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Would you believe me

If I told you

The song playing in the other room

Just faint enough to be imperceptible

Will color your entire day

That it’s set your head askew

It’s an overlay

The weather in the novel you’re reading

Is an outward projection

Of the main character’s inner turmoil

The howling wind

The driving rain

The rainbow that sometimes follows

Your subconscious will hum that song

As your own weather system moves in

An unwitting participant

An actor following stage directions

Every night the play is slightly different

Every day a different song plays

In the other room

Just out of earshot

Each day, unaware you hum these tunes

An ear worm

It burrows into the minds around you

They begin to weather parallel storms

Manifestation

Virus

Synaptic transference

Daisy chain

Bucket brigade

The buckets are filled with tears

Of joy

Of sorrow

Of acceptance

They taste like the song

If you want to be the change

Get up and go to that other room

Change the station

To a song that stokes your flame

Of hope

Of empathy

Of love

No amount of buckets could douse

Then go about your day

Humming

Until the whole world resonates with you

Until the ripples reach the darkest corners

Change the station and change the world

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A River Runs Through It

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I always declare on forms that I’m American Indian or Alaskan Native

Now I realize, better than others, that I’m only half Mohawk. Only.

I don’t know if I do this to increase my chances of getting hired or to warn

I know I don’t look like your stereotypical idea of what an “Indian” should look like

This white guy you see, who can hold a tan through winter, is accessible with his wavy hair

The collector of the forms gets the best of both worlds…white-looking and diversity

A straight of the Rez, long-haired, stoic, traditional Native told me I was an apple

I am a product of the government’s relocation policy. Get them off the Rez.

That’ll assimilate them

So I don’t speak Mohawk, just as my mother doesn’t, but my grandparents did

No ceremony to get a traditional name, like most of my cousins have

I’ve never been to a sweat-lodge

So his remark was meant to hurt me. There are layers. On the surface it stung

It stung because I thought we were friends. So why would he intentionally hurt me?

I knew I didn’t choose where I was borne…off the reservation. Not my fault

However, I was in my mid-twenties, so I could’ve regained what was never given to me. I could’ve returned home again

But remember…the camera might add weight, but the mirror doesn’t lie

Try to fit in

Next layer…I’m ecstatic that he thinks I even look Native, as being an apple implies

I always wished I looked more Native

He tells me a couple weeks later that the guy behind the counter at the campus gym was racist towards him

He called him, “Chief.”  He looked at him with disgust. Told him there are townie gyms he would be better off at and told him TO MAKE SURE he wiped his sweat off the machines

Did this make me feel better that I pass as Caucasian? That I somehow dodged a bullet?  No.

I was a rage filled apple. I wanted to cave this ignorant lunk’s head in with a dumbbell

I was his brother, even if he didn’t think so

You see, generational pain exists in your DNA, right down to your marrow

These sublimated rivers of tears, that hollow out the ground beneath us, thrum beneath our feet

Like elephants and house pets, we feel the earthquake coming days in advance

The caverns created beneath us are filled with the stalactites and stalagmites made of our ancestor’s calcium. They’re bones.

Every step is precarious if the ground is hollow beneath you. For native Americans all ground is hollowed and hallowed

I look at my son and wonder if I should raise him to check that box, or not

Only a quarter. Try to fit in. Only.

Step carefully my son.

 

No weight

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Give no weight to these words

They are the mumblings of a madman 

I scribbled them on the padded walls of my mind

Ink drawn from the heart’s-well with pointy nail clippings 

Instead, lay your faith in that first sip of morning’s coffee

In the peals of young children’s laughter 

In how your fingertips feel at home in the small of your lover’s back

Find your home with outstretched arms digging fingers in three knuckles deep

So a hurricane couldn’t shake you loose 

I’ll be tossed about by the whimsy of your smile and faded memories 

Smirk at my chaos if it makes you feel better 

Find truth in your realism and folly in my Impressionism 

You can Rockwell while I melt into Dali-ance

Find comfort in repetition 

Find comfort in repetition 

Find comfort in repetition 

I’ll ride the adrenaline roller coaster of fractal chaos

You’ll never really feel quite as alive 

As when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from

The food tastes better and your kisses sweeter 

When each time felt as though it could’ve been the last

But here we are

You in your well worn path

My mind a wandering nomad…a vagabond 

Things seem so much simpler to you

So give no weight…to these words

Like me

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Are you like me?

