by Linda Wisniewski
Our busload of senior citizens came to a stop on a dirt road in New Mexico, unsure of what to expect. After the balloon fiesta in Albuquerque, and a couple of days in Santa Fe, we were bound for lunch in Tesuque pueblo, at the home of Louie Pena, a Native American conservationist and river guide.
One of New Mexico’s smallest pueblos, with a population of about 400, Tesuque has been in its present location in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains for over 800 years. Louie would meet us in the road, because the bus was too big to travel down his street. No photos were permitted, a tribal decision. We would see the place framed only by our preconceptions, and I knew I had a few of those.
My Polish grandparents came to North America in the 1890s, welcomed for their labor if not for their ethnicity. They were, in fact, recruited to work in rug, broom and glove factories. Louie’s people have been here much longer. We stood on what is left of their land, most of it taken from them by white settlers before my own people arrived. An oblivious little white girl, I watched Tonto and the Lone Ranger on a black and white TV. I didn’t learn about the genocide of Native peoples – not at school, at home, at church, or in the news. Not anywhere. But I know about it now. History is being rewritten to include the uncomfortable truth, and I knew it as I stood on that dirt road in Tesuque, squarely between an ancient unfamiliar culture and the dominant one I know so well.
Standing tall in the bright October sunshine, Louie described the traditional feast his wife had prepared, then led us down a path through a small field. We walked over a dry ditch on a makeshift bridge of boards, passing an old TV tube and other unrecognizable-to-me appliance parts in the weeds. The neighborhood lacked the type of landscaping my friends and I spend bundles of money on each spring and fall. We passed no ornamental plants in pots, no hanging baskets on porches. Dogs who might be German shepherds sniffed our legs and hands, tails wagging. No leashes, no barking. Though people give them names, Louie said, and feed and pet them, they stay outside. We filed past a trampoline and a toddler’s plastic riding toy in the yard, and Louie joked the toys were “not for me, for my grandkids.”
Native art adorned the walls inside his home – baskets, paintings, rattles and feathers - and Native objects – dolls, pots, and dishes - filled a glass curio cabinet in a corner near the TV. Louie said he liked to watch the Boston Red Sox, and we all relaxed a little.
An enormous bear head looked down from the living room wall. Louie told us how he killed that bear as it stalked the village when he was only 14, while we devoured forkfuls of shredded chicken, potato salad and a hot corn dish I wish I had the recipe for. As he talked, his wife Serena served the food with quiet grace. Two of her thirteen grandchildren, a boy and a girl, moved expertly and quietly around the large open kitchen, emptying pots and filling serving bowls.
We sat on picnic benches in rapt attention as Louie passed around jars of dried herbs, his medicine. He talked about his classes in sustainable living, encouraging us to love our “Earth Mom.” I’ve forgotten most of what he said, but I remember the sense of comfort he and his family created. I didn’t want to leave.
Before meeting Louie’s family, I believed indigenous Americans lived sad and poor lives, confined to reservations. I thought they were mostly alcoholic, starving, and ineffective protestors against oil and gas pipelines. But in the pueblo, I saw self-confident people promoting a healthy future while teaching their children to have pride in their culture. Louie and his family take tourists on Feast and Float rafting trips, teaching about ecology and serving natural Native foods. I thought of them later as I made my own soup and sorted laundry at home, doing the little things that make up my comfortable life.
I live as an elder Anglo woman in an increasingly diverse country, and I am determined to stay awake and aware. I want to know more. On the internet, I read about the tension between the Natives and Anglos over a plan to build a casino near the Santa Fe Opera, and about Indians charging access fees to Anglo people with homes on Native land. I read about the protests at the Santa Fe Plaza where I posed for a photo, and where the Spanish conquest of the Indians is celebrated every year.
Louie and all the tribal people we met in New Mexico called themselves Indians, but I wanted to distance myself from the Cowboys and Indians ethos of my youth, when we thought we knew who the bad guys were: not us. I continued to use the term I believed to be politically correct: Native Americans.
Back home, I discovered that the U.S. government coined the term in the late 20th century and that 50% of tribal people in the American West call themselves Indians. Many prefer the name of their particular tribe: Pueblo, Navaho, Ute, Zuni, Apache, Comanche. Louie Pena is Tewa.
