Online Writings by Anita Endrezze
[The following online writings are taken from Storytellers: Native American Authors Online at Hanksville. Click here to visit Endrezze's page on this site devoted to Native American Storytelling. Specific URLS for each work are included beneath the titles.]
Song for Our Times
I'm the dark water salmon, leaping
from the red-fleshed net of ancient dreams.
I'm the spotted trout,
the spaces between falling water.
I'm the oily beach, the ragged wing of gull and tern,
the dead eye of the river.
I'm the stinking rain in your palm.
I'm the rough-barked tamarack,
the long-leafed willow.
I'm the animal without a face.
I'm the deep-shadowed bear,
the windy-haired child.
I'm the crooked bones with eyes.
I'm the bandy-legged woman
with the third world hunger in your city.
I'm the tall, loose-limbed woman,
I'm the heron with tasseled reeds for bones.
I'm the mud-red salamander,
the small bird of the moon.
I'm the one living under the bridge
of your fairy tale. I'm the warty frog of your tongue.
I'm the gray air of your love songs.
I'm the pitted-skin man at the end of the smokestack.
I'm the hill-breasted woman.
I'm the whitetail deer with a song of cedar
curdled by the parasites in my throat.
I'm the snake that rides wild horses.
I'm the hot-scented fox, the girl with blue sky
charms on her wrist and sunflowers in her hair.
I'm the baby sleeping under the mountain ash.
I'm the hunter polishing his gun,
the boy dancing in his baggy pants and semi-shaved head.
I'm the porcupine your mother warned you about,
the one with switchblade smiles and orange teeth.
I'm the bad-assed coyote sniffing at your sister.
I'm the wild butterflies in your lover's hands.
I'm the salmon he brings to you as a gift.
I'm the basket of sun she gives you one rainy day.
I'm the gangly bachelor button thriving in the ditch,
the summer ending like a long sleep in a slow swinging hammock.
I'm the land that was created from mud and put on turtle's back,
that fell from the sky, that was thrust from the roots,
that was the heart of an Indian. I'm the song
that will never be finished.
Jesus as hopul Woki (Folded Feet)
Jesus was a Yaqui. He walked from rancheria to rancheria, in the four directions. He wore sandals made out of plant fibers and a straw hat. He crossed the rivers, wading up to his knees in water, and traveled through deserts of thorn bushes and snakes. He was a curer, and possessed seataka, a flower body, that is, one full of spirit power. It is a gift given in the womb.
One day, Jesus was walking with San Pedro. It was time to eat, but
they had no food. Soon, however, they saw a house and Jesus sent San Pedro there to get
something to eat. When San Pedro returned, he was gnawing on a chicken leg.
"Why does this chicken have only one leg?" Jesus asked his follower.
"Oh," replied San Pedro, "all the chickens in this part of the country have just one leg."
He pointed to a tree in the yard where many chickens were sleeping, standing on one leg, with the other folded up under their feathers.
"Look! Just as I told you," said San Pedro.
Jesus picked up a rock and threw it. When it hit a chicken, the bird squawked, then stood on both feet.
"Oh!" cried San Pedro, "a miracle!"
Then he smiled and taking up several small stones, he threw them at the flock.
"See," said San Pedro, "I can perform miracles too!"
They say that the first Spanish priests came, carrying a cross and
the Yaquis approved since they already believed in the importance of the four directions.
The cross is referred to as Itom Ae Santisima Cruz, or Our Mother Most Holy Cross, but the cross is not female. It is male and wears a robe with rosary, which is made of rolled and dried rose petals.
When Jesus was killed, his blood became red roses, flowers that fell to the earth. When Jesus died, the angels took off their crowns. When he died, he was nailed to the cross he had made himself and his feet were folded over.
(an old story retold in Throwing Fire at the Sun, Water at the Moon, a work in progress. Copyright © 1997 Anita Endrezze)
We Came This Way
"I often questioned those people of Sinaloa, especially the oldest and most understanding of the men, and whence they came, and in what period they had populated these lands . . . they passed this way from the continent of Asia, by way of the north, or across a narrow arm of sea, which until now, has not been discovered."
from : Triumph of Our Holy Faith among the Most Wild and Barbarous Nations, by Father Andres Perez de Ribas, 1617, [well before Bering found the strait named after him.]
