Cedar Songs, Left Behind

By Linda Boyden

She stayed behind, the mother of my grandfathers,
not by choice, his or hers: theirs.
Singled out, she was, by soldiers
spared, they told her, by yaller hair, blue eyes
spoilt tho' she was, still no kind of fate
for a white woman, this trail
this Removal.
In the guile of their final night,
in the lull of the dark, they slept,
the mother of my grandfathers and her man,
her red earth man
his skin in rich opposition to her pale,
they lay entwined until he woke.
Stirred by the cadence of boot-heel crunch on gravel,
thethick man-scent rising in the air,
he woke.
My grandfather’s father
crossed to the rough-hewn mantle for his flute,
the smoothed cedar flute,
which under my living fingers
delivers still the songs;
the haunting cedar songs,
gifts left behind by the Tree People
in the branch
he carved so long ago.
The mother of my grandfathers taught her son,
then her grandson, the songs he played that night.
In time, he taught his granddaughter,
child of pale hair and red earth skin.
Told her, too, the story:
Played me awake that night, she said,
with my fingers one by one on his;
played into them the cedar songs, one by one,
until the soldiers came.
As they broke down the door, as they dragged him away,
I faltered once, she said, but did not stop.
I released the cedar songs instead of tears
as they pushed my man from the dawn, from my arms
I played for him the songs,
for the son born after, for the grandson of my old age….
Now as grandmother I tell her words.
I, the girl blessed with Grandmother’s name and hair,
Grandfather’s red earth skin,
I play the sweet cedar songs,
the haunting holy gifts of the trees
he left behind.

First published in The People Who Stayed, Southeastern Indian Writing After Removal 2010, The University of Oklahoma. Also in a self published chapbook, “Cemetery Plots” 2006. Winner 2006 5th Annual Pleasanton Poetry Festival, Adult Poetry.
Copyright © Linda Boyden. All Rights Reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Of mixed-blood Cherokee/Irish and French Canadian ancestries, Linda Boyden has spent most of her adult life leading children to literacy. From 1970-1997, she taught in primary grades, receiving her master’s in Gifted and Talented Education in 1992 from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. In 1997, Linda decided to change careers and abandoned full-time teaching for full-time writing. Her first picture book, “The Blue Roses”, debuted in 2002. It was the recipient of Lee and Low Books’ first New Voices Award, the 2003 Paterson Prize, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers’ Book of the Year, Children’s Literature, 2002-2003, and was included on the prestigious CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center) 2003 Choices list of recommended titles. In 2007 she wrote and illustrated her second picture book, “Powwow’s Coming” published by the University of New Mexico Press. She has also written and illustrated “Giveaways, an ABC of Loanwords from the Americas” published also by the University of New Mexico Press in 2010. In 2011, Giveaways was the recipient of three Finalist Awards from the International Book Awards.
Linda is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers. She enjoys doing author visits and storytelling at schools and libraries as well as presenting workshops at writing conferences around the country. Visit her on the web at www.lindaboyden.com

AMERICAN INDIAN ADOPTEES: Lost Children, Lost Ones, Lost Birds


By Trace A. DeMeyer

I jump with evolution

As a child of the stars,

a witness to human frailty

I study the masters,

Mystics, prophets, poets

to absorb their magic

I propel mountains of knowledge

But fall back, poisoned by pollution

Broken by my own ignorance and innocence

My blood stores so many memories

every horrific mistake, every genocide,

Things I would just as soon forget.

So I pray myself well.

Copyright © Trace A. DeMeyer. All rights reserved.


Trace A. DeMeyer (Cherokee-Shawnee) writes poetry when the quiet voice wakes her. She is working on her first chapbook. Her memoir “One Small Sacrifice: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects,” published in 2010, describes her search for adoption history, her identity and birth-relatives. Trace is former editor of the Pequot Times and Ojibwe Akiing. Visit her on the web at her journalist blog www.splitfeathers.blogspot.com

Native American Heritage Month Braided with Thanksgiving: An American Indian Perspective

By Terra Trevor

Wind, smelling of wood smoke rattles the yellow leaves off the peach tree. I adjust my glasses, button my coat. My son bounds from his classroom to greet me. Eyes filled with brown warmth, he peeks out from under a cap of shiny dark hair; it’s the kind of black that shines red in sunlight.