Like many others, I often feel compelled to form a strong opinion about matters I don’t fully understand. I don’t know how Louie and his family feel about the protests or the casinos or the access fees. Or why they don’t care about landscaping their neighborhood. I don’t know how much I have assumed about them. I only know my visit to Tesuque changed my perception of tribal peoples and reminded me, at my advanced age, to listen and learn and prepare to be surprised. Now to sign up for that rafting trip…
Linda C. Wisniewski lives and writes in Bucks County, PA, where she volunteers at the historic home of author Pearl S. Buck. Her work has been published in newspapers, literary magazines and anthologies, both print and online. Her memoir, Off Kilter, has been published by Pearlsong Press. Linda's first novel, Where the Stork Flies, is forthcoming from Sand Hill Review Press. Visit her blog at www.lindawis.com.
by Carla Durbach
there are claws shredding through silk as you
tiptoe into the dark, cringing in whispers of
daylight, walking on razor blades and shards
of glass, when all you want is to pull the trigger
and I bet that when he put that ring on your finger
you shuddered to think of retreat, lay down in ritual
urgency of mangled lines with bones digging
and just nodded your head
Carla 's research has been published in psychology journals but she is tentatively branching out into the world of poetry after an absence of many years.
by Susanna Saracco
Here she is
The person you have known
Here she is
The person who believed
Here she is
The person who was faithful
Here she is
The emotional person
Here she is
The person who flew
Here she is
The person who wakes up at dawn smiling
Here she is
The generous person
Here she is
The person who believes
Here she is
She sits alone in the train
She is choosing a gift for herself
Now she sees
Susanna Saracco got an MA in ancient philosophy from the University of Turin, Italy. She studied in Vancouver, Canada and got a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Sydney, Australia. As an academic author she has published the book Plato and Intellectual Development: A New Theoretical Framework Emphasising the Higher-Order Pedagogy of the Platonic Dialogues, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017 and several articles. This is her first work in poetry.
by Bradley Bazzle
Recently I was in Oxford for four months, living in an apartment without internet access. Living in Oxford was interesting, but living without home internet was perhaps even more interesting. Many of the effects were positive. Not being bombarded by the news, for instance, helped me concentrate on my writing. And the absence of social media helped me pretend I wasn’t missing out on anything. Other effects were less predictable, however.
After about two months, I realized I hadn’t listened to music—I mean deliberately listened to it, as opposed to heardit in a grocery store or wherever—since leaving home. And on the few occasions I did listen to music, I was powerfully affected by it. One afternoon, while trying to work at an empty bar called the Jericho Tavern, I found myself unduly distracted by the music they were playing, and then, after listening closely, a little moved by it. And this wasn’t music I would have listened to on purpose, like the Pointer Sisters. The singer sounded more like the UK version of Jason Mraz, only with electronic beeps and whirrs that I supposed had become de rigueurin the two months since I listened to music.
Another side-effect of living without music was that songs never got stuck in my head. Before, I would get songs stuck in my head for days, even weeks. Onetime I had “Neutron Dance” by the Pointer Sisters stuck in my head for over a month. The song colors my memory of that entire period of my life, which included a breakup and its grizzly aftermath. It started (the “Neutron Dance” period, I mean) because I was listening to the song on Youtube deliberately, though it’s hard to imagine that now. I believed it was an among the greatest songs ever recorded, even better than “He’s So Shy.” How wrong I was. By the end, I would have paid hundreds of dollars to replace it in my head with “He’s So Shy” or even “Betcha Got a Chick on the Side.”
Another interesting thing about Oxford is that people there aren’t into the Pointer Sisters. One evening, while I was trying to make friends at the same bar, a well-dressed man sat down on the barstool next to mine. He was older than I, which was unusual in that neighborhood. After a polite interval, he asked what I was thinking about.
“Pardon?” I said.
“You look pensive,” he said.
“Well, honestly, I’m listening closely to the music.” I explained my situation: how I was living without the internet and found myself affected more powerfully by music for that reason, even music I didn’t particularly like.
“What music do you like?” he asked.
“The Pointer Sisters,” I said.
He smiled, which in retrospect I interpret as surprise—he probably hadn’t thought about the Pointer Sisters since their peak in 1984 with “Automatic” and “Jump (for My Love)”—but at the time I took the smile to mean that he too liked the Pointer Sisters. So I asked him who was his favorite Pointer Sister, and what did he think of The Pointer Sisters Live in Billings? Live in Billingswas the first album to feature Issa, who was, as Ruth’s daughter, the first second-generation Pointer Sister and not actually a sister. Later, Sadako, a third-generation Pointer Sister, would be added to the lineup. I was explaining all this when I saw that the man’s eyes had wandered. In desperation, I began to offer the names of other bands, hoping to re-spark his interest.
“Do you like Sister Sledge?” I asked. “What about Chic? DeBarge? The Staple Singers?”
But the man was gone.
