HELLS CANYON REVIVAL
Camped beneath Hells Canyon Dam
last night it started raining.
I moved my head outside the tent and let
rain fill the hollows of my eyes.
I never saw lightning
but heard thunder roll from beneath me
the earth upside down, hooves of animals
bolting through clouds
it started raining lamprey and sturgeon
it rained so hard last night I was young again.
it rained so hard the earth moved
from the graves of my grandparents
their bones started dancing on the rocks
dancing like hail
It rained so hard the river was young again
neither of us had our second names
we chewed dirt with our first teeth
we ran together with salmon, steelhead
the shores lifted their skirts at our passing
last night the rain brought back my grandmother
she put my head in her lap
she told me stories, she told me carp
sucked the bones of my grandfather
her tears filled my eyes. Her braids tickled
This morning the skies are clear. A fly dances
on my nose. In the flooding light I move earth
worms from the trail. Sometimes
I toss their wet red bodies back into the river.
I got a rattlesnake in me
getting fat on swallowed words.
I got a rattlesnake in me,
it bites the heart that warms it
and numbs it to the teachings of my mother
who said don’t say anything
unless you got something nice…
I got a rattlesnake in me.
Stuns my ability to speak only when
spoken to; I feel its split tongue strum.
I got a rattlesnake in me
whose cool coils circle my spleen
digesting complacency spilled in the pit
(speak in a quiet voice)
do you know who you are talking to?
that is no way for a lady to,
I don’t remember asking you,
keep the peace,
please don’t upset anyone
I’m warning you
honey gets more bees—
but I got a rattlesnake in me.
(Can you hear her?)
I got a rattlesnake in me
drinking vinegar, swallowing concessions, whole.
I got a rattlesnake in me, teaching me
how to sense danger,
(handle me carefully.)
I got a rattlesnake in me
tired of being held up
proof of domination
tired of losing this venom for protection
every day I remind myself:
I got a rattlesnake in me.
No more to be poked with sticks,
no more to meet the edge of the shovel.
I got her skin in me.
I got a rattlesnake in me.
Just like tall grass, calm rivers,
and fields of wildflowers
beneath this friendly front porch,
(watch where you step.)
It was never your fault. It was not how you dressed, not your fault you developed full breasts and savage hips at a young age, or that your Uncle said, “look at that swing,” as you walked in front of him, age 8. Dear Body, it is not your fault that wearing a skirt puts you in jeopardy, the brown of your skin puts you in the minds of others who call you exotic, easy. Or because I believed them, I spread my dear legs. Dear Legs, I know you wanted to run. Dear Heart, forgive me for trying to fool you. And Body forgives me as we forgive Disney for Pocahontas, as we forgive whomever perverted the word squaw, invented the ridiculous buckskin mini dress that appears on a tanned body in every single John Wayne western. Dear John Wayne, I forgive you for hating horses, but not for using fake Indians to manifest your big screen destiny; for using Indians to make cowboys and killing iconic, heroic. But I forgive myself for the time when I was twelve and saw your swagger and thought you were a real man. Dear Real Men, I am thinking about what real means, particularly to my body, specifically my blood, wherein lies the DNA of generations of Native women, who address you, who charge you with an explanation for the scars of your scalpels and slurs. If real equals right and right equals powerful, then I address you. I am talking to you policy makers. I am talking to you George HW Bush. I am pointing my finger at your chest, your dear body, which suggested a bill to congress, passed by Richard Nixon, that allowed doctors to remove the uterus, ovaries, womb, and ability for Native American women to reproduce. Our population fell by 75%. I am talking to you and to the America that allowed it. Dear America, I forgive you because, Dear America, we are still here. Still fighting for rights to our bodies for our mothers, our daughters, our sisters. Dear Sisters. Dear Uterus, Dear Womb, Dear legs and hair, and eyes, and breast, and glorious brown skin, and luck of being born Native to a naïve America, the cuts were deep but not fatal. We are still here. Still dear. Dear Body, dear Bodies, dear dear Bodies.