“Mom, something about this isn’t right.” He is holding a construction paper headdress fashioned with hot pink and purple feathers. I nod, and run my hand through his hair, pushing the bangs off his forehead. Out of the corner of my eye I see children clutching construction paper pilgrim hats.

With his eyebrows curved in question marks my sons asks, “Have you ever seen an Eagle with pink and purple feathers?” And then we both giggle at the absurdity. It’s both funny, and not funny. My son understands the seriousness of regalia, but at age seven it’s not his job to carry the weight. As his mother that responsibility belongs to me.

November, the season of damp leaves, slanted sunlight and Thanksgiving is braided with Native American Heritage month. What started at the turn of the century to recognize The First Americans simmered on the back burner until 1990, when President George H. Bush approved a joint resolution designing November as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations have been issued each year since 1994. But thus far, the majority of those I meet within mainstream America continue to be unaware there is something to acknowledge other than the story of "The First Thanksgiving." I say this not only in sorrow, but in disbelief.

Why do so many parents, families and teachers continue to dedicate the month of November with a focus on perpetuating this myth year after year after year?

Native people are connected to history, to family, to land, culture and community. We are still alive. We are still here; we have not disappeared into the past, like the pilgrims did. All of the Elders I know tell me Native People have been giving thanks for as long as people have existed. After the corn was all dried, pumpkins sliced and the wild plums brought in it was a time for “giving thanks.” When the food was together for the hard winter months and when the work was all done, they gathered.

Yet after the “Thanksgiving” holiday was coined and continues to be celebrated based on a story that does not include factual Native American history, "Thanksgiving" has become a time of mourning for many Native People. It serves as a period of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land and seed corn, extermination of many Native people from disease, and near total elimination of many more from forced assimilation. As celebrated in America "Thanksgiving" is a reminder of 500 years of betrayal.

I’m within the assemblage of American Indians whose family and Native friends gather on Thanksgiving. But our focus is not on pilgrims. Our celebration is deep-rooted in the tradition of honoring, remembering our ancestors, our history, with a focus on thanks given for the harvest. Our thoughts turn to the Wampanoag people. We feast and pray for the healing to begin.

I remember my grandmother’s words. “Child,” she said, “We’re Indians, our culture has been scattered into odds and bits, yet Indian People are determined to keep our life ways alive.”

Since no one knows when the "first" thanksgiving occurred, if it were up to me, I’d dedicate the entire month of November focusing on National Native American Heritage, to teach the rich histories of Native Peoples, and I’d let the pilgrims have a day all of their own, in December.

This article was first published as an invited guest essay at Mothering Magazine and it has been reprinted by Indian Country Today,  NAFCC  Native American Fair Commerce Coalition, The University of Arizona Press, Thought Catalog and The Huffington Post. 

Copyright © 2011 Terra Trevor. All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Terra Trevor is a widely published writer of a diverse body of work and a contributing author of 10 books, including The People Who Stayed: Southeastern Indian Writing After Removal (University of Oklahoma) Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices On Child Custody and Education (The University of Arizona). Her work and portrait is featured in Tending the Fire: Native Voices and Portraits (University of New Mexico). Her work has also appeared in numerous other books, anthologies, literary journals and online. terratrevorauthor.com


Chapter Four #49 Bear Child Blvd.

By Kimberly Wieser

10:30 pm. Swoosh, tha-thump, swoosh, tha-thump . . . he came by this time every night. She lay there in her bed, warm under the Pendleton her grandpa had given her last spring, hearing his skate board swoosh and thump down the sidewalk, past the big spruce tree, down to his house. But to him, she was just T.J.’s little sister . . . background. She wanted to be spotlight. She wanted to be like a jingle dancer everyone noticed at a powwow, full of grace and beauty, quick and fluid, but she only wanted that everyone to be him.

6:45 a.m. The moon shone barely through the basement window. She struggled to find the clock, shrill in the dark. She just wanted to stop it in time to keep it from waking her little sister snuggled under the other quilt next to her, her little brother in the next room, still snoozing in the bed T.J. had vacated almost an hour earlier. It was hard here in town without Dad, without all the aunties and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, all the cousins.

