How Turtle Got Her Shell

by Jenny L. Davis 

Did you know 

Turtle 
didn’t always have 
a shell? 
She grew it 
to keep 
from being crushed 
fortifying 
her own body 
ribs 
vertebrae 
clavicle 
into carapace and plastron 
learning a whole 
new way to 
breath to 
walk to 
live 
to protect 
her from 
predators. 
She knew 
safety 
requires strength 
survival 
means fortifying 
softness 

© Jenny L. Davis. All rights reserved. 



Jenny L. Davis (Chickasaw) is a Two-Spirit/queer Indigenous writer and professor of American Indian Studies and Anthropology. Her creative work has been featured in literary journals including the Santa Ana River Review; Transmotion; Anomaly; Broadsided; and as well as anthologies such as As/Us; Raven Chronicles; and Resist Much/Obey Little: Inaugural Poems to the Resistance

Author of Talking Indian: Identity and Language Revitalization in the Chickasaw Renaissance (The University of Arizona Press). uapress.arizona.edu/book/talking-indian

Dancing to Remember

by Terra Trevor 

I am gathered with friends and family under a bead blue sky. Powwow weekend. Santa Ynez Chumash Inter-Tribal. My shawl is folded over my arm. I listen to the wind, spilling through the tree leaves. Time merges with timelessness. Memories circle and carry me to a day forty years ago, when I stood on this good land, near the oak tree for the first time, with my young children gathered about. 


The same tree I am standing under today. I lean my back against this oak. This tree, giver of life. She has raised a community with song, dance and prayer. We return to this land, to this tree, in October every year. Laughter, flirting and romance in lives young and old take place all around her. She stands sentry. Her autumn softened leaves, swept up from a cool mountain breeze, fall gently on American Indian fathers holding sleeping babies. Mothers trading stories, their shiny cut beads reflecting light while braiding their children’s hair, with feathers in the colors of the earth, trailing. 


There were difficult times too for this oak tree, when she witnessed wild fires raging, drought years with dust rising against the clear sky. The times when her branches sheltered human arguments and angry outbursts, but mostly she is surrounded by love and caring. 


I stand high upon a flat rock, my eyes roaming, taking in the day, the years. Filling my lungs with sweet fragrances of the damp Mother Earth. Feeling my body grow light, like the feathers of the red tail hawk touching the soft clouds. 


For the record I am not California Indian. I am an Indian born in California, and for forty years I have lived near a creek in an area that makes up the traditional Chumash homeland. I’m walking gently, a guest on this good land and I hold the culture, traditions and history of the Chumash people in my heart. For my Chumash friends this is their landscape of time. 


I remember the words of my aunties, my grandmother, about how each person is a link to history and that when it comes to powwows all Native people gathered around the arena are participating as we form a circle around the drums, singers and dancers. And how every Native person gathered is connected, making a statement that American Indian people are still here. This is our celebration of life past, present and future. 


First published in the Spring 2019 issue of News From Native California a quarterly magazine devoted to California's Indian peoples. 


© Terra Trevor. All rights reserved. 



Terra Trevor is the author of a diverse body of work and a contributing editor at River, Blood, And Corn. She is the author of Pushing up the Sky and a contributor to 12 books, including The People Who Stayed: Southeastern Indian Writing After Removal (University of Oklahoma Press), and Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices On Child Custody and Education (The University of Arizona Press). Her work and portrait is featured in Tending the Fire: Native Voices and Portraits (University of New Mexico Press). Her work also has appeared in News From Native California (Heyday), Voices Confronting Pediatric Brain Tumors (Johns Hopkins University Press), Yellow Medicine Review, Raven Chronicles and in numerous other books, anthologies and literary journals. www.terratrevorauthor.com

On I-66

by Kimberly L. Becker 

At Manassas the highway stained with blood 

from where you hit the deer or seepage from 
the Civil War (you didn’t hit the deer 
but might have or perhaps you hit the person 
whose bicycle—front wheel and severed frame 
was one of three incongruous symbols 
seen that day as you drove towards Roanoke, 
the others being a group of three white horses 

and a stone bridge to nowhere now--now here?) 

