Blood Quantum: A Poem for Our Time


 

My grandson cuts himself into 16 equal pieces:

4/16 Urhobo from Africa

3/16 Spanish from Spain

4/16 European–two Swiss German great, great-grandfathers

(Werth and Kaiser), Irish, English and who knows what

3/16 Mexican–whatever mixtures that may be

2/16 Navaho

 

Who am I? What am I?

Who are you? What are you?

Do we really know?

Who sets the rules?

white men

black

Indian

Native American

Irish

English

German

from where and for whom?

 

He looks Navaho:

-blue black straight hair

-pale brown skin

-obsidian eyes.

One four year old girl asks him,

“Are you American Indian?”

His six year old self says nothing.

She repeats,

“Are you American Indian?”

He says, “It’s complicated.”

 

The Navaho won’t claim him, too little blood.

He needs 1/4, not 1/8.

Caddy and Fort Sill Apache allow 1/16, not Navahos.

1/4 blood is for

-Sioux

-Cheyenne

-Kiowa

-Navaho

1/8 works for Comanche and Pawnee.

Some Cherokees only want a Cherokee ancestor.

 

But he is none of those.

Is he Navaho?

Is he white?

The old South goes by the one drop rule:

one drop of Negro…

Is a person with 99/100 per cent white

and 1/100 black, black?

Who says?

Kids at school ask, “What are you?”

He tells them.

They say, “You’re lying.”

 

I only know specifically about two ancestors,

the Swiss Germans.

Another great grandfather disappeared during the Civil War.

I don’t even know his name.

Who am I?

Who are you?

I think I’ll get a DNA test.

Then I’ll know how many pieces I need to cut myself into.

 

Note:  This was originally published in my book “On the Rim of Wonder”.  I had a cousin send me 75 pages of ancestry information.  I looked up more myself.  That one great grandfather remains a mystery.  I had my DNA done.  It did not match what I expected from the ancestry work.

Blood quantum is the term the US government used to determine whether a person would be qualified as an Indian.  Now many Indian Nations use it to decide who can be on the tribal rolls and who cannot.

 

 

Sunday Poem–“Hair”


No females in my family had long hair.

Dad did not like it,

said it showed male domination

over women.

Once when grown and gone

from home, I began to grow mine

out, experiment.

When he saw it, he told me

he thought it unbecoming.

I cut it.

Mom said she had long hair

when she was young.

Her dad forbade her to cut it.

In her twenties she chopped her golden locks

off, flapper style, then hid her head

in a scarf, afraid.

 

Note:  This poem is from the family section of my book, “On the Rim of Wonder”.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Poem–A Life


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I wrote the first blog post about this in February, a second a few weeks later.  The following poem I wrote a week ago but never posted:  too upset, too sad, too filled with regrets I could have no way fixed because I did not even know all the story.  He remained unconscious for two months from late January until March 22.  It seems strange that the memories of a life I lived so long ago, mostly forgotten, could surge into so many waking moments now years later.  Life:  always filled with wonder, surprises.

yesterday we put his body in the ground

the wind blew through the trees

whispering green spring, beauty

yesterday we put his body in the ground

the man I loved, beautiful mahogany velvet

dazzled the world with his smile

yesterday we put his body in the ground

my daughter’s father, standing with family

some we had never seen before, worldwide

yesterday we put his body in the ground

watched a life flash by, slides from baby

to our life long ago, other lives and children

yesterday we put his body in the ground

family, friends, two of his children

a life struck down, too suddenly, too soon

In honor of the life of Kenneth A. Mowoe

You will not be forgotten, your memory lives on with me, your family, your children and grandchildren, your friends.  Peace.  Love.

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Frozen


Two weeks ago today, the sickening news came:  my daughter’s father, my ex-husband, suffered a massive heart attack while working.  Rushed to the hospital, resuscitated, then open heart surgery. He never regained consciousness, not yet.  He lies there, part of his brain not working, tube-fed, not breathing on his own.

She drove all night, six hours to get there.  She thought they had taken her to the wrong room, unrecognizable.  Last week end, I drove with her.  Except for his hands, I would not have recognized him myself, so thin, so aged. How could someone change that much in the ten years since I had last seen him?  She went back again late this week, returned late last night.  Moved to a longterm care facility, he remains the same except he no longer even opens his eyes, no more staring into the void.