She stopped the clock . . . Mom had it harder though. She had to work so much now. Melanie knew it was hard on her, hard for her to leave when her children were sleeping, hard for her to be without Melanie’s dad, to be alone. Melanie tried to help all she could, but even at thirteen, even with the tiny love she was beginning to feel, she knew that nothing could replace the man a woman loves with her whole heart, her whole mind, her whole body, her whole spirit. That had been clear in her mother’s face, in her eyes, every day her dad had been alive within Melanie’s memory. It was clear now in the wounded woman who worked herself to death to feed her children, to offer them what she felt was a better life, here in town, off the rez with all the relatives, all the traditional ways that remained strong, all the love, and all the pain.

Melanie pulled the chain on the lamp, glanced over at her mother’s empty bed against the next wall with its neatly folded blankets, stumbled to the washroom and flipped on the switch. The bare bulb above her glared in her eyes as she stared in the mirror. She opened the medicine cabinet to find her toothbrush, placed far enough out of the reach of the little ones that none of them would swipe it, at least not without too much scene and likely a loud catastrophe. She squeezed out the last of the toothpaste, knowing she’d have to cut it open for them before she fed them some breakfast. She turned the faucet, brushed her teeth, and splashed her face with some water. Drying it, she turned her face this way and that in the mirror, wishing Mom would let her wear some makeup. “Saaaa. ..” she’d said when Mel brought it up, “you’ll be wanting to wear high heels and short skirts next! What would your Dad think?” That’s all it had taken for Mel to drop the subject, probably permanently.

But these girls in town wore makeup, even the Indian girls. Not the ones at the Catholic school close by their basement suite, but the ones at the public high school she went to across town, across the river. She was good in school, and out on the rez, they had promoted her from Grade 1 to Grade 3 several years ago. When she moved to town, the white principal had doubted her.

“It’s just extremely unusual, Ms. Scout.”

“Mrs.,” Mel’s mother interrupted him.

He looked disturbed. “Mrs. Scout,” he said hesitantly. “It’s unusual that a student from one of the reserves would be able to succeed at a grade higher than his or her age-level. In my professional opinion, it would be best to enroll your daughter at the junior high. Give her a chance to succeed. You know, our curriculum is substantially more difficult than that of the Indian school. I just have you and your child’s best interests in mind, I assure you.”

But her mother had insisted that they test her. If they wouldn’t recognize the truth of her records from the rez, let Melanie show them she could compete with them on their own grounds. Melanie had felt uncomfortable with the whole confrontation. It was bad enough, moving to town, away from her friends and family, being out of place, alone. She had passed their tests all right, at least the ones on paper.

The school was huge, and there were few Indian students compared to the whites, even compared to the Asians. Indians only outnumbered blacks and Hispanics, who were almost invisible in the packed hallways, full of girls who wore tight shirts, tight jeans, had brightly-colored hair, and makeup, full of boys who looked at her and all the girls as if they were things, as though they had the right to judge each female who passed by.

Only her brother could be counted on, him and his old friends from the rez, others whose families had moved to town over the past few years for a variety of reasons. But they were older, and each day that one of them stayed in school, didn’t drop out to do non-existent work, sleep on their mother’s couches, was a miracle. She understood, but right now, they were the only thing that made her feel remotely safe in this place. That’s why she didn’t mind T.J. leaving as early as he did in the morning. He caught a ride each weekday with a Metis guy from up the block who worked construction across town and hit the gym as soon as the custodians would let him in. Basketball was all that kept him around. In a way, basketball kept him connected to Dad, Melanie supposed.

Mom would be in from her night shift at the hospital soon, to shower up, eat breakfast with them, and take them to school before she herself went to University. Sometimes she thought of moving down across the line, moving to the States where nurses made more money, Melanie knew. But here, she was able to help her people in one of the few ways she knew how. It had to be hard, Mel knew, working the emergency room during the night shift. She knew the things her mother saw couldn’t be pleasant—the rougher side of life was more apparent at night, at night when people tried to hide things, things the bright lights of the emergency room only made sadder, made uglier. Mel was just glad that it had been too late for Dad already when they found him, too late for them to take him in, too late so that Mom hadn’t had to see him like that. It was a horrible thing to have to be happy about.

