chicago; and is currently a contributor to the nationally touring exhibit, Re-imagining the Distaff Toolkit, curated by Ricki Solinger/SUNY. Lisa is the recipient of grants from the Department of Cultural Affairs, The NEA, and the Ragdale Foundation. Lisa was honored in 2009, as one of seven Hispanic Authors of the Year by the State of Illinois. (Photo: Lin Benitez, photographybylin.com)
Lou Amyx holds BA and MFA degrees in creative writing from the University of Houston and McNeese State, respectively. She is the author of Biology, Fourth Period and Phoenix, produced by the Edward Albee New Playwrights Workshop under the mentorship of Lanford Wilson. Her poetry appears in Naugatuck River Review and The Arena. A chapbook, The Bracelet, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. (Photo: Shaye Lauren)
Beebe Barksdale-Bruner has a BFA in painting and an MFA in poetry. She has published one book of poetry, It Comes To Me Loosely Woven, by Press 53 of NC in 2007. She likes to explore all media including clay, figure drawing, photography and digital art. Her website: http://beebe-barksdalebruner.artistwebsites.com.
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∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Sarah Browning is director of Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness and DC Poets Against the War. Author of Whiskey in the Garden of Eden and co-editor of D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology, she is co-poetry editor of On the Issues Magazine and an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. (Photo: Lynda Koolish)
Christine Celise is a healing arts advocate. She has facilitated writing and journaling workshops, is the architect of a women‘s speaking series and visual artist education program. She has been a contributing writer for Flowinsider.com, bluecentric.com, and Baltimore Times Minority Business Supplement. Other creative endeavors include Afro-Cuban folklore dance and quiet moments with her Canon. ―Selah" is her inspiration.
Martha Collins‘ book-length poem Blue Front (Graywolf, 2006) won an Anisfield-Wolf Award and was one of the New York Public Library‘s 2006 ―25 Books to Remember.‖ She has also published four earlier collections of poems and two collections of co-translations of Vietnamese poetry. Editor-at-large for FIELD magazine, she served as Distinguished Visiting Writer at Cornell University in spring 2010. (Photo: Doug Macomber)
Jasmon Drain: I try as hard as I can to write the perspectives of Chicago that no one pays attention to. Somewhat recently, a friend of mine was quite emotional from an interaction he‘d had with his father. Through his explanation, he detailed how he – as a young boy – would sit, waiting for his oft-traveling father to arrive, snatch him, and run away into the highways of the Midwest. I used the ten-percent of my mother‘s writing ability I have to create ―Green Quarters.‖
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∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Jennifer S. Flescher‘s poetry publications include The Harvard Review, Fulcrum, Lit and the Blog for the Best American Poetry. Her non-fiction publications include Agni-Online, Jubilat, Perihelion, and Poetry Daily. She holds an MFA in poetry from Lesley University and an MSJ in journalism from Northwestern. She teaches writing and publishing to college students. She is editor and publisher of Tuesday; An Art Project. (Photo: Alternate Angles)
Gretchen Fletcher won the Poetry Society of America‘s Bright Lights, Big Verse competition and was projected on the Jumbotron as she read her poem in Times Square. She frequently travels to attend poetry readings, awards, and book signings and leads writing workshops for Florida Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress. Her chapbook, That Severed Cord, was published by Finishing Line Press. (Photo: Jaf Fletcher)
Reginald Flood is a native Californian who now lives in a small town in southeastern Connecticut with his wife and two teenagers. His work has appeared in The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Cave Canem X Anniversary Collection, and Massachusetts Review. Also, he has poems forthcoming in African American Review. He has been fortunate to be a Cave Canem fellow and a recipient of the Walker Fellowship from the Provincetown Fine Arts Center. He teaches in the English Department at Eastern Connecticut State University. (Photo: Rachel Eliza Griffiths)
Andy Fogle has three chapbooks: Extincting the Drunk, New Batteries for Your Halo, and Dragon Emerging from Waves. Born in Norfolk, VA, raised in Virginia Beach, he received his MFA from George Mason University, and now lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, teaches English at Bethlehem Central High School in Delmar, and is a doctoral student in Education at SUNY Albany. (Photo: Marla Melito)
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∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Kim Coleman Foote‘s writing has appeared in Obsidian, The Literary Review, Black Renaissance Noire, and elsewhere. ―Yellow Brick Secrets‖ is excerpted from her novel-in-progress about the slave trade in Ghana, where she was a Fulbright Fellow. She has received a Rona Jaffe Foundation/Vermont Studio Center Fellowship, PALF award, Illinois Arts Council Fellowship, and an MFA from Chicago State University. (http://kimcolemanfoote.webs.com)
Brian Gilmore is Poet, public interest lawyer; two books: elvis presley is alive and well and living in harlem, (Third World Press 1993); Jungle Nights and Soda Fountain Rags: Poem for Duke Ellington (Karibu Books 2001), columnist, The Progressive Media Project, contributing writer: Ebony Magazine (online); Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council in 2001, 2003; Cave Canem fellow 1997; Pushcart Prize nominee 2007.