Did I mention the snow? This time
of year it can fall for days. Piling up
on the roof, the forsaken
lawn furniture, the young fawns
in the meadow, on everything
that must make a stand:
white weight on the limbs
of pine, of aspen, looking like little brown
girls in tawny dresses with leggings
beneath, feet deep as roots. This year
the temperatures fall well below
zero, and even the skin of the aspen
freezes. Brown limbs, white
limbs, strip sometimes from their spiraled
bodies, fall into the drifts, forgotten
even when the season recedes, forgotten
until another stand is made, another rising, another
corpse of brown limbs feels the white
weight and fights once again to survive.
LAND ACKNOWLEDGMENT, VALLEY COUNTY, IDAHO
Let us pause for a moment and acknowledge the land on which we live. This is the traditional land of the Nimiipuu and the Tukadeka. Let us take another moment to acknowledge the ways they have been trying to remove them from the land they stewarded for over 16,000 years: Swiftly. Brutally. Culturally. Fatally. Let us acknowledge that soldiers for the United States killed Native women and children. Let us acknowledge that this wasn’t that long ago. Let us acknowledge the Native people buried in their land without markers while unnamed settlers rest in fenced graves. Let us acknowledge Indian graves dug up and looted. Let us acknowledge that place names on maps like Squaw and Dead Indian do honor ancestors. Let us take a moment and acknowledge that this land was not stolen from the people whose language, culture, and religion was born of it; let us acknowledge that the people were stolen from this land. The people who celebrated this land with song, dance, ceremony, people who did not commodify and commercialize trees and water or call it resource. Here we pause to acknowledge that the land itself is rarely acknowledged. The land buried beneath asphalt, concrete, floorboards, and foundations. Let us acknowledge this land that grew food and medicine now grows dollar stores and subdivisions. Let us acknowledge the land in the way subdividers do, with the blade of the bulldozer and with names like Forest Trails, Aspen Ridge, River Ranch, with words, the way the Government recognizes Federally recognized tribes and has taught some Natives to recognize others only on paper through blood quantum and papered descendancy instead of commitment to rights and sovereignty. In memoriam. Let us acknowledge Land Acknowledgments that serve as consolation, another box checked on a list titled Due Diligences. The way wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt acknowledges white wokeness, of whites spending money at a white lives businesses; acknowledgment as performative allyship. Let us acknowledge that internment camps were prisons. This Land Acknowledgement was written for the people who acknowledge land in the way spotted knapweed acknowledges it, the way a For Sale sign acknowledges it, the way the Forest Service acknowledges land by stating #itsallyours but meaning #itsnottheirs. This statement acknowledges the land in the same way the media and FBI acknowledge the over 2000 missing Native women and girls–by recognizing the one missing white woman for whom massive searches are conducted and whose picture is present on all our screens, the way Native faces are used on screens to sell a product. This Land Acknowledgment is printed on the heartwood of a pine tree that escaped the fires but fell for the mill from a land that cannot help but acknowledge climate crisis and carrying capacities, the grizzly bear fatally removed, and the salmon who can no longer reach their original homelands. This land acknowledges the wolves shot by stockman and sportsman to preserve the animals they will thenceforth kill in the name of animal husbandry. Let us acknowledge how we honor loss with dollars and not grief. Let us make depredation a science and pay officers from the bank of conservation. Let us acknowledge the words used to disassociate kill/er/ing/ed from the actual act of killing. This land acknowledges that it is recognized for its monetary value, recreational value, and aesthetic value. Because it too is living, this land recognizes us by our carbon footprint, our clear-cuts, our gold mines, and our greed. This acknowledges that Land Back means languages back, means medicine back, means ceremony back, means culture back, means reparations. Means all people depend on the land. Let us acknowledge that unless action is taken to identify and empower Indigenous people, remove inaccurate history from school curriculums, and carry out land-based justice and climate change policy, a land acknowledgment is a perfunctory, alienating, and otherwise empty gesture. Acknowledgment means acceptance, admittance; acknowledgment is a dead word, is not a verb, is not action, does mean education. Acknowledgment means too late for an apology. Read me your Declaration of Change, details of your Plan of Procedure. Show me your Map to Equality. In the end, only actions can separate acknowledgment from elegy.
