"Poetry may not change the world, but its lack will." 
—Carol Willette Bachofner

Tending the Fire: Native Voices and Portraits

Tending the Fire by photographer Christopher Felver with an Introduction by Linda Hogan and a foreword by Simon J. Ortiz, celebrates the poets and writers who represent the wide range of Native American voices in literature today. In these commanding portraits, Felver’s distinctive visual signature and unobtrusive presence capture each artist’s strength, integrity, and character. Accompanying each portrait is a handwritten poem or prose piece that helps reveal the origin of the poet’s language and legends.

As the individuals share their unique voices, Tending the Fire introduces us to the diversity and complexity of Native culture through the authors’ generous and passionate stories, reminding us that “Native Americans today are as modern as the Space Age, and each in their own way carries forth the cultural heritage ‘from whence they came.’ Their abiding legacy as the first people of this continent has found its voice in the hard-won wisdom of their art and activism.

University of New Mexico Press

Trouble Song

by Kim Shuck

Take hold of your stubborn
Twine fingers in your defiant
Dig in
Breathe deep into your
Make space for your heartbreak but let it start healing
We were walked from the east
We were packed into ships
We were sold by our families
We were illegal
We were hunted
We are here
We are always
We are
Sing that restless patience
Our inheritance
Take hold of hands
Take hold of your stubborn
Take hold
Take care
Take caring
Self brightly
Group with care
Hold tight and sing

© Kim Shuck. All rights reserved. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kim Shuck is feeling very scattered these days among the Executive Orders and banishments. She teaches 2nd graders most Thursdays, 4th graders some Wednesdays and college undergrads on Fridays. At other times she tries to reweave the fraying webs of communities that she loves. As for poetic qualifications… magazines, anthologies, solo books awards… degrees… years of working in the poetry mine. www.kimshuck.com

Loosening Our Tongue #WaterIsLife #RezspectOurLandbase #StandingRock

By Rain Prud’homme-Cranford (Goméz), Ph.D
These are things I need to say:
but language and words 
were ripped from my tongue 
Residential school 
Jim Crow feather
soldiers swarming 
our land our homes 
uprooting us from soil
roots dangling 
string fingers 
clinging to clutch 
clumps of Earth
These are things I need to say:
but mouth is dry 
arid fragile skin
opens bleeding
hollow space between 
tongue and teeth cracks 
from drought 
from poison water
These are things I need to say:
ancestors circle round
pepper spraying police 
choking our 
relatives’ throats
reaching to hold water 
slipping through fingers 
toes digging into 
brown dirt
These are things 
we need to say

Sing us home 
shatter violent silence 
come down rain 
churning rivers 
ocean waves
We ride a tempest of 
surging water

©Rain Prud’homme-Cranford 2016

Rain Prud’homme-Cranford (Goméz), Ph.D., is a“FatTastic IndigeNerd,” an Assistant Professor of Indigenous Literature in the Department of English and Affiliated Faculty in the International Indigenous Studies Program at the University of Calgary. A Poetry Editor for Mongrel Empire Press (MEP) and an Editorial Board member for The Journal of Louisiana Creole Studies, Rain won the First Book Award in Poetry from NWCA (2009), for Smoked Mullet Cornbread Crawdad Memory (MEP 2012).  Critical and creative work can be found in various journals including: The Southern Literary Journal, Louisiana Folklife, Undead Souths: The Gothic and Beyond (LSU P), Mississippi Quarterly, Tidal Basin Review, Sing: Indigenous Poetry of the Americas, As Us, Yellow Medicine Review, and many others.

Rock Collection

By César Love

I seek escape, not in smoke
Not in drink
But in rocks I’ve gathered

None are boulders, few are pebbles
The perfect mass gorges my two hands

Hardness is my comfort, density my high.

The Black One brings me to outer space
The Purple, a utopian palace
The Orange, a feast devoured slowly
The Grey, a ferry to oblivion

My comedown is softness
Reality, a sinkhole in feathers

Below my pillow
I keep an opal

Always the Land

When the storms end, he is quiet to all but the deaf

Many hear the whispers of streams, the mumbles of rivers 
But below the threshold of a lapping pond
There are sounds as soft as a tadpole’s heartbeat

At volumes quieter than grass
The land delivers a wordless sermon
You are free to leave before the end, for the sermon has no end

Can you bear the spastic stillness?
If you can listen for ten minutes, you are free to ask a question.
If you can listen for an hour, you can ask for anything you need.