Never really sure just how others take you

Do they really like you or just tolerate you?

When they laugh at your jokes

Are they being courteous or sincere?

Are you like me?

Giving those you meet the benefit of the doubt 

Assigning a whole backstory to why they did what they did

Justification for treating you shabbily 

Are you like me?

You dutifully take in the sorrows of others

Everyone’s therapist they can vent on

But can’t open up yourself

Either for fear the floodgate will never close 

Or being thought of as weak

Or facing your own frailty 

Are you like me?

Do you come undone?

At the thought of the pain and sorrow 

That is being endured in the world

At any given moment

Are you like me?

Despite your emotional connection to the world

You’d rather stay home and read or watch a good movie

Despite your interest in the human condition

You’re trying desperately to be a zen master 

Finally shutting up that interior monologue 

Am I like you?

Do you like you?

Do I like me?

Are you like me?

Fragments

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At the intersection

Of memory and dream

Of actual and fabricated 

I remember being very young

In my childhood home 

The wind whipping outside

The storm door slamming

The glass cracking 

Another moment I’m walking

Down the alleyway and slipping around 

I don’t know if I was told of the incident 

Before or after the memory’s birth

So at some level I doubt it’s authenticity 

My grandfather had beaten up my uncle 

Leaving blood on the ground

That my little feet lost traction in

I remember the old variety shows 

That inspired me to tap dance

In my grandpas work boots 

On the wood floor of the back hallway 

Or was that fashioned from stories?

I remember being on a car ride 

Going up north to the reservation 

The driver let go of the wheel

Enough play the wheel wobbled to and fro 

In my young mind it spun untethered 

My little world spinning with it

This blurring 

These dark waters

They take on the shape of their containers 

But are impossible to see through 

They are still a part of my sum

And they affect me in ways

Both that I’m aware and unaware of

But I am a survivor 

I build castles out of these sands

That so readily slip through my fingers

Unless wetted with tears of silent knowing

While I know some of these memories

Are fashioned to erode at my foundations 

There are others that give support

I’m sure there’s a long forgotten song

Whose lyrics have faded into pasts’ patina 

But the outlines of the sound wave 

Of the singer’s guttural scream

The lamentation that speaks of my sorrow 

That props me up

To take on another trying moment

Thank you Joplin, Holiday, Morissette

Thank you grandma, mother, aunts 

Thank you my lovely wife

Thank you for your songs

I stand another day because of you 

Symbiosis

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She strips me bare

My soft belly exposed 

Vulnerable 

This is where trust grows

From bud to bloom

Venerable

She straddles me

Maintaining deepest eye contact 

Inseparable 

She howls with her mother’s tongue 

I am immersed in matrilineal sorrow 

Utterable 

Crimson nails dance along my sternum

With speed and precision I’m splayed 

Sufferable

The cracking of ribs reverberates

Parts never meant to see light, exposed 

Discoverable 

And now she is inside of me

Her hands cradling my beating heart 

Containable 

She whispers in my ear her pain’s origin

Darkest demons vomited from soul’s well

Considerable 

I am drowning in her depths

The deeper, the colder, until heart freezes

Irrecoverable 

I begin to ebb beneath her…diminishing 

Her hands suddenly massaging my heart

Incomparable 

Resurrected by her touch

The fragility of my life in her hands

Amissible 

Speak your truth and purge your pain

I’m here as long as you hold my heart

Paradisiacal 

The grass

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I have been to the battlefield