Mel went back into the bedroom, turned on the light, and woke Kalie. “Go on . . . get up if you want a chance to get in the washroom before Dyl, you’d better get up.” Kalie reluctantly left her quilt, put her feet on the floor, and moaned her way to the other room. Mel picked up the quilts, shook them out, and folded them.

Kalie yelled, “There’s no toothpaste left in here!”

“I’m coming, just as fast as I can,” replied Mel. She walked in the other room, into the corner they used as a makeshift kitchen, reached in a jar stacked among groceries on one of the folding tables, and got out a steak knife, slightly bent at the tip from someone opening milk cans hammer-style, but still usable. She walked into the washroom, tip pointed down as Mom would never forgive her for forgetting something like that, and deftly slit open the tube.

“Groooooss!” Kalie exclaimed.

“Gross, but still good,” Mel replied. “Hurry, Mom will be here in just a minute, and you know she needs to wash up. DYLAN!” Mel yelled, her usual quietness broken by the need to speed up things.

“I’m up, I’m up . . .” Dyl groaned from under the blankets.

“You’ll have to make your own bed this morning,” Mel said, coming back around the corner out of the washroom. “I’ve got breakfast to cook, and Mom should be in any minute. You know she has to be to class on time. Get ready.”

Mel got tired of taking care of other people. She didn’t know how Mom did it. Melanie’s mother had decided to become a nurse soon after high school, soon after her best friend died way too soon. That part Regina admitted to her. The rest, Mel had heard. Around here, people talked about each other so much that you even ended up hearing stories about your own parents and your own siblings. There had been that guy. Her mom’s first love, the way that Anastasia had told it. They had even been married, Indian way, anyhow. He had lived with her at Aaah’s house out in Laverne. Anastasia said his Grandpa had been a big time Indian doctor, a highly respected ceremonial person, before he passed on. They had all had big hope for that boy, that boy her mom had been in love with. But that one, he must of have turned out more like his dad, Anastasia said. Apparently got messed up on drugs or something and broke her mother’s heart.

Now her mom’s heart was broke again, Mel thought.

“I wonder if it’s worth it,” she thought to herself.

She had heard older women sigh, “Men . . .” so many times, but what they should be sighing is “Love,” Mel thought. That was the part that got you in trouble, made you foolish, got you hurt. Mel thought of that old story, one of the several about Chief Mountain, about that heartbroken chief’s daughter that threw herself off it so long ago. Mel thought that that story probably wasn’t the right one. Still, she thought, there were old stories about girls who killed themselves because they couldn’t marry the boys they wanted to, for one reason or another. Sometimes, it was because of their parents. The parents had other plans. The Old Folks used to say that love made people crazy, and it certainly wasn’t a smart reason to get married to someone. Sometimes, it was because the boy a girl was in love with hadn’t proven himself to be a man yet, hadn’t had any success in battle or sometimes even hunting. Even though the two might be close in age, the Old People would have thought that she was a woman, but that he certainly wasn’t yet a man. Mel thought those stories were sad. It was sad that people were doing things like killing themselves even way back there in the olden days. But she was starting to wonder if they might not have been right about love.

She heard Mom’s keys rattling at the door.

. . . A chapter from a novel in progress, Quilt Like a Night Sky.
Copyright © Kimberly Wieser. All rights reserved.

Dr. Kimberly Wieser is an Assistant Professor of English and an affiliated faculty member with Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. She has recently become Director of Native Writers Circle of the Americas and serves as Vice-President of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. She is one of the co-authors of Reasoning Together: The Native Critics Collective (OU Press), named one of the most important books in her field in the first decade of the 21st century by NAISA. She is currently revising her manuscript Back to the Blanket: Reading, Writing, and Resistance for American Indian Literary Critics—winner of the NWCA First Books Award for Prose 2004. She has written and published poems, stories, articles, book reviews, and reference entries for anthologies and for publications from Studies in American Indian Literatures to American Indian Quarterly to News from Indian Country and Talking Stick Arts Newsletter. Her areas of interest are Native critical theories, contemporary Native literatures, (particularly women's literatures), Native rhetorics, and Native creative writing.

