Ridin’ the 40 Home

A page from Smoked Mullet Cornbread Crawdad Memory 

(for big sis K.R.)

They say everything is bigger
in Texas, that is propaganda.
Riding back from Albuquerque
sister at wheel. We talk, squawking
clicks, a pair of ravens making
magic with our tongues.
Keeping language carefully —
cuz we women know words are spears.

Holding breath through Texas,
Tribal plates, eagle feather, beaded
tobacco pouch swinging from rearview
mirror like lighthouse guiding coppers:

Texas don’t like their Indians or Mexicans.
Why tolerate neighbor Indians crossing
invisible borders—never really there
to begin with? Our chatter slows. 
Silence, along I-40 through Tejas.

Sis’s car big enough to hold
eight, more with determination.
Carried folks from half the tribes
in Oklahoma to and from meeting.
Indians pilled up one on top the other,
individual lines drawn through Traverse
representing “the I-35 dividin’ line—
two different countries,” sis says.
Southeast Indians and Plains Tribes.
Sis’s car is a mini Okie Indian County.

In this car Indians slept, prayed, played.
Gone to NAC meetings crawled in
worn, tired from prayers, peyote,
fasting, mourning, rites and rituals.
This wagon sheltered, kept Indians both
sides of I-35 safe, out of cold. Housed so
many prayers doors burst vibrate singing
with medicine in languages old as earth.
We pass the Oklahoma state line,
exhale, our tongues come back to life.
Not that we were worried, riding in
purple peyote wagon, full of prayers
weren’t no way we wasn’t getting home.
Pick up conversation as if silence never
shrouded us, as true sisters can—half
with words spoken, half with knowing
in marrow, memory, whispers in blood.

Looking up Oklahoma sky rolling by stars
are so close you can ask them to dance,
move, twirl for you, blink and keep
an ever-watchful eye. Eyes of those who
walked on before us. Oklahoma night sky
hangs low over plains stretching to meet
endless horizon. We roll forward rhythm of
wheels making music— I swear hear
Three Dog Night sing
Well I never been to Heaven,
but I’ve been to Oklahoma…”

First published in Smoked Mullet Cornbread Crawdad Memory, Mongrel Empire Press, Norman, OK 2012. 

Rain Prud'homme-Cranford (Louisiana Choctaw/Creole/Mvskoke/Metis/Celtic) is the Sutton Doctoral Fellow in English at University of Oklahoma, She won the 2009 First Book Award in poetry for Smoked Mullet Cornbread Crawdad Memory (Mongrel Empire Press-Fall 2012), from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas, (NWCA). Her second book, Miscegenation Round Dance: Poèmes Historiques, is currently under review and she is working on her third poetry and prose manuscript: RAW: Lwizyàn Mestizà Unsilences & other poetical oddities. A self-described “TriRacially Fluffy and Fabulous” Louisiana Méstiza, she is of Louisiana Choctaw, Louisiana Creole,  and Mvskogean descent paternally, and of Canadian Métis and CelticAmerican ancestry maternally. She was raised and grew up along the Gulf south in Mvskogean-Creole homelands. Creative and critical can be found in: Tidal Basin Review, Natural Bridge, SING: Indigenous Poetry of the Americas, Yellow Medicine Review, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Louisiana Folklife Journal, and various others. Rain is the National Secretary for Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers and as of 2012 the Assistant National Director of NWCA. She is the newly appointed Editor-in-Chief of the NWCA Literary and Art Journal (Red), launching Spring 2013. She lives in Oklahoma City, near her sister beadwork, regalia, and mixed media artist Tee Shawnee and family where the sisters collaborate and laugh with family and children.

Scenes From a Naturalist’s Sketchbook

By Tiffany Midge

My father tells me the stars don’t exist,
having burned out year’s ago. These are what remains,
tricks of the eye.  We are standing beneath
a congress of firs lit by stars—
flickering candles in night’s windows.
After my mother dies he tells me
everything still exists, it’s all still alive.
I think of the intrepid current of a Cascades’
creek that nearly drowned me—
the rapids I was saved from banked by stones
each with a name my father knew: Terrigenous,
breccias, shale.
  In the Gulf of Mexico
kerchiefed women, aunties of Jorges and Jose,
peddled giant sea turtle shells to tourists—
my father shrugging them off: Gracious, gracious, no, no.
I think of remote camps, my father leaving
for hours on expedition, returning with a hat
full of berries he swore he’d outrun a bear for.
Nanooch Tropical Gardens, Thailand: My father
chain-smoking Chinese cigarettes beneath
an umbrella of palms, the esplanade full of howler
monkeys and sun bears, an exhibit of giant butterflies.
Everything still exists, it’s all still alive
We net smelt at a Pacific coast beach,
our fingers stained purple from gutting fish,
our faces stinging with salt spray, canvas Keds
drying on a line; tacky residue of campfire
fish on our hands, the meat part smoke, part sweet.
Whatcom Creek

It’s been four years since I’ve seen my father
and here we are taking in the mayhem
like a couple of tourists who’ll later
buy bright, glossy postcards of the salmon
belly-up and gutted along the pier.
He’s still handsome, my father, still smokes
the filter-less cigarettes, year by year
their tar flowering like badly-timed jokes
in his dark lungs.  I used to pray for him
before prayer was futile as these fish
pitching their fruiting bodies into dim
bleary tombs.  This same time next year I’ll wish
for more time.  I’ll wish for redemption,
but only ghosts will rise, I imagine. 

First published at Drunken Boat No. 15 
Readmore  http://www.drunkenboat.com/db15/tiffany-midge 
Copyright © Tiffany Midge. All rights reserved.
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, South Dakota 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.

  • 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