And I am forever altered

I’ve witnessed boys trying desperately 

To prove themselves as men

The war-cries of youth long died out

In the early morning stillness 

I’ve stepped among the bodies

Lying in twisted heaps

The landscape a horrific tableau 

The marginalized finally finding comfort

Here, this band of misfits, this motley crew

They knew without doubt

They had each other’s backs

Where life had taught them 

They couldn’t count on anyone 

That they’d never get a fair shake 

That they’d always be sized up

Lumped in with the stereotypes

A two dimensional symbol

Less than human

I was four, going on forty

And even then I sensed the sadness

That seeped from their pores

Along with last night’s alcohol

These purebred warriors

With perpetually tanned skin

And arrow straight, jet black hair

And me, a halfbreed

Fair skin and curly, brown hair

I wanted to be them

But I only inherited their sense of sadness 

And of not truly belonging anywhere

An outlier amongst the marginalized 

If I wasn’t stuck up on this fence 

I’d show you the grass is the same 

On both sides…

Bloodstained

The Elephant

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     Try to think of something else

     Easier said

     Spiral slide at hand

The sun! The glorious sun!

Stand at the window’s warmth

     There are those that—

     STOP IT

     —are kept in base—

     I SAID STOP

Go for a walk and count the steps

Touch the street signs in passing

Talk about the weather with a stranger

     How many people can’t—

     KNOCK IT OFF

     The flashlight can’t reach the bottom

     The spiral slide is too deep

     IGNORE IT

Do a pencil sketch of a tree

The leaves are backlit stained glass

In mother nature’s cathedral 

There is hope in a child’s laughter

     The color red and purple’s blossom

     Tear trails on dirty faces

     The door is too far for her

     FOCUS ON LIGHT

Roof over head

Food in belly

Decent paying job

Family that loves—

     Not all families love

     Refrigerator box

     Days without a meal

     Dead end jobs

     YOU CAN’T HELP EVERYONE 

Watch a two hour movie

Entertain guests

Read a book

Write a poem…

Penny wise…pound foolish

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Imagine..if you will

A razor sharp melon baller 

Glowing white with heat

And you scoop a perfect little ball

From the inside of your thigh

The wound cauterized instantly

The smell of bacon permeating the air

The admin, at your place of work

Holds the jar’s lid open for you to deposit 

That perfect little ball-of-you

The price you pay for your paycheck 

But you continue on

Filling your tech pocket

With an iPhone X

Wrist covered in a 2nd gen iPhone watch

All so you look less like a golf ball 

And more like, well…everyone else

Now we could certainly discuss

The scoop value of your gaming PC

The loss of blood was so great

Getting that goddamn Lexus 

You had to pay in installments 

But we give of ourselves in many ways 

When your partner drags you out

To the company clambake 

And you’d rather just read a book

The decision to compromise 

Is certainly worth a scoop

Don’t you think?

The day you threw away 

That copy of US News and World Report’s

Ranking of the best colleges 

Your fingers worn smooth

Running across Iowa’s Writers Workshop 

So you could sign mortgage documents 

Sliding five little you-spheres

(The first of many)

Across the mahogany desk

The banker immediately fashions into

One of those kinetic desk sculptures 

He pulls two orbs-o’-you back

They swing, hitting with a soft

Wet

Sound

But the middle ovoid sits still

The fourth and fifth spheroids 

Taking up the trajectory 

You suddenly realize

That all these times

You’d given up

Parts of you

You’d given up

Mass and subsequently 

Force and inertia

Soon there’ll be

No more

Pushing

Back

At

All

Show me

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Make me forget

For even just a second

That I’m going to die alone

Make me want nothing more

Than to wipe away your tears

Forgetting my own

Knowing our sorrow’s tributaries 

Share the same source

Jagged disappointments smoothed

By years of melancholy currents

Our very roots penetrating 

Dense, ancestral, red clay 

Laden with heart’s blood

Distract me

From the need to crawl 

Into some dark, unknown corner

Surrendering myself to the stillness 

Show me that our words

Even the desiccated ones

Are tumbleweeds

Rolling across lost landscapes

Leaving seeds of inspiration 

Show me that today’s atrophy

Is overridden by tomorrow’s triumphs 

That your faith in me

Was warranted

That love

Was not wasted

That stillness

Is irrevocable 

That light can penetrate

The deepest of darknesses

Show me…