Once Upon A River

By Tiffany Midge

We were the kids trading marbles and penny candy at the Friday night Grange Hall meetings. We were the deaf shopkeeper at McDougals who said the comics would set ya back two bits, and the digests two bits and a George Washington. We were the Pillager kids from your dad’s class who had you over for supper, who horrified your mom when Mrs. Pillager wiped the rain off her hounds with a dishcloth, then covered the fried chicken with the same cloth.

We were the voices of the evening church bells chiming every sunset and the Rutherford sisters who graciously invited you into their doily-drenched parlor for hot water and honey and taught you how to play Hearts.

We were the hippie mom of the kid you played with, who stored the umbilical cords of her children in the back of the freezer, and the waitress at the Silver Spoon who dished you free bowls of vanilla ice cream on slow nights. We were the man who convinced you he was going to commandeer a raft all the way to Hawaii and who you swear you saw on the TV news, safe and triumphant after he’d mysteriously left town.

We were the junkyard dog next door whose owner was jaundiced and sported a hook for a hand, and the Davenquist boy who you traded your Girl Scout Mints for a litter of baby mice that all died because the house was too cold at night, so your dad replaced them with tropical fish.

We were the general store where you ran to fetch the mail every afternoon from Box 70 and spent your ten cent weekly allowance on a candy bar, and the girl named Rudy whose newborn sister had pierced ears and whose dad smoked from a hookah pipe, and Brian Osterday who was your perfect first love and who had a brother named Royal, the name of your orange cat.

We were the Snoqualmie Bull’s Saturday baseball games your dad coached and the fat catcher named Moose who later died from a broken leg. We were Brownie meetings in the basement of the library across the street.

We were the occasional shrieking of the firehouse alarm alerting your dad, in the volunteer squad to run up the block and help save distressed babies or car engine fires, and we were creek crawdads and guppies and the steady stream of bull fish hooked from the banks of the Snoqualmie River.

We were the long days that existed solely for the pleasures of swimming in the lagoons of that river, and the sandbar where some fishermen gave you your first can of beer and where you traced pictures in the sand and buried costume jewelry and brooches stolen from your mother’s dresser.

We were the sticker bushes alongside the banks where you harvested quarts of blackberries and traded to Mrs. Higgenbottom who made you a blue pie.

We were Mary Chesum whose parents were Yakima Indians and we were the Friday night when she was abducted from the house she was babysitting at, taken to the river where she was alternately chased, then stabbed, and chased again, repeatedly—her blood and clothing spilling across the lengths of the rocky bank—by a high school senior who she’d been refusing to date.

We were Mary Chesum’s younger sister Lisa, your friend, your classmate. You were the only two Indian girls in school, the only ones with that long black hair that wrapped around your shoulders like shawls. The only two girls who knew they were different, who knew they’d be singled out; girls who paired up for safety and refuge, for shelter; ones who knew how to flee to the banks of the river, instinctually, by memory.

We were there, that day on the playground when your shoelace had broken and Lisa without hesitation unbraided her lace and gave it to you.
We watched as she bent over and threaded the lace into the grommets of your shoe, then went for the remainder of the day with her one shoe loose and undressed.

Copyright © Tiffany Midge. All rights reserved.

Once Upon A River appeared in “Native Literatures: Generations," 2010.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tiffany Midge’s book “Outlaws, Renegades and Saints, Diary of a Mixed-up Halfbreed” won the Diane Decorah Poetry Award. She’s most recently been published in North American Review, The Raven Chronicles, Florida Review and the online journal No Tell Motel. An enrolled Standing Rock Sioux and MFA grad from University of Idaho she lives in Moscow, Idaho (Nez Perce country) and teaches part time with Northwest Indian College. Visit her on the web at http://breakfastattiphanys.blogspot.com/

From Michoacan, Mexico to California: A Latina Writer Reflects

By Aurora Garcia

We hear it everywhere “we are one.” Do we really believe it? I personally struggle with my own demons of stereotyping, pride, fear and narrow mindedness. I force myself to think of me and everything else that surrounds me as a global matter. But I have to keep reminding myself of the type of person I want to be and the kind of example I want to be for my son. Not easy.

