River, Blood, And Corn

At River, Blood, And Corn, we are promoting community and strengthening cultures with storytelling, poetry and prose. Established in 2010 by Native writers, our starting point and our goal, is to honor the work and lifeways of Lee Francis III, Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, to ensure the voices of Native writers and storytellers are heard throughout the world. 

A variety of writers, backgrounds, communities and viewpoints are presented. Included in our themes are the Elders whose lives informed, instructed, shaped and changed ours. 
 
While our primary focus is Indigenous writers, we have woven writers and artists from a variety of ethnicities and communities into our pages. Perhaps people of many ethnicities, including recent immigrants from throughout the Americas as well as other parts of the world will find something in this collection that will speak to them with respect to issues of race, identity, culture, community, and representation. 
 
Thank you to our readers. We are honored and grateful to each one of you.

Yugtarvik: A Tʌndrə’d Glimp

by Alice Rose Crow ~ Maar’aq 
 
Alice Rose Crow ~ Maar’aq is among the kass’ayagat of the Kusquqvaq diaspora. She is an independent maker based in Anchorage, Alaska. For the Covid-19-year of 2021, the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center invited Alice to curate a series of creative interpretations to augment ongoing efforts to examine archived collections. A mutual and consolatory goal is to bring attention and reflection to little known and overlooked elements living within the Anchorage Yugtarvik.3 An inclination is to keep stepping toward broadened and deepened groundedness, mutual acknowledgment, contemplation, engagement, understanding, deep dialogue, and sharing among First Alaskans, relatives, migrants, expats, and allanret4 across generations, languages, and amid evolving cultures, technologies, and world views. 
 
Her mixed form 2021 collection commissioned by the Anchorage Museum,Yugtarvik: A Tʌndrə’d Glimp, is available via the yugtarvik’s website at https://www.anchoragemuseum.org/major-projects/projects/chatter-marks/#journal (scroll down to Journal Issues). 
 
Yugtarvik: A Tʌndrə’d Glimp is also available for direct digital download: 

Denise Low Postings | Supporting writers and their events

Denise Low, former Kansas Poet Laureate, is award-winning author of 30 books of prose and poetry. She blogs at Denise Low Postings with reviews, supporting writers and their events, and co-publishes Mammoth Publications, which specializes in Indigenous American authors.

LAST WILL AND BEST GUESSES by Deborah Jang

"Deborah Jang knows the terrain of the human heart. In Last Will and Best Guesses she offers an unflinching meditation on mortality and mystery. Jang taps into our shared experiences from the pandemic to racial reckonings, the environmental crises, the plights of refugees. She writes candidly about the workings of her mind, which are the unspeakable workings of ours too. She muses on connections and consciousness that alter and deepen through recent and ongoing trauma and settles into grace. This is a rich, relatable book to pull out again and again." –Terra Trevor is a contributor to 15 books including, Take A Stand: Art Against Hate. 

"Deborah Jang writes through a raging global pandemic, when a “planet [is] spinning off its axis,” gathering strength to face its uncertainties and attendant anti-Asian violence and sentiment. This is a reserve, for herself, and future generations, and I am nourished by her work." –Diana Khoi Nguyen is a poet and multi-media artist whose book, Ghost Of, was a 2018 finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry. 

“Mind bent, nose blown, fingers crossed./Head bowed, going home.” Deborah Jang writes to the rhythm of life while examining death and all its intricacies. This chapbook is an exhale and a deep breath." –Vogue M. Robinson is the author of Vogue 3:16 (2014) and served as Poet Laureate (2017-2019) for Clark County, Nevada.

Last Will and Best Guesses by Deborah Jang, Finishing Line Press

To my bystanders

by Deborah Jang 
 
People stand by during attack of elderly Asian woman – Associated Press 
 
Did you catch a whiff of lilac 
on that warm summer eve 
while we gathered at the bus stop, 
each wandering our mind?
 
Out the corner of your eye 
did you flinch, did you see him 
rushing twilight, pushing rudely in?
 
In a flash of recognition, 
did your stomach tell your throat 
what was going down?
 
Did you see my toes curl fetal 
while I lay sideways 
on the concrete stunned?
 
Did you freeze in fear and horror? 
Did you look the other way? 
Did you reach down for your phone 
or was it already in your hand?
 
Were you scared to intervene? 
Did your silence cheer him on?
 
Was it you who kneeled down 
and whispered something kind 
I didn’t understand?
 
Did you see my bruised face on TV? 
Did they say my name? 
Did they even try? 
 
Copyright © Deborah Jang. All rights reserved. 
 