Ask what about your bees?
The trellis on your porch, broken by the eight-foot weeds
It’s painted and repaired, ready for the blossoms
To greet the sun and moon, ready for the blossoms
To welcome back the bees.
Listen to the honey spinning into gold

Ask what about the blackout?
Remember the fireflies you caught so long ago?
You hid them in a basement jar.
Realize you’re one of them.
Hands unlock the lid, hands let all of you free.
Listen to the land echoing your glow

Lake Chabot

Castro Valley, California

Blue water, mirror of day
Show us the breadth of the sky

Dark water, mirror of night
How lovely the moon on your throat

Sweet water, ripples and tides
Ladles of kisses
The brush of your tongue moistens our clay

Deep water, so certain the currents
Sleepless their movement
Sleepless your will

Still water, gentle the splashes
So peaceful your power
So quiet creation

The Sprinklers

Surprised on sunny park grass
The intrusion of sprinkler water
Hidden fountains meant for moonlight
Let loose by mistimed dials

An accidental shower
Perhaps you scamper from the grass
Safe and only a little wet
Perhaps they give you a hearty splash

Soaked or dry
Savor the wet sparklers
The cool of deepsome wells

This is not the Alhambra
This is not Niagara
Small rainbows

The rise and fall of water drops
An arc of musical notes
Spiring to the sky
In love enough
To fall to Earth.

© César Love. All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: César Love writes poems about displacement and the search for home. He can be found at open mics of the San Francisco Bay Area. His new book of poems is titled Birthright

I Learned All My Spanish in School

By E.K. Keith

I never tried to pass for White
but I have been passed
because it's good to be White in America
and Mother knows best
to give a not-quite-white baby
White names that don't explain
such dark eyes and such tight curls
My name never stopped mean girls hissing
gringa cola prieta and guera and taco
brown on the inside
and not-quite-white on the outside

You would not believe how White people talk
about Other people when they think you're White
How it's more polite to say Spanish
instead of Mexican
and the subtle shift in tone
when your Mexican is discovered
your tortillas uncovered
I never tried to pass for White
but I have been passed
because White people who like me
want to give me the benefit of the doubt
and let me tell you, sister
There's nothing like White Privilege
and my mother knew it
So when people would ask
"Are you Italian or Greek?"
she would laugh and say
"Good guess!"
It is so disappointing
such dark eyes and such tight curls
fail to fit in
not White, not Mexican

I have been passed
I identify as White Trash
My mother is Mexican
but her family doesn't mind
porque no hay indios in la familia
And since I learned all my Spanish in school
it was years before I understood
It's good to be White in America

Mythic Arcade

When I was a kid in Texas
California was nothing but a dream
Not much more than a metaphor
A fantasy of golden glitz and the big screen

I bet you know a lot about Texas
I bet I know what you’ve seen
Alamo heroes, political zeroes
Ten-gallon hats and oil patch schemes

You can find surfers in Texas
Riding in the oil tanker’s wake
You can find California cowboys
They’re speeding up and down the interstate

You can’t see Texas from the inside
You can’t see the mythic arcade
Just people, running for the money
Inside California it’s the same

If you need roots, go to Texas.
If you don’t belong where you are
You might find the right place is California
Who you want to be is who you are


Brown sparrows
sift trash from a dump
find treasure
in mounds of rotting food
plastic wrappers aluminum
cans rusting toasters
shitty diapers hairdryers
headless dolls sideways
refrigerators without doors

One brown sparrow
beats its wings in the dirt
and tangles tighter
in a six-pack plastic noose

© E.K. Keith. All rights reserved. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: E.K. Keith shouts her poems on the street corner, and she’s just as likely to take the mic at a bar, coffee shop, or radio station. She has made San Francisco her home, although growing up in urban Texas still influences her worldview. Like most Americans, there is nothing pure about E.K.’s blood. As a result of love that mooningly ignored good sense and social boundaries across several generations, E.K. has never fit neatly into any racial, cultural, or ethnic categories. Her work appears online and in print on all three coasts and places in between, and among them are Sweet Wolverine, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, and Nerve Cowboy. E.K. organizes Poems Under the Dome, San Francisco's annual open mic celebration of Poetry Month inside City Hall. She is a public high school teacher librarian which regularly presents opportunities for her to make the world a better place.

