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Online Poems by Wendy Rose

Itch Like Crazy: Resistance

This is one of those days
when I see Columbus
in the eyes of nearly everyone
and making the deal
is at the fingertips
of every hand.
The voices beyond my office door
speak of surveys and destruction,
selling the natives
to live among strangers,
rewards fr sine service
or kinship with the Crown.
The terror crouches there
in the canyon of my hands,
the pink opening rosebud mouths
of newborns or the helplessness
of the primal song.
Ghosts so old
they weep for release,
have haunted too long
the burrs and ticks
that climb, burrow and stick.
Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, Piedras,
My Lai, Acteal, Hispaniola, Massachussetts Bay Colony,
my mother, the stones, channels of water,
blood of her veins, every place
a place where history walked,
every ring on Turtle's Back
a mortar to split our seeds,
every sunflower bursting from asphalt
raises green arms to the sun,
every part of Tewaquachi
has formed the placenta
from which we emerge,
every red thing in the world
is the reflection of blood,
our death and our rising.
Now I dance the mission revolts again,
let the ambush blossom in my heart,
claim my victory with their own language,
know the strength of spine tied to spine,
recognize him when he arrives again,
this hungry one, must feed him
poisoned fish. Must lure the soldiers
into trap after trap, must remember
every bit of this.


Margaret Opens the Bon Ton Saloon
Bear Valley, Mariposa Land Grant, California

To let: solid building, two rooms, suitable for enterprise and hard work:
frontier town on the Mariposa Grant in the southern part of the Mother
Lode. Local Indians pacified and tame. -- John C. Fremont, owner-seller

I never liked that man.
My new husband, Maurice,
thinks the world of him.
"John Fremont will be president one day"
he says, with a grand patriotic wave
of his old Prussian hand,
grander than the wave he gives me
when I saddle the mare for a ride.
We would do well enough
to sell sarsparilla and meat,
but Maurice says no;
the miners must have
their Saturday spirits
and we must collect
the coins.

There is not another white woman here.
But I am strong. I listen without flinching
to the cattlemen and miners
explode through the door
from the dust of the road
and settle themselves at the bar.

Let hang the next story writer
who comes to my table
with notebook and camera
to ask of my long memory,
the rocking on the sea
and slow bump of wagon wheels,
neverending tall grass of Missouri
giving way to sagebrush and stone,
the high mountain passes,
a multitude of pigeons overhead.
I will not say I was hungry
or that redskins came to our wagon
and frightened me. I say only
that San Francisco was sweet
and the stage to Mariposa
smelled of mens' sweat
and the cloying perfume
from long petticoats
rustling in the scrub oak leaves
to sop the water
from foothill creeks.


Alien Seeds
(on reading a book about plants growing wild in California)

How is it that I did not know the gold hillside near my house
is as foreign to the land as any intruder, as the straight boards
and liquid rock poured onto the land where my house stands?
All these, wild oats, the strangling grass, even the succulents
with the secret of moisture within, the tumbleweed
rode on the tails of strange beasts or were caught
in the wool of Spanish sheep. How can I not feel
the killing, the massacre that cleard the valley, the foothills,
the mountains of my kind? For every seed, its wagon train;
rhizomes colonize underground, spines catch foxes
on their little hooks--barbed wire crosses our nations
and taproots suck the stolen dew
no matter how dry the desert.
Thistles thrive on the most ravaged flesh;
invaders ruthlessly kill just as the bloodthirsty men
who drove their cattle from shrine to shrine
lowered their rifles, aimed, fired.

The Elders have always known this.
They fast and pray, then hunt
for exactly the right kind of grass
as their grandmothers before them;
they pick a few, never the first one,
never more than they need.
They return home with great art in their eyes.
And now they walk forever with empty hands,
baskets made thin with ribs sticking out.
Beads, yarn, safety pins replace beargrass and willow.
Eucalyptus rolls its seeds on the ground,
we slip and fall, hurtle into the sacrifice,
gather not grass but sorrow in our hands.
Vanishing Americans, endangered species,
vermin and weeds, call it what they will,
rock hard places where bones rattle down.



For the White poets
who would be Indian

just once
just long enough
to snap up the words
fish-hooked from
our tongues.
You think of us now
when you kneel
on the earth,
turn holy
in a temporary tourism
of our souls.

With words
you paint your faces,
chew your doeskin,
touch breast to tree
as if sharing a mother
were all it takes,
could bring instant and primal
You think of us only
when your voices
want for roots,
when you have sat back
on your heels and

You finish your poem
and go back.


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