We came this way
we came this way
which has not yet been discovered this way
by a Dane across a narrow arm of mast or sea
this way we came
our skin is red-orange from the sun & wild mulberry juice
is mysterious, scattered with ice-colored clouds of cottonwood seeds
this way our skin is a continent
journeying over mapless water
we are beautiful in our ears, long indigo blue
loops of cotton
& white pearls, aqua-pink shells this way
we always hear the sea & in our noses like green crescent moons:
bright stones our hair loose & straight as rain
skirted in woven willow, or fibers of maguay, fine cotton
we came naked
or in blue capes, skins of night jaguars & green-eyed stars
animals in the spiral breaths of mountain roars,
this way into the rivers dark-mouthed centers we came
discovered, discovering thick forests of ebony, brazil
& rosewood where birds can not fly
we heard the alligators dreaming of carving
sky into flesh shapes so we came to ford rivers
with loud talking this way we are called People Who Shout
it is our way
to our enemies & killed them this way: with
flint knives & spikes embedded
in the ground with poisoned arrows with blood spattered war clubs, spears
with men drinking the juice of the mescal plant & dancing
this way we impale our enemies heads on poles we insult them
everyone fears us so we are safe
this way we live when it floods: we build houses in the trees
dreaming of red stars falling into our hands
this way we enter the water of our souls
to the ocean to harvest sea kelp, pearls with nets
of sisal fiber
we fish this way there are deer, wild pig, rabbits, iguanas which we hunt
this way; where there is water in the hollow of trees we find them
& break their jaws, stringing them together
we can hunt many hours with fresh meat & later, with our fingers
we probe for small stones in the iguana's stomach these are good medicine
the hechiceros suck out thorns, sticks or pebbles it goes this way
to corn, beans, squash, from the north we came,
& pieces of coral, silver in medicine bags, small knots of scalps,
animal or human we passed this way with our youngest & oldest
from far north only the Spaniards came from the southeast
with gifts of smallpox & slavery this way they
with spotted horses & striped blankets which we wore this way
over the arm which pointed north
when they asked where there were riches of gold or silver away
we said, go north there you will find what you
seek far north
across the narrow sea follow the Red Road into Asia, go back
far until you come to Spain go home that way go that way
& leave us for we have come this way this way
from: Throwing Fire at the Sun, Water at the Moon, a work in progress. Unpublished (on paper) © 1997 Anita Endrezze
Lost River 1852/1952 Oregon/California
One hundred years after Captain Jack was gunned down,
unarmed by Indian hunter Ben Wright,
my mother carries me in her arms
north through Modoc country.
Dad drives the pick-up,
his dark forearm resting on the open window,
lava beds on the right,
historical markers on the left,
on a highway paved with bones,
over Indian America.
"Ben Wright told them he would like to hunt Indians,
so [he] got some men that liked to hunt Indians
to go with him. When they all got together
they numbered over one hundred men . . .
They all left Yreka . . . to hunt down the Modoc Indians . . .
Wright traveled all through the Klamath Indian country,
Klamath Indians wherever he could
find them. He went through Goose Lake country,
Paiute Indians wherever
he got the chance . . .
On the south bank of Lost River . . .
Ben Wright looks along his gun barrel;
he turns slowly around to his men
and says: "Boys don't spare the squaws;
get them all!"
The whites shot them
down so fast on the south bank,
they jumped in the river . . .
When they got about halfway across,
the whites on the north bank opened fire
on them. Only five escaped . . .
the citizens [of Yreka] gave Wright a big dance.
He was . . . the mighty Indian Hunter,
Savage Civilizer, Peace Maker, etc."
from Frank Riddle, Modoc survivor.
food for coyotes, etc.
on the banks of Lost River,
on the banks of all the rivers in America
in the America of the Lost.
"Now what shall I do?
Shall I run every time I see white people?"
Captain Jack's father asks. Every Indian asks
this, even those of us whoare half-white.
That's why we're always running
away from ourselves
and falling into rivers
some of us escaping,
into the sights of a gun.
My mother's white. Her milk is sweet.
Her freckled skin looks like flour tortillas.
Our truck lulls me to sleep, subdues me
as we drive through Klamath country,
past every historical marker Dad ignores
determinedly. My mother carries me
over the unmarked killing grounds:
the highways of America.
We never stop. Dad drives.
He drives. We never stop.
Mom speed reads an historical map:
If you are Indian
you are not
Note: The quote about Ben Wright was from the papers of Frank Riddle, a Modoc survivor.
From Lost Rivers, Making Waves Press, England, 1997. © 1997 Anita Endrezze
The Girl Who Loved the Sky
Outside the second grade room,
the jacaranda tree blossomed
into purple lanterns, the papery petals
drifted, darkening the windows.
Inside, the room smelled like glue.
The desks were made of yellowed wood,
the tops littered with eraser rubbings,
rulers, and big fat pencils.
Colored chalk meant special days.
The walls were covered with precise
bright tulips and charts with shiny stars
by certain names. There, I learned
how to make butter by shaking a jar
until the pale cream clotted
into one sweet mass. There, I learned
that numbers were fractious beasts
with dens like dim zeros. And there,
I met a blind girl who thought the sky
tasted like cold metal when it rained
and whose eyes were always covered
with the bruised petals of her lids.
She loved the formless sky, defined
only by sounds, or the cool umbrellas
of clouds. On hot, still days
we listened to the sky falling
like chalk dust. We heard the noon
whistle of the pig-mash factory,
smelled the sourness of home-bound men.
I had no father; she had no eyes;
we were best friends. The other girls
drew shaky hopscotch squares
on the dusty asphalt, talked about
pajama parties, weekend cookouts,
and parents who bought sleek-finned cars
Alone, we sat in the canvas swings,
our shoes digging into the sand, then pushing,
until we flew high over their heads,
our hands streaked with red rust
from the chains that kept us safe.
I was born blind, she said, an act of nature.
Sure, I thought, like birds born
without wings, trees without roots.
I didn't understand. The day she moved
I saw the world clearly: the sky
backed away from me like a departing father.
I sat under the jacaranda, catching
the petals in my palm, enclosing them
until my fist was another lantern
hiding a small and bitter flame.
From at the helm of twilight by Anita Endrezze, Broken Moon Press © 1992 Anita Endrezze
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