Fresh Wildness

By Rebecca Hatcher Travis

imbedded in every native heart
is love of land
this earth we stand on
live on
our homeland
among first memories

a part of us
like our own bodies
we know the connection
sweet *petrichor brings flashes
of childhood pleasures
we will always treasure

tender as flesh
her whipping winds
thunder rumbling
dust and rains
trembling darkness
heart-melting blueness above

our Mother
draws us outdoors
to fresh wildness
where we belong
in our special place on
this wondrous earth

*petrichor:  smell of rain

Copyright © 2016, Rebecca Hatcher Travis. All rights reserved.

Rebecca Hatcher Travis, an enrolled citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, often writes of her indigenous heritage and the beauty of the natural world. Her poetry book manuscript, Picked Apart the Bones, won the First Book Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas and was published by the Chickasaw Press. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, literary journals and online. Ms. Travis is a member of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers and lives in south central Oklahoma, near the land her ancestors settled in Indian Territory days. She is currently working on another book of poetry and continues to give poetry presentations at Oklahoma venues.

Writing by Allison Hedge Coke

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke’s authored books include: (poetry) The Year of the Rat (chapbook), Dog Road Woman, Off-Season City Pipe, Streaming, Blood Run (poetry/verse-play); and a memoir Rock Ghost, Willow, Deer. Hedge Coke has edited eight additional collections, including: Sing: Poetry of the Indigenous Americas, Effigies (Pacific Rim), Effigies II (US Continent), and Ahani (ToTopos). Current projects include Burn (MadHat Press 2016), Effigies III (Pacific Island) (2017), and the Red Dust film-media-lit-music project (in production). Hedge Coke directs the Literary Sandhill Crane Retreat & Festival and has been awarded fellowships/residencies with Lannan Foundation, Weymouth Center for the Arts, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, MacDowell Colony, Hawthornden Castle, Great Plains Center, and her honors include an American Book Award, Library of Congress Witter Bynner Fellowship, a Lifetime Achievement Award, a Mentor of the Year Award, an IPPY Medal, a Pen Southwest Book Award, three distinguished positions, and numerous literary and arts grants. She is a poet, writer, performer, editor, and literary activist. She came of age cropping tobacco and working fields, waters, and working in factories.


By Jenny L. Davis

I didn’t carry my ancestors’ bones with me
to this Midwestern place.
I could not hear their voices.

I asked Rabbit to carry a note to them
but he baked it into cookies
and ate them with rosehip tea.

I asked Woodpecker to pound a song for them in cedar,
but the songs
could not cross the Mississippi.

I scratched a song in four lines for our ancestors
I wove a lullaby of yarn for our descendants, and
I stomped for all of us moving counter-clockwise in between.

Finally in the still of night
Cicada buzzed answers
in a tree beside my ear

“We left our bones
because we do not need them
to dance along the white dog's way.
You do not need them
to dance along
beneath us.”


To the youth of Attawapiskat and our Native & Two-Spirit youth everywhere,
hold tight to the things that tether you.

Half a lifetime ago
I sat on the edge of a bed
holding cold gun metal until it turned warm
I sat there for hours.
I am sitting there still.

I could not move past the beings that tether me here.
are the beings that tether me here,
caught in a patch of briar so thick
I can’t break away without tearing a hole.
You are the beings that tether me here
And I hate you for it.

I can’t move past the beings that tether me here.
Are the beings that tether me here.
A sapling in the forest
Sharing water and gossip across our rooted toes.
You are the beings that tether me here
And I love you for it.

The girl who loves turtles
Summer is her favorite season
with its heavy shawl of water in the air
and sun that can scorch the skin in minutes.
But most of all
She loves summer for the turtles
answering the call to
come out from under shell arbors,
from behind winter aprons
and spring cotton ruffles.
Loksi’! Loski’! Loksi’!
Such strength in the way their legs move,
hips and shells rolling with each step
to rhythms old as the ground itself.
No sharp edges, just
the curves of muscle and bone and
light bouncing across browns, reds, and yellows
in the heat of summer when
turtles are called to each other to dance.