I feel frozen.  This morning I delivered my grandson to my daughter–he stayed with me this trip.  Checking on her father’s apartment, my daughter found his photos, some from when we were young.  She showed a few to me.  I stared, shocked, dismayed.  My today’s to-do list just sits here.  I force myself to work at it bit by bit, write two peer review assignments for a class I am taking–I do not want to disappoint, vacuum and dust one room at a time, tell myself I need to go out on this 20 degrees warmer than normal day and garden, write this blog post.   I feel frozen.

He had plans neither she nor I knew about, plans to perhaps make him happier, return to the land of his birth.  Will some miracle occur, will he awaken, recover?  Is there some appropriate time for which we wait?

I feel frozen.  When will I thaw?

 

Gratitude


Thanksgiving brings so many thoughts, including thoughts about the divisive political discourse in the country now.  However, it seems more productive and in keeping with the day to focus on gratitude.  As I write this I think of both personal and broader things for which I am grateful, one of which is that I live in a country where divisive political discourse can actually and legally occur.  Now to the more personal (even though I think the personal is political, I will not focus on that)–here is my starter list:

-my family–daugher, son, and grandson; daughter and grandson will join me shortly to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

-my mother’s pumpkin pie recipe which my grandson will help me prepare when he arrives; he says it is the only pumpkin pie he really likes.

-my job which I truly love–teaching public high school; my students frequently make my day.

-where I live in beauty truly on the Rim of Wonder.

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-my health

-my friends

-my ability to travel to all sorts of fascinating places

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-a life I love

 

Una Bella Famiglia


Yesterday evening, I felt honored to cook dinner for this wonderful family from the mountains of  Italy.  Lisa, the daughter, has been living with friends as an exchange student.  Lisa had been to my house several times with her host parents and ridden Rosie.  This week her parents, grandparents on her mother’s side, and her younger brother came to see her high school graduation Friday evening.  Last night they all came to my house.  Lisa speaks fluent English, her parents and grandfather some, but her grandmother very little.  They do understand Spanish so I spoke Spanish to her grandmother, some Spanish to everyone else, some English, and, of course, everyone spoke bits and pieces of Italian or all Italian.

Grandfather Corrado smiled and laughed and hugged.  When he was younger, he was ranked fifth in the world in cross country skiing.  He spent much of his life, more than thirty years, in Germany making and selling ice cream.  We did have ice cream for dessert–vanilla with Chambord on top.

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Corrado drinking sangiovese from a local winery, BarZ, with Jeannette, the host mom of Lisa. Later, we had another bottle of sangiovese from a different winery, DiVine Wine.

 

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They explained they drink wine every day so they felt right at home at my house.  Lisa, in the Abercrombe T-shirt with her dad, Benedetto, next to her.  And yes, that is Corrado smiling down there on the end.

 

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Benedetto in the white shirt claimed that the sangiovese here seemed stronger than at home.  Claudia, Lisa’s Mom appears to be explaining something, but I do not recall what.  Grandmother Angelina is on her right and younger brother Antonio at the far right edge.  Everyone seems enthralled.  Benedetto is an architect.

 

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From left to right, Lisa, Benedetto, me, and Claudia.  They felt right at home with my dog Isabella; she has an Italian name.

 

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Everyone agreed to eat dinner on the patio–and you were thinking all we planned to do is drink wine.  The menu:  brisket, roasted vegetables (red and purple potatoes, brussel sprouts, Anaheim peppers, carrots, onions roasted with lots of olive oil, basil, oregano, and herbes de Provence), green salad and bread with chunks of garlic in it.

 

 

There is nothing better than eating and relaxing with friends and family.  And what a beautiful family!!  Laughter, hugs.  How could one not enjoy all the hugs and kisses on both cheeks.

 

 

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They had ridden horses in Palo Duro Canyon and hiked there earlier in the day, attended several graduation parties, and played volleyball.  Antonio seemed very tired.  He is 13.

 

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Richard, the host dad, relaxes in the bar stool while his daughter takes photos with his camera.  A deer eventually showed up across the canyon.

This lovely Italian family lives way in the north of Italy in Cortina d’Ampezzo.  Claudia explained they work seven days a week during the seven month tourist season–it is skiing country, and then they like to travel.  This evening as I write this they have headed to New York City by minivan via St. Louis and Falling Waters–Corrado really wants to see this Frank Lloyd Wright house.  I feel so honored to have met them.  Una bella famiglia–a beautiful family.