As a kid I would fear hearing anything that had to do with news. Perhaps all the catastrophes, political affairs, personal interests, unfairness, is what has made me be so scared. As I got older I realized that I had to be informed on relevant issues. Reluctantly, I watch and read “some” news.

I hear a lot about immigration and of course being a Latina, I could not turn my back on these issues. The first time I entered the United States, I did it with my green card. Do you think racist or prejudiced people know or care about that? No, they look only at my last name.

Thankfully my wonderful father did the work it took to make sure I did not have the need to enter this country illegally. This means, I did not have to suffer what people trying to survive around the world have suffered for centuries. People around the world have been displaced countless times. Also, in the United States think of the discrimination that in past decades- Irish, Chinese, Blacks, and Native American have been through, not to mention being called the Okies. Well, now it is the Hispanics’ turn – myself included.

The Spaniards came to America. They “discovered” America. My answer to that is no need to discover us. We knew we were here. The conquistadors killed Native people. They took ships loaded with gold back to Spain. They traded mirrors for gold. They destroyed writings, and a culture. If that had not happened, I would most likely live in my hometown and my last name would not be Garcia, but most likely a Purepecha name.

I feel a right to write about all this, because it hits home. As a Mexican, I see and hear all the trouble that immigrants from Central America go through in my own country. This is a shame. I have heard all kinds of criticism because in Mexico there is a large Argentinean, Chinese, Centro-American community. Well, we are the least indicated to say a word or mistreat anybody. And I don’t even want to get started on the terrible way society has treated and continues to treat Natives in my own country. This is a whole other topic.

Yes, the world would be chaotic if we all went back to where we came from. The United States of America would be filled with only Native Americans. The Mayans and Aztecs would have emerged as the great civilizations they were. The rest of the European countries that immigrated to America and that now call it their own would have stayed where they originated. But why are we so territorial?

There is a sense of ownership that people around the world acquire, but whose world is this? At the same time, we contradict ourselves in so many ways. We need to practice what we preach. When will we learn as a civilization that the world belongs to all of us, and that it is also our obligation to make it better.

WE ARE ONE. It would make the world a better place if we helped each other and stopped segregating. When God, or nature or whomever you believe in made the universe and earth, it was created with no borders, no names and no flags. Perhaps we could try to be more instinctive, more tolerant. And learn that the way the world has been managed for centuries is not working. I don’t have all the answers, but we could try together as a planet to avoid the mistakes that we keep repeating that have not taken us anywhere. Then again, I have been called crazy many times. Or like John Lennon said, “you may say I’m a dreamer.”

Copyright © 2011 Aurora Garcia. All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Aurora Garcia is a nonfiction writer and essayist who was born in La Piedad, Michoacan, Mexico. She moved to California in 1989, when she was 14 years old. This is about the time when she began writing, but throughout her teen and young adult years she kept her writing to herself for fear of being exposed. Although fluent in English and Spanish she instinctively writes in Spanish, as it is her native language. Aurora lives with her husband and 12 year-old son. She loves life, nature, art, music, and diversity, admiring the contrasts and richness of her homeland culture, as well as the beautiful language that Spanish is. Aurora believes her passion for writing was inherited from her father who wrote songs and poetry.

She’s Awake

By Dawn Downey

There are days when the elders speak directly to the heart.

A hospice assignment led me to a suburban ranch house. Nothing in its appearance distinguished it from the others that lined the block.

Squinting into the August glare, I climbed the front stairs and rang the bell. When Mr. Murphy answered, the sun danced across his smiling face. It spilled into the entry hall behind him. I would sit with his wife, who was bedridden and lost to Alzheimer’s, while he ran errands.

He glanced over his shoulder toward the rear of the house. “She’s awake today.”

I followed him into the den. Picture windows on three of its walls framed a manicured back yard. The brilliant day poured in. Cushions printed in violet and lime plumped up a white wicker couch and ottoman. Better Homes and Gardens lay on a glass-topped table.