Let Us Rest
My people
were no strangers to disasters—
the fires, tornados, floods, and droughts
that scorch, bury, and reshape the earth
where they laid our ancestors to rest.

So dig up the bundles.
Test samples from bones,
cloth, and clay—
for the good of science,
toward that next publication,
or a new grant.

But don’t pretend that
it’s what my ancestors would have wanted.
We interred our loved ones
under our homes or within the great
mounded houses of earth
knowing, when the time came,
they’d be returned
to the water, mud,
and to the stars.

© Jenny L. Davis. All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenny L. Davis is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and originally from Oklahoma. She is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign where she lives with her partner and spends most of her time tending her cats (and cat-sized Chihuahua), plants, and the students in her American Indian Studies and Anthropology classes. Both her research and activism center contemporary indigenous identity, indigenous language revitalization, and the Two-Spirit community.

Nomenclature, Miigaadiwin, a Forked Tongue

By Aja Couchois Duncan


I should begin with adik, with hearding mammals ranging across the boreal expanse. To know the geography of it, to start with its features.

Your face is this blur of fur and antler.

My story is the history of frontier, a wooded terrain. We could not see each other through the cacophony of trees. But I could hear you breathing. Some kind of wind the nose sings. Adze is stripping the layers of. When the skin is torn from muscle, cleaved from bone. 

Agawaatese is not sound but shadow. An interception of light.


There are many ways to tell both sides of it. It is a preposition.

The French mated their way through the colonies. The English claimed only their mirror image. Later the science of alterity would explain such predilections. Absent of Freud, native kinship systems did not distinguish between the progeny of. 

Halfbreeds have their own word for gichi-mookomaan, for white person, for butcher knife. Little bear girl took the knife and split herself down the middle. Little bear girl sits beside me on the rooftop, her hair scissoring the wind. Together we watch flora and fauna duck for cover. One is the hydrology of earthquakes, the other less tectonic, more personal. Gichi-mookomaan is nowhere to be found.

It is difficult to be part of a species. There is so little to distinguish yourself from. Sapiens traveled slowly across continents, moved from trees to terra firma. At which point did gichi-mookomaan roam?

They have paved the surface of our habitat, but someday they too will long for the upper canopy. Bipedalism is a fetish of the imperial view.


The science of sight ignores the spirit of mescaline, of cactus, of natives of the new world.

After the earth split, there were two, 
old  and new. The old world was heavy with      everything  
that began it. The new world was fecund, 

When the first people came out of the trees they found themselves on a wooded island already crowded with bear and wolf. Stripping bark from the trees, they built canoes and paddled to the other side.

When light moves through solid particles it loses pieces of itself. It is altered once it reaches its destination.

Omoodayaabik is shattered, a piece of broken glass. Before it could have been anything, a lantern, window, a bottle of whiskey. The science of sight does not trouble itself with such inquiries. There are only the intricacies of the eye, its mechanics of doing. The eye does not know which side of the earth it is on. The eye cannot see the birthing folds, the suckled nipples beneath the limbs of trees. The nose is far less complicated. There is no discipline dedicated solely to its mysteries. But it is the nose that remembers our disastrous origins. We are sentient. We are this scent of things.

© Aja Couchois Duncan. All rights reserved.

Nomenclature, Miigaadiwin, a Forked Tongue, is included in Restless Continent, published by Litmus Press. An earlier version was published as a chapbook by CC Marimbo Press.  

Aja Couchois Duncan is a Bay Area educator, writer and coach of Ojibwe, French and Scottish descent. Her writing has been anthologized in Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative (Coach House Press,) Bay Poetics (Faux Press) and Love Shook My Heart 2 (Alyson Press). Her most recent chapbook, Nomenclature, Miigaadiwin, a Forked Tongue was published by CC Marimbo press. A fictional writer of non-fiction, she has published essays in the North American Review and Chain. In 2005, she was a recipient of the Marin Arts Council Award Grant for Literary Arts, and, in 2013, she received a James D. Phelan Literary Award. Her first book, Restless Continent, is forthcoming in the spring of 2016 from Litmus Press. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and a variety of other degrees and credentials to certify her as human. Great Spirit knew it all along. ajacouchoisduncan.blogspot.com
"We have stories / as old as the great seas / breaking through the chest / flying out the mouth, / noisy tongues that once were silenced, /all the oceans we contain / coming to light."
—Linda Hogan