My Happy Mother’s Day


 

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Mother’s Day filled my heart.  First, when I awakened in the morning, I made coffee and opened this computer.  When I logged into Facebook, I found this pronouncement from my daughter:

“I’m so thankful to have an amazing, talented, smart, ambitious, honest woman as my mommy.  You made me the person I am today and as I continue to grow, I see things you taught me passing down to my son.  I’m the mom I am today because of the mom you were to me.  I may not always show it or tell you but I love you so much.”  I nearly cried; I am not a crier.

The flowers arrived Saturday from my son who lives twenty hours away if you drive.  Look at these flowers!!  Fantastic.

Then my grandson gave me a handmade card about 5 by 8 inches with this long note some of which follows:

“Happy Mother’s Day.  I know your not my mom but your my mom’s mom so your a mother so happy mother’s day.  Thank you for giving birth to my mom because if you wouldn’t have, I wouldn’t be alive right now so thanks….Thank you for all the things you do for me.  You always watch me.  Your always nice even when I’m mean and you spoil me.  I love you and happy mother’s day. ”  He is ten.

Then today I received a totally unexpected thank you card with a note from a young man who stayed with me a while last spring just before he graduated from college with an A average.  He was experiencing an extremely painful time then.  His hand written note:  “Happy Mother’s Day!  It has been one year since I graduated from college.  I would never have made it without you!  Thank you for the great help in my most difficult time.  You are the small ray of sunshine that really brings me hope!  Thank you!”  I felt overwhelmed.

The bottle in front of the flowers above is Versace perfume–Mother’s Day present from my daughter.

 

 

The Sound of Silence


For years I puzzled over what this phrase means.  This evening I discovered the answer.  Unlike the first part of the week, today was sunny, little wind, high 70s, what most consider a perfect day weather wise.  I ran home from work, gave Rosie, my horse, some food, let Isabella, my dog out for a bit, and then ran back to town to see my grandson perform.  He attends Wolflin Elementary School.  The physical education teacher selected a group of students called the SWAT Team who perform at different functions.  The last time I saw them, they performed at a local high school’s basketball tournament.  Today they executed four routines at their school’s annual gala, a fund raiser with games, food, a silent auction, dunking in the water, that sort of thing.  It really astonished me.  I have no idea how much they practiced, but these routines were not short and everything was perfectly choreographed.  First, the boys performed using basketballs to do various tricks and movements in unison to music.  Then  the girls did this complicated sort of dance over these long bamboo poles that other students clicked together.  The only other place where I have seen anything like this is in Thailand at the Rose Garden near Bangkok.  The third routine included both boys and girls and they used this giant circle of multicolored cloth to dance around, in and out, make the cloth into a sort of yurt like shape.  I have no idea how they kept it up like a giant circular tent one minute and flat the next.  Finally, they competed with hoola hoops to see who could keep going the longest.

After I returned home, I hosed off the front entryway, planted some flowers in pots, and watered other flowers, all in preparation for a fund raiser tomorrow night at my house–to raise money for a local senior citizens center.  Rosie is shedding her winter coat and seemed miserable itching so I brushed her.  Now tufts of pale rose colored hair lay everywhere in her corral.  Finally, a bit after eight I came inside for a late dinner.  Then I noticed.  No sounds, no wind, no appliances humming, no coyotes howling, no birds singing, no dogs barking, no sounds at all.  Nothing.  The patio doors are open; I walked outside a few minutes ago.  Nothing.  I sit here before the computer and hear the sounds the keys make when I hit them.  When I stop, nothing.

Rosie

 

Rosie

 

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Isabella on the patio in winter.

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They started blooming today.

Sacred Corn


SAM_0035   In the summer on hot, humid nights, you can hear the corn grow.  My great grandfather, my grandfather, and my father grew corn.  I grow corn in that same rich loess soil of Northwestern Missouri.  Soil laid down by Ice Age glaciers thousands of year ago.  Only on a few hill tops, here and there, will you find non glacial soil. Repeatedly, daily, I walk by the sacred corn plant of life painted on my hall corner.  This sacred corn corner houses three corn maiden kachinas and a drum decorated with corn maidens.  I give thanks to corn for my house and the life I lead.

Corn Song

I sing the song of ancients:

pueblo peoples,

Anazazi, Hopi, Zuni.

I sing the song of an America long gone.

Maya, Aztec, Tolmec.

I sing the song of life:  colors of the rainbow

golden, red, white, blue.

I sing the song of now:  thick, endless

identical rows.

Pioneer, Monsanto,

anhydrous ammonia,

atrazine.

I sing the song of hope and joy:

an ancient reclaiming,

a klaidescope of colors,

butterflies and fireflies.

I sing the eternal human song.