The furniture was pushed aside to accommodate Mrs. Murphy’s hospital bed. It faced a television set tuned to a country music video station. When I leaned over to say hello, she smiled up at me. Her unlined face and pixie haircut belied the degeneration reflected in her toothless grin.

“Are you going to do my hair?”
“She thinks you’re the beautician,” Mr. Murphy said.
I played along. “I’d love to.”
“Expensive?” she asked.
“Nope, I’m free.”

Mr. Murphy pushed the controls that raised the head of the bed. The motor whirred until his wife sat upright. He reached for a cup on the nightstand. “Want some water, Honey?” Leaning down to her, he touched a plastic straw to her thin, cracked lips.

After replacing the cup, he returned the bed to horizontal, gave me instructions and headed off to the grocery store.

I straightened the blankets, searching her face for signs of distress. But there was no strain in her expression. No worry lines creased her forehead.

The television blared a beer commercial. I switched it off, pulled up a stool and sat down next to the bed. Mrs. Murphy seemed to study the ceiling. We chatted our way through an Alzheimer’s banter, a duet sung with two different sets of lyrics.

“I’m happy I get to visit you today,” I said.
She lay still as a corpse. “Where’s my coat? I’m going home.”
I patted her leg, which was barely discernible among the pillows and blankets. “Where are you in there?”

We both chuckled, sharing the cosmic joke.

The sun streamed through the windows, warming me as I sat beside her. When hunger rumbled through my stomach, I reached into my bag. “Do you mind if I eat my apple?”

“We used to have a big back yard,” she said.
I nodded. “We did, too, with roses and oranges and avocados. And apples so sour, only Mother and I liked them.”

“Did you make pie?”
I crunched the Granny Smith. Its tartness bit my tongue. “Gosh no. She wasn’t great in the kitchen.”

Mrs. Murphy drifted off to sleep.

I curled up on the couch to meditate. A river of silence wound through intermittent thoughts. When the dark behind my eyelids grew brilliant, I checked to see if the sun had emerged from behind a cloud. The sky, however, was clear as glass. I closed my eyes and once more, the darkness brightened. A second peek revealed that the light in the room remained unchanged. I returned to meditation. The radiance reappeared as though the shades had been raised, but calm stayed my curiosity and lulled me into a nap.

I woke with a sense of remembering, without knowing what had been forgotten.

My companion had also awakened, but her eyes were vacant.
“Did you have a good nap?” I asked.
She replied without missing a beat. “We both did.”

Her erratic clarity enchanted me. I yearned to follow wherever she led, but the front door opened and Mr. Murphy brought in the groceries.

I met him in the kitchen, heard about the prices on soup and baby food, and then returned to her bed.

She startled me with a gaze as deep as Einstein’s. Her eyes reflected mine, and mine hers, back and back through the ages.
“Thanks for keeping me company,” I whispered.
She said … nothing. Off to play in other realms. Her absence was no less gratifying than her presence. I stroked her translucent cheek, said goodbye to her husband and stepped into the afternoon sun. A surge of energy quickened my pace --- the satisfaction that descends when I turn the last page of a perfectly crafted novel.

Copyright © Dawn Downey. All rights reserved.

First published 2007 in Alzheimer’s Anthology of Unconditional Love, by the Mid-Missouri Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association


Dawn Downey is the author of “Stumbling Toward the Buddha, Tripping Over my Principles on the Road to Transformation.

Dawn’s writing has also been published in The Christian Science Monitor, ShambhalaSun.com, Kansas City Voices Magazine, Ink Byte and The Best Times newspaper. Her work has earned honors at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, Oklahoma Writers Federation and the Missouri Writers Guild. www.dawndowney.com

Rosalia in her 90s

By Kim Shuck

Off in those days of furniture forts

Curled under upended armchairs or

Broom handles stuck in the lawn

Draped with blankets with you it was always this


As your fears take over we try to

Talk it out

Tease some sense from a new game

Cereal, mug, toast

Food become building material you

Push it more than eat the

Pills you take or bury in the mashed potato when

No one is looking the arguments

About baths

About dreams that have become for you so

Vivid about your cold cold hands about the dinner you

Cooked it years ago but can smell that soup and


Yearn for it, I’m

Learning to overcook to use

Handfuls of black pepper a

Spell to summon that familiar raven’s eye that

Smile that says you knew I was teasing you.