FOR THE GOOD OF A PEOPLE
they made the first cut
to the cervix, though the knife enters
through her abdomen, legs spread and naked
steel table, experimental procedure, kill the womb and
save the tax payers from one little two little three little
children, whose never to be
mother is told her poverty is to blame for the ________
that lay beside her in a cold pan. “We’ll stitch you up
with gov’t pens that write scars across your parchment belly
demarcations of land split open like so much tilled soil—
doesn’t she look life like! Land O’ Lakes! Pocahontas
put your dress back on and dance, dance for us
empty uterus jingling against sad ribs. And where are your men?
Bring us the tall pine, our knives want to know him, too!
A cigar for the baby not born, tomahawk chop to the
vascular river of life, oh Kaw Liga you poor old wooden
head, redskin, warrior, don’t you know this is how we honor you!”
Tanned skins drape over bones of men drawn to look
like the billboard of tears that ran down that faux face. Oh
Wahoo can you forgive us our sins as we try and try and
to prosper in this culture of consumerism where even our bodies
are laid on tables like so much red meat and in the arms
where mothers held ghost babies to dry breast will you lay
one more time and suckle as we rock you to sleep with our death song?
CMarie’s conversation with Douglas Cole
What inspired you to start writing poetry?
I always thought I was going to write fiction. Then I took a poetry workshop and I was hooked. Poetry allowed me a voice that I couldn’t access in everyday conversation nor in nonfiction. It also taught me concision and how to make every word matter… and music. Always music. Poetry in its most binding is also the most freeing, which is hard to explain. Oh, and I never wrote any fiction!
Which poets have influenced you? And what did you learn about the process and the forms of poetry from the poets you love?
A lovely but difficult question. I have to say that a love of music was my first influence. Bird song, water. Music, in poetry, is everything to me. But also, singer-songwriters such as Lyle Lovett, Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, Nanci Griffith, Eminem, and numerous others, many of which studied poetry as well. Linda Hogan’s poetry has taught me so much about singing with nature and being an advocate for wild places, Alexandra Teague is a fine poet and a fine teacher and both have been important to my growth, Ada Limón taught me to be muscular with truth and many of the poems in this group were influenced by her bravery and that of Etheridge Knight and Lucille Clifton. Closer to home it is Robert Wrigley. His poems speak to my own experiences and reading Wrigley has taught me so much about how to write a poem–his book Nemerov’s Door now sits with Hugo’s Triggering Town as books that I teach every graduate student in my classes.
What would you say is the poet’s place in the world today?
I love this question because I get to answer it so often for our Poetry Program at Western. It is easy to say that the poet’s place is everywhere. Because it is. Poets are translators, they help us to understand, to feel, to not feel so alone. They are the bridge between thinking and meaning, between seeing something and deeply feeling what we see. When something divides us, whether it is a wall, a language, a pandemic, or merely time, poetry brings us back together with a glue made from the beauty, fear, love, anger, worry, pain, the joy that we all carry, that we all share. The poet’s place in the world today is at every corner we fear turning, in every mirror we glance, beside us in a hospital bed, along a wilderness trail, or at a Presidential Inauguration. In light and dark times, it is the poet we have trusted to help us see, to help us feel. We need poets just as we need language, as we need hope, as we need maps to find our way, ourselves, and back to one another.
CMARIE FUHRMAN is the author of Camped Beneath the Dam: Poems (Floodgate 2020) and co-editor of Native Voices: Indigenous Poetry, Craft, and Conversations (Tupelo 2019). She has published or forthcoming poetry and nonfiction in multiple journals, including Emergence Magazine, Platform Review, Yellow Medicine Review,Poetry Northwest, and several anthologies. CMarie is a regular columnist for the Inlander, Translations Editor for Broadsided Press, and Editor of High Desert Journal. CMarie is the Director of the Elk River Writers Workshop and Director of Poetry at Western Colorado University, where she also teaches Nature Writing. She is the current Idaho Writer in Residence. She resides in the mountains of West Central Idaho with her partner Caleb and their dogs Carhartt and Cisco. Her website.
Blue Citadel is a column by Douglas Cole (Washington, USA). Novelist, poet, professor and translator.