Carmen Giménez Smith is assistant professor of creative writing atNew Mexico State University, publisher for Noemi Press andEditor-in-Chief of Puerto Del Sol and author of Odalisque in Pieces and Bring Down the Little Birds (University of Arizona). She recently co-edited, with Kate Bernheimer, the anthology, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me (Penguin Books).
Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a MFA in Creative Writing and literary work has internationally, including
poet and photographer. She received her from Sarah Lawrence College. Her visual been widely published nationally and
Callaloo, The New York Times, Indiana Review, RATTLE, Crab Orchard Review, Mosaic, and many others. A Cave Canem Fellow, she is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships. Her debut collection of poetry, Miracle Arrhythmia (Willow Books), will be published in the fall. Please visit: www.rachelelizagriffiths.com.
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∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Ricardo Guthrie, Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at Northern Arizona University, examines political narratives of the Black Press and writes about film and cultural-political artifacts. He is currently researching the life of physician/publisher Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett and the San Francisco SunReporter (1945-1966). His poetry and artwork can be viewed on the Museum of the African Diaspora's website: http://www.iveknownrivers.org/. (Photo: Denys Horgan)
Derrick Harriell was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Chicago State University and is currently a dissertator in UW-Milwaukee‘s English PhD program where he also teaches Creative Writing. He has worked as assistant poetry editor for Third World Press and is currently poetry editor for The Cream City Review. His poems have been published in numerous journals and anthologies. Cotton (Aquarius Press-Willow Books), released August 2010, is his first collection of poems.
Diane Harriford is Professor of Sociology at Vassar College and former director of the women‘s studies program. Most recently she has co-authored with Becky Thompson, When the Center is on Fire: Passionate Social Theory for Our Times. (Photo: Steven Lavoie)
Niki Herd grew up in Cleveland and received degrees in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and Antioch in Los Angeles. A Cave Canem fellow, her work has appeared in several journals and anthologies, and has been supported by organizations including the Astraea Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her debut collection of poems, The Language of Shedding Skin, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag. (Photo: Rachel Eliza Griffiths) CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 129
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Hannah Larrabee received an MFA in Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Her chapbook Virgo was published by Finishing Line Press in March of 2009, and was nominated for a Massachusetts Book Award and a Pen New England Literary Award. She currently teaches writing and literature at the New Hampshire Institute of Art and Northern Essex Community College.
Moira Linehan‘s, If No Moon, won the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry open competition. The collection was named an Honor Book in Poetry in the Massachusetts Book Awards. She is the 2010 recipient of America magazine‘s Foley Poetry Award. She lives in Winchester, MA. (Photo: Adela Margules)
Tamara J. Madison is a writer, poet and performer currently living and working in New Jersey, New York. Her works have been published in numerous journals and anthologies and recorded. She has recently completed a full-length poetry manuscript in search of a publisher. (Photo: JoAnn Santangelo)
Tony Medina is the author of fourteen books, the most recent of which are I and I, Bob Marley and My Old Man was Always on the Lam. Medina‘s poetry, fiction and essays appear in over eighty anthologies and publications, as well as two CD compilations. Currently Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Howard University in Washington, DC, Medina‘s collection, Broke on Ice, is forthcoming from Willow Books/Aquarius Press. (Photo: Abe Barretto) CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 130
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Ernesto Mercer is a multidisciplinary artist/performer and Cave Canem Alumni Fellow. His recent work includes ―Invocation/Style‖ the libretto for 70: A Multimedia Performance , The River Never Rests/ Man Unda Wata and Nnandi and the Hunter‘s Shirt all commissioned by the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution. He lives and works between New Orleans and New York City. (Photo: Tosha Y. Grantham)
James O'Brien is a Ph.D. candidate at the Editorial Institute at Boston University, researching Bob Dylan's non-song writings — focusing on unpublished works and those writings given only limited distribution. O'Brien is a news correspondent for the The Boston Globe, and his poetry has also appeared in Flatmancrooked‘s Slim Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, edited by Joshua Neely and Mary Karr.