Copyright © Kim Shuck. All rights reserved.

Kim Shuck is a writer, visual artist, curator, frustrated mom and recovering sarcastic. She holds an MFA in Fine Arts from San Francisco State University. Her first solo book of poetry, Smuggling Cherokee, was published by Greenfield Review press in 2005 and won the Diane Decorah Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas. Recent work has been included in the anthologies New Poets of the American West and I Was Indian. In June 2010 Kim had a month long co-residency at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Visit her on the web at www.kimshuck.com


By Carter Revard

(for Bill and Lois Winchester)

Sally Carrighar, in a meadow one night, heard what seemed a bird trilling, then saw it was a deer-mouse. My friend Bill Winchester tells me that when deer-mice came into his house from the tallgrass prairie of Oklahoma, he live-trapped and released them in a nearby hedgerow, but they waltzed back in, singing an epithalamium. Add an O and a Muse becomes a Mouse, with poetic license to party on Mount Parnassus and drink from the Muses’ Spring of Helicon. Blake's Sunflower, weary of time, looked for that sweet golden clime where the Traveler's journey is done—but the little Deer-Mice got there before tourists with FOX2P genes did (NY Times 29 May 2009, p.A5: human “language gene” put into mice deepens their baby-cries, so Mezzo Mice may soon be singing).

In this “new” world they sing,
as we come down from the stars,1
like Milton’s Leonora singing
(aut Deus, aut vacui certé mens tertia cøeli),2
they climb up the stems
of sunflowers still not weary
of time, and they trill,
perching and swinging,
in meadow and glade, as if
a rainbow
trout might rise
to May-flies from their
music, as if John Muir and
Hetch Hetchy3
might come back
alive and listening,
anadromous as salmon or sabretooth
tigers, up time itself into the glistening
moonlit sonatas of
Sierra song.

1 In our Osage naming ceremonies it is said that we have come to this world from the stars. The words in one of our dawn-songs say of the Sun: “He returns, he is coming again into the visible world.”
2 Line 5 of John Milton’s Latin poem written in 1637-8 for the Neapolitan singer Leonora Baroni, whom he heard during a visit to Rome. In English, lines 4-8 of that poem, as translated from Latin by Lawrence Revard, say: “…your voice itself sounds God’s presence./ Surely God, or an emptied heaven’s third intelligence,/…glides through your throat,/…and teaches mortal hearts/ to grow accustomed to immortal sound.” See JOHN MILTON, Complete Shorter Poems, ed. Stella Revard (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), p. 199.
3 John Muir tried to save a Sierra vale, Hetch Hetchy, but the dam was built and now the people of San Francisco (St. Francis?) drink, shower, and flush with water drawn from that sanctuary—the moving waters at their priestlike task, perhaps.

Copyright © Carter Revard. All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carter Revard, Osage on his father's side, was born in the Osage Agency town of Pawhuska, Oklahoma and grew up on the Osage Reservation there. He attended a one-room school in the Buck Creek rural community, won a radio quiz scholarship to the University of Tulsa, and was given his Osage name in 1952, the year he went to Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. After taking his B.A. there, he earned a Ph.D. at Yale and taught medieval literature, linguistics, and American Indian literature at Amherst College, Washington University St. Louis, and elsewhere. He retired in 1997 but continues to write and publish poems and scholarly essays. His books of poetry include Ponca War Dancers (1980), Cowboys and Indians, Christmas Shopping (1992), An Eagle Nation (1993), and How The Songs Come Down (2005). A collection of essays published in 1998, Family Matters, Tribal Affairs, was followed by Winning The Dust Bowl (memoirs and poems) in 2001. Some recent poems, including "Deer Mice Singing Up Parnassus," was first published in AHANI: Poems of the Indigenous Americas, edited by Allison Hedge Coke, The University of Arizona Press.

  • If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. —Barry Lopez, in Crow and Weasel