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:
INDIAN WOMEN TRAVELING.

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. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.

"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

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