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This is a Navaho kachina.  Kachina are actually Hopi, but Navaho artists now make kachinas as well.  The first corn maiden kachina I bought.

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Spotted corn kachinas, on the left, are unusual.  It took me years to find one.  The kachina on the right was created by R Pino, who is both Hopi and Navaho.

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Every year Pendleton runs an art contest among Native American students.  The winner’s art work is transformed into saddle blankets.  This design, created by Mary Beth Jiron, is the latest in this Student Series. There are three corn  maidens  on each side of the blanket, representing the different varieties of corn grown by native peoples, yellow, red, blue, white, black, and spotted.

The Story Circle Network Conference and My Commitment: This Is What I Know


ad_scnconfWhen I first started blogging more than two years ago, I committed to blogging once a week.  That I managed for a year or so and then since that time, it became more sporadic.  Full time job, writing poems for my book, visitors, mini vacations, all sorts of stuff got in the way.  Really, I let it lapse, but refused to give up.  Last Thursday, I drove to Austin with my daughter and grandson for the biannual Story Circle Network Conference.  The plan:  while I conferred, they played.  The Story Circle Network is an organization for women which encourages women to write, to tell their stories, to share these stories, and when possible and desired, publish those stories in various forms from memoir to poetry.  This was my second time to attend and my first time to attend as a new board member.  A former mentor/teacher of mine, Len Leatherwood, facilitated  a workshop entitled “Transforming Your Writing Life in Just 20 Minutes a Day”, the last workshop I attended.  She blogs everyday.  I follow her blog.  No matter what, she sits down and writes 20 minutes minimum a day separate from the writing she does with her students–she teaches writing privately in southern CA.  One of her recent blogs has been accepted for publication–a piece of flash fiction.  She nearly begged us to commit to this kind of writing practice.  Previously, I had refused, flat out refused, partly thinking that if I tried it, more than half the resulting writing would be crap.  Nevertheless, she and her workshop convinced me that at least for one month I must try this.  Now all of you following my blog will be inundated with daily blog posts.  I am filled with curiosity as to how people will respond.  Maybe it will be like my Facebook posts–yes, I am an almost addict–the posts I consider most meaningful for the universe at large are the ones people ignore and the ones I consider personal trivia receive the most response.  Maybe I will track what appeals to my readers.  Some I won’t know because with blogging I share to Facebook and to a couple of professional networks, I have no clue who read what.  Once I received an email regarding a poem I posted. Although it never showed up as a like, the lady actually told me she read my poem in church!  Who would have guessed. I forgot to time myself so have no idea how long I have been here writing.

Here I am writing about why I am writing.  On the stove I smell Jasmine rice cooking.  I love Jasmine rice from Thailand.  I am a very picky rice eater and prefer to mix equally white Jasmine rice with black and red.  For one thing, it looks lovely when done–a sort of dark reddish purple.  Since I sautéd chopped garlic in olive oil, then added the rice and sautéd for about 15 more seconds, then added water and some broth just before I started writing this, the smell of Jasmine rice fills the house.  I piled a bunch of paper towels on the top before I put on the lid or you can use some cloth towel–a habit I picked up from my Iranian ex-husband.  Iranians really know how to cook rice.  I am also drinking a glass of Cupcake Shiraz which I bought on the way home from work.  And yes, Shiraz is also the name of a city in Iran where they actually grow grapes or at least used to. But of course, drinking wine is no longer acceptable in Iran or at least not publicly.  Good Muslims do not drink at all.

I did write something worthwhile while in this workshop and will share–doing this last because it won’t count as my daily writing since I wrote it yesterday.

 

This Is What I Know

 

My parents loved me, really loved me.

My mom was proud of my accomplishments.

Dad gave me a love of books, intellectual curiosity, and a

sense of wonder.

Mom gave me a love of music, beauty, and cooking.

Happiness is a choice.

I do not believe in luck.  You make your own luck.

Life is an exciting adventure.

Horses give me joy.

Singing gives me joy.

Dancing gives me joy even if I rarely have the opportunity.

Family relationships can be distressingly complicated.

I am proud of my children and their accomplishments.

Religion matters much less to me than 99 per cent of the people I know.

Ethnic and religious prejudice distress me and I do not

understand those kinds of attitudes.

I am a good writer.

I want to make a real difference in the world.

I am happy 99 percent of the time.

Blessings flood my life.

My close friends and children and grandson are more

important to me than they know.

Writing has enriched my life.

I have few regrets:

One I have rectified;

the other I cannot–

my dad is dead.