For a time—before getting perspective, months later, by writing this—I thought the man had detected the inauthenticity with which I offered those other names and been repulsed by it, or at least had thought me a low character who would say anything to prop up conversation. Sister Sledge was great, don’t get me wrong, but they didn’t write their own music and were hemmed in by their tiresome “nice girl” act. The Pointer Sisters weren’tnice girls. Really, they weren’t even girls. Ruth was thirty-two when their breakout single, a cover of the Bruce Springsteen song “Fire,” hit the charts in 1978. Ten years later, in their classic rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” for the Very Special Christmas charity album, all three sisters sound a few egg nogs deep into their evening. One always gets the sense from the Sisters, even during their most insouciant songs like “Slow Hand,” that their soulful voices and not-so-young bodies have history. The Pointer Sisters are women. Confident women. And if the English don’t understand that, what can I say?
That my own favorite sister is June, may she rest in peace, should come as no surprise. One of the joys of the Pointer Sisters is that there’s a Sister for everyone. Yes, it was Ruth who sang their best songs, in that deep sultry voice of hers, and who of course donned their most iconic outfit, the fabulous oversized white skirt-suit from the “Automatic” video. And it was Anita, the prettiest, who sang their early hits and penned their first, the country song (!) “Fairytale.” But it was skinny, seemingly carefree June who won my heart: “That sweet little boy who caught my eye—he’s so shy!”
For some, knowing that June’s bubbly exterior disguised addiction, even anguish, adds a tinge of sadness to her exuberant singing. Not for me. When I hear June today I sense more than ever that she sings to me directly, and from an abyss even lonelier than any I can imagine.
Bradley Bazzle’s first novel, Trash Mountain, won the Red Hen Press Fiction Award, judged by Steve Almond. His short stories can be found in The Missouri Review, The Iowa Review, New England Review, Epoch, Third Coast, Web Conjunctions, Bad Penny Review (as Dirk Morgus), and online at bradleybazzle.com. He lives in Athens, Georgia, with his wife and daughter.
by Kahelia Smellie
How many more times shall black bodies be laid out side by side?
Like human cargo on incoming ships?
How many more coloured tears shall fall
To baptize the pain of fallen men?
Do you want lifeless bodies filling the earth for future flowers to pick?
Death reserved for a few in a society when all should be equal
Ships carrying black bodies
Whips cracking aching to caress glistening skin
Trees rooted bear strange fruit hanging from the popular trees
Guns target practice for men unarmed.
Dear God America:
How many times shall a little black girl cry?
Weeping for the death of her father
Angry for the death of her brother
Worried that she too will cry for her unborn child
Steeped in pain and grief of skin that will never change.
How many cigarettes is worth a black life?
1? 2? 5? Or even 10?
How many cd's is worth a bullet to the head?
Shall I raise hands in defense when I know I will be dead?
Dear God America:
Equal rights for all in your constitution
Men have the right to bear arms
But slaves still picked in cotton fields when the ink dried
And only privileged whites can carry concealed to protect.
Dear God America:
When will this end?
I would able to send my son down the street for skittles with his hoodie on?
Will he come back into the safety of my arms?
Will I able to hold the hands with my white brothers and sisters?
Break meal together
Live, laugh and love
To sing joyously in the sun as I dance to the freedom which I have been given?
Maybe it won't happen in my lifetime or years to come
Maybe many will have to die for freedom to pass
But as I sit here and look through my window
Two children play on blood pavements
One white and one black
Laugh joyously for hope tomorrow.
Kahelia Smellie is a recent a undergraduate from Barry University where she was awarded an Honorable Mention in Poetry by the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society of May 2017 and a Category Honorable Mention for Best Writing Single Feature Story- "Barry Students from Shit*hole Countries" by the 2019 Catholic Press Association. She has also received several other awards either based on academic performance or as a Staff Writer at the Barry University's newspaper The Buccaneer. In her downtime she spends her free time on sipping glasses of wine enjoying either the company of girlfriends or sinking into juicy novel.
by Catina Noble
The courage I started with on the journey
has nearly been exhausted and the mental
Stamina I pulled out of my suitcase
on day one, exhaled and suffocating.
Close to collapsing, but can’t let anyone
see or else they will pull me, off the trail,
I never asked before and so I hold my
breath and scribble a few words on a postcard.
Asking for guidance – not sure I could
continue and left the message under a rock-
Next twenty-four hours challenged me but
I believed in you and somehow two days later
Santiago wrapped it’s arms around me,
I wept with joy inside and out-Elle.
Catina Noble is a Canadian resident. Her poetry and prose have been published in a variety of places including, Canadian Newcomer Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, YTravel Blog, Bywords, In/Words, Steel Chisel, Jam Jar Words, Woman's World Magazine, The Prairie Journal and many others. She currently has one book of poetry out and six novels. Learn more at http://catinanoble.wordpress.com.