Deborah Jang’s creative practices include assemblage sculpture and poetry, based out of Denver, Colorado and Oceanside, California. Her debut poetry collection is titled Float True (Shanti Arts, 2020). Her new chapbook is Last Will and Best Guesses (Finishing Line Press, 2022). deborahjang.com

Community

by Kim Shuck 
 
Grandma lived with this peppernut 
Sapling and tree 
They drank the same water 
I know that the creek is here 
Under ground 
Under thought 
Near the lilac 
Someone’s relic of a different life 
Someone’s idea 
Carried from somewhere else 
On a quiet day 
When there has been rain 
Rest your cheek on the trunk and hear/feel 
Water 
Running in cracked pipes 
Grandma 
The tree 
The elderberry 
The salamander 
The sense of humor 
The fog 
Each water particle 
Rhymes with the life here 
Whispers kinship 
To the cracked and layered 
Rocks on this 
Hill 
 
Copyright © Kim Shuck. All rights reserved. 
 
Kim Shuck is the 7th Poet Laureate of San Francisco Emerita. Shuck is solo author of eight books and one that is on the way. She has edited or co-edited ten volumes of poetry. She contributed essays to the recently released de Young 125, a collection of writing about and photographs of pieces in the permanent collections of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Her most recent collection of poems is Exile Heart from That Painted Horse Press. www.kimshuck.com

Assassination Nation

On the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1968 
 
by Robert Bensen 
 
Whoever we might have been, 
whatever grief or fury we might have shared 
were lost when the mighty arm 
that God and the weight room gave him 
brought down, I believe 
a set of knuckles to open my skull 
to the complicity of my complexion 
and turn us, like the twilight, black and white. 
 
A half-hour later: dizziness, nausea, 
a swarm of psychedelic lights. 

The brain trauma specialist 
asked if I always sweat like this. 

 —Yes, I said, yes, yes, 
I always sweat like this. 
 
Police stacked the table with album after album of mug shots, 
thumbnails of beautiful black males, growing older, somewhere, maybe. 
Maybe my main mugger-man in there, or the brothers who shot up the neighborhood 
night after night I lay sweating bullets on the floor, that summer the night 
one of their grandmothers took a slug through her picture window into her heart. 
 
None of those faces belonged above the arm 
I can still see silhouetted against the cool dusk of April 4, 1968, 
before it descended like the wrath of Jehovah 
who smote the hard, hard hearts of the children 
all the harder because they were his children. 

—Officer, I said, I never saw the man’s face. 
Cop thinks —This guy’s a waste. 
But I had seen the heraldry of race, an arm raised, 
and locked in the fist, a club, a mace— 
trapped in this row after row, page after page 
of sullen faces. Many frames, one rage. 

I wonder: could he pick out of a college yearbook, 
or a line-up of my entire despiséd race, 
me, whose head got in the way of his fist? 
Did this startled face serve in place of him 

who cocked the hammer and aimed the rifle 
and pulled the trigger that fired the bullet
 
that flew through Memphis 
that lovely April afternoon, the bullet 

that has been flying for half a century, 
bullet flying still— 

would this one do, who did nothing to stop it, 
nothing whatever to stop it, 
 
this one who’ll never undo the nothing he did 
with the nothing he wouldn’t do, if he could. 
 
First published in Piltdown Review
Copyright © Robert Bensen. All rights reserved. 

Robert Bensen is a poet, essayist, teacher, editor, and publisher in Upstate New York. Most recent among six collections of poetry are Before and Orenoque, Wetumka & Other Poems (Bright Hill Press). Poetry and literary essays have appeared in AGNI, Akwe:kon, Antioch Review, Berfrois, Callaloo, The Caribbean Writer, Jamaica Journal, La presa, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Wales, and elsewhere. He has edited anthologies of Native American and Caribbean literature, and authored a bibliographic study, American Indian and Aboriginal Canadian Childhood Studies, at Oxford University Press online. His writing has won fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Harvard University, the State of New York, Illinois Arts Council, the Robert Penn Warren Award, and others. From 1978 to 2017, he was Professor of English and Director of Writing at Hartwick College (Oneonta NY). He also taught at Parkland College and SUNY Oneonta, and conducted community workshops, including the Red Herring Workshop (Urbana IL) and the Seeing Things Poetry Workshop at Bright Hill Press and Literary Center (Treadwell NY). He is the founding editor of two literary presses, the Red Herring Press and Woodland Arts Editions. robertbensen.com

Race, Ethnicity and My Face

by Terra Trevor

As a woman of Cherokee, Lenape, Seneca, German descent, I came of age understanding that I'm not totally Native nor am I totally white. I'm a border woman dwelling between the boundaries. 
 
I have light skin, light enough that some people think I’m a white person. My dad, a Native man, and my mother, a white woman, had me when they were teenagers in 1953. We lived in Compton, a mixed-race community in Los Angeles. The family next door was Bolivian and they loved me like a daughter. My best friend was Japanese and Mexican. Still, when I was 10 years-old, my dad sat me down to have “the talk” with me about race. He told me about how to navigate the streets, about how to stay safe. He wanted to make sure I understood that in order to be accepted by certain white people it mattered who your friends were. 