And in your highway reach of mind you held 
sadness swaddled like an infant, stillborn, 
and said goodbye to every inch of it, 
examined it the way they say elephants 
do their dead, exploring all the contours 
in a ritual of grief, saying God be 
with you or in Cherokee or German 
until we meet again, knowing that you wouldn’t 

“On I-66,” was first published in The Dividings, by Kimberly L. Becker © 2014 Wordtech Communications LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio. Reprinted with permission. 




Kimberly L. Becker is author of Words Facing East; The Dividings (WordTech Editions), and Flight (forthcoming, MadHat Press). Her poems appear widely in journals and anthologies, including Indigenous Message on Water; Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence; and Tending the Fire: Native Voices and Portraits (University of New Mexico Press). She has received grants from MD, NJ, and NC and held residencies at Hambidge, Weymouth, and Wildacres. Kimberly has read at venues such as The National Museum of the American Indian (Washington, DC), Split This Rock, and Wordfest. She has served as a mentor for PEN America's Prison Writing Program and AWP's Writer to Writer Program. www.kimberlylbecker.com

Hearsay

by Deborah Jang 

They say you sang like an angel 

on that island in the bay 
where foghorns drowned out 
nighttime murmurs : children’s 
names recited, prayers to deaf 
dumb gods, poems chiseled into 
barrack walls, lives left out 
in the rain. 

I heard them say I have your giggle 
and your preference for peaches. 
I never touched your flesh or face 
but this is what I gather: 
From Fat Yuen to Gold Mountain, 
from girl to wife now claimed, 
tides ferried you from village 
hearth to far foggy days. 

The island where the angels weep 
nabbed you just offshore. Offered 
a thin blanket, cold rice, 
interrogations, and a dreary 
three month chill. Finally you 
and Gong Chow found a spot 
to land on. You served up rice 
to sailors and to homesick fellows 
hungry for your song. 

My mother June, your feisty first, 
Roslyn and David followed. 
Restaurant shiny, children strong, 
then came the day to return, 
history called you home to China. 
June refused to go along and kept 
Roslyn too. The clouds and tides 
that brought you here, ushered 
you back through. 

Within two years word arrived 
Gong Chow died in China 
like he wanted. One month later 
on a whisper you too passed 
away. Especially on misty days 
I listen for your song:

I know your fathoms of despair, 
your gentle grasp on pleasure. 
The peace of spirit that you seek 
encompasses all in-betweens, 
measures life in graces. Though 
ocean tides rip heart from heart, 
the interwash of time and tide 
returns us deep to deep. 

© Deborah Jang. All Rights Reserved. 






Deborah Jang writes her way through the mysteries, perplexities, and joys of being human — on this planet, at this moment, in this skin. She is also a visual artist, engaging connection through forms and objects. She wanders between Denver, CO and Oceanside, CA; between mind and heart; between land and sea. She invites you to visit her website at deborahjang.com

Urban Fauna

by Kim Shuck 

You know how the deer on Market Street are 
With their stoplight eyes 
Picking their way down old runoff paths 
Past the disappearing relocated indigenous women 
The ravens are here to sing us visible 
Drumming on their collection of upended pots and Industrial buckets 
Don't you tell me how we've changed 
We were right there Near the department store 
Near the burial sites Singing to the ancestors 
This isn't an abstract gesture 
It's not a schoolroom exercise 
There are predators here 
And the maps of safe passage change every day 
And the wind comes up in the afternoon 
Don't you tell me how we've changed 
The roots of this hill have learned what to call us 
Just about 
Our clothes collected for the festival 
Our family members taken to who knows 
You might just sit down and listen for a change 
I'm not part of your curriculum 
We're a whole other thing 
Light reflecting off of the miles of glass 
How many feet deep was it? 
Can you hear the water like shattered windows 
Piled just like them 
Just there where the tall buildings lean like stealing 

© Kim Shuck. All rights reserved.




Kim Shuck is a complicated equation with an irrational answer. Shuck is the current and 7th poet laureate of San Francisco and will have a new book out from City Lights Press in the Fall. www.kimshuck.com

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