Coco Owen is a stay-at-home poet in Encino, CA. She is on the board of Les Figues Press, an independent press publishing innovative fiction and poetry (www.lesfigues.com). She has had other poems published in the
Antioch Review, Umbrella Journal, 1913: A Journal of Forms, The Journal, and Cirque.
Adrian S. Potter writes poetry and short fiction. He is the author of the fiction chapbook Survival Notes (Červená Barva Press, 2008). Adrian is the winner of the 2007 Saturday Writers One-Page Poem Contest and the 2006 Červená Barva Fiction Chapbook Prize. Some recent publication credits include Interrobang?!, Mythium, and The Broken Plate. Additional propaganda can be found at http://adrianspotter.squarespace.com/. CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 131
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Joseph Ross‘ poems appear in many journals and anthologies including Poetic Voices Without Borders 1 and 2, Poet Lore, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Full Moon on K Street. He co-edited Cut Loose the Body: An Anthology of Poems on Torture. He has given readings in many places including the Library of Congress‘ Poetry-at-Noon Series. He writes at www.JosephRoss.net. (Photo: Dan Vera)
Chanell Ruth, MFA, serving Poetry Editor of Warpland Literary Journal also assisted with Dream of a Word (2005). Her poems have been anthologized in texts, including Spaces Between Us (2010) and curated in The Citizen‘s Picnic: Lynching in America from 1865 to Present in 2008. Chanell teaches English, and attended the Hurston/Wright Writer‘s Workshop, 2010.
Marian Kaplun Shapiro, also a psychologist, is the author of one professional book, one full-length poetry book, and two chapbooks. To date she has about 175 poetry publications, and 28 prizes (including the Grimm, Bolton, Hildegard, Grimes, SIWG, and International Frost). She was named Senior Poet Laureate of Massachusetts in 2006 and again in 2008.
Cris Staubach, a children‘s librarian and tree-hugger, lives and works in Connecticut near Long Island Sound. ―Last Ferry,‖ a poem with a message from her grandmother, won first place in the received-poem category of the Oestara Pagan Poetry contest, and was published in the Eppy winning Oestara Anthology of Pagan Poetry. Her work has also been published in several anthologies including Whispers of Inspiration, Sacred Stones, Grandmother Earth XVI, and Voices Along the River.
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∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Cinnamon Stuckey stems from a mixed cultural bloodline of Chiricahua Apache, Afro-Cuban, Irish and Czechoslovakian. She lives and writes in Sierra Vista, AZ. Currently working on her MBA in Management through Western International University, she is a graduate of New England College with an MFA in Creative Writing.
Becky Thompson is a writer, teacher and activist. Her books include When the Center is on Fire (co-authored with Diane Harriford, 2008),
Fingernails Across the Chalkboard: Poetry and Prose on HIV/AIDS From the Black Disapora (co-edited with Randall Horton and Michael Hunter, 2007); and A Promise and A Way of Life (2001), among others. She
teaches Sociology at Simmons College in Boston. Recent poems appear in the Harvard Review, We Begin Here: For Palestine and Lebanon,
Warpland: A Journal of Black Literature and Ideas, Amandla, Illuminations, The Teacher‘s Voice, and Margie. Her poetry manuscript ―Zero is the Hole I Fall into at Night‖ is currently looking for a good home.
Phillip B. Williams is a Chicago, IL native. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Drunken Boat, Reverie, Mythium and others. Most recently his poem ―Vestige‖ was a semi-finalist in the 2009 International Reginald Shepherd Memorial Poetry prize. (Photo: Aaron R. White)
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