By that point, however, I already knew. 

I had discovered that when I went to play at the houses of my white friends after school I needed to be aware of how I was holding myself at all times. I learned to stay alert and watch for clues: sometimes there might be an older brother who pulled his eyes in an upward slant and said something mean about Chinese people; or a father that casually spouted racial slurs at people of color. When this happened, I knew I had to make an excuse to go home and I’d never go back. Sometimes I’d make up stories when asked about my darker skinned, mixed-race family in order to protect them. But if the mothers of my white friends didn’t feel satisfied with my answers, I wouldn’t be allowed to stay at their houses for long. 

Things would be different when I went over the houses of my friends of color. Their mothers would always take me in without hesitation. And if there was a grandmother at home who spoke English with an accent, or didn’t speak English at all I could usually be certain they wouldn’t ask me if my daddy had a job. In their homes, I felt safe. 
 
As a child I had things all figured out. But when I reached my late teens and early twenties it became more complicated. 

Hanging out with my friends of color meant witnessing them get treated poorly and face multiple instances of discrimination by white people. Being out with my white friends, however, meant that we could expect to be given preferential treatment no matter where we went. When I began dating and went out with Native boys or other boys of color in my community, I was considered “white trash” by white America. I could even expect to have a white man point to my date and ask me what I thought I was doing being with the likes of someone like him. But when I dated the first guy that was white, I was allowed to be white by association and had access to the privileges of white America because of that. In stores or restaurants, we were always served or seated first, before people of color. When we acted up or got into mischief in public, it was laughed off as opposed to being taken seriously with the assumption that we were up to no good like it had been for other teens of color. 
 
My early adulthood was charged with decisions to make: Should I mention my Native identity? Should I let white people I don’t know well and may not ever want to become close friends with, assume I’m white? Keep my racial identity private from employers and others who would discriminate against me if they knew I’m a mixedblood Native American woman? With dark skinned family members and dark skin friends? With strong ties to Native America and rooted within a community of color? 
 
Then, at age twenty-three, I suddenly found myself employed full-time in a company that was predominantly white. So white, that my intuition told me if my boss had known I was anything other than white, I would have probably not been hired. My white co-workers seemed to only accept people of color who adhered to white social norms and didn’t challenge their biases. They could not accept how vastly different the culture values, thought processes, and social norms of ethnic people were from white America. 

I wear the face of a woman with light skin privilege. While keenly aware of the advantage it has given me over my friends and family who are not able to pass, I always make the decision to disclose my Native identity to anyone who asks. I never try to pass. Passing would mean turning my back on my Native family, friends and community. Following my experiences working in a predominantly-white company at 23, I began to make sure that at each interview I had for a new job, I’d take a “racial temperature check” to ensure that people of color who looked like my friends and family were always welcomed. And I’d proudly list all the positions I’ve held within American Indian and Asian-American organizations on my resume. 
 
Later on in my life, I married a man who was white and we had a daughter together, before adopting two Korean children. Two of our kids had apparent ethnic features and their black hair and darker skin often caused people to mistakenly assume they were Native American. I knew that blending into white society would never be an option for them. So it was always a toss on whether they would be able to ride on the wings of my white privilege, or be subject to the racism that ruled America when they were out on their own. In turn, I did my best to connect them with their Korean roots by becoming deeply involved with the Korean community in our town. For thirty years, my heart and soul was shaped by my connection to this community for which I am grateful to be a part of. 
 
Now, as I near age 70, my gray hair and wrinkled face reveal the many years I have lived. Yet what has not changed is what most cannot see: I am still a border woman. Borders are set up to define or to separate, but I am neither part white, nor part Native. My blood is a mix between two worlds, Native and white merging together to form a third: a woman dwelling between the boundaries. 
 
A border woman—that is me.

First published in Santa Clara Review, vol 108 / issue 01
Copyright © Terra Trevor. All rights reserved.

Terra Trevor is a contributor to 15 books, the author of two memoirs, and numerous essays and articles. Her work and portrait are featured in Tending the Fire: Native Voices and Portraits (University of New Mexico Press). Her work is also included in Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices on Child Custody and Education (The University of Arizona Press), The People Who Stayed: Southeastern Indian Writing After Removal (University of Oklahoma Press), Voices Confronting Pediatric Brain Tumors (Johns Hopkins University Press), Take A Stand: Art Against Hate (Raven Chronicles), Yellow Medicine Review, and in numerous other books, anthologies and literary journals. She is the founding editor of River, Blood and Cornwww.terratrevorauthor.com

River, Blood, And Corn: A Community of Voices

Promoting community and strengthening cultures with storytelling, poetry and prose.

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