Too Negative

I was a kid other kids’ 

parents gossiped about.


They told their children

what I was: too negative.


I get it. Fair to fear

contagion of bad attitudes,


to think naming a thing

can be an inoculation.


Of course my friends

filled me in. Of course


I took my diagnosis

lying down on mostly


frozen sand. Loose

grains made their way


to my scalp. Stayed there

Wow! You've Changed

You’ve changed.

You used to be so

and now you’re all

like, you’ve transformed

I don’t know how to describe

it’s like

you don’t like canasta anymore

you text IN ALL CAPS

your selfies are so


like, are you out to prove something

you’re a lion

you’re a bear

you’re a maggot

you’re a virus

I just don’t know

if we can be friends anymore.

from Exhibits from the American Water Museum


From an original rock painting in Topock, Arizona, now digitized on a

wall-mounted monitor:


Before this city, the Creator pressed his staff

into the earth, and the earth opened—


it wasn’t a wound, it was joy—joy!—!

Out of this opening leaped earth’s most radical bloom: our people—


we blossoms from the original body: water,

flowering and flowing until it became itself, and we, us:

                                              River. Body.


Mariah according to my yt mama

when I try to talk to my mom about what it was like

to grow up surrounded by yt people in the prairies

in the 80s though it seemed like the 50s

she tells me in a so-there tone

that Mariah is a mixee and that people love her


I tell my mom that Mariah has talked publicly

about feeling some type of way about

being what she calls biracial

which is why on the early album covers

her hair is obscuring her face


there is a long pause then a I didn’t know that



i thought it was ok - i could understand the reasons

they said there might be young children or a nervous man seeing

this small piece of flesh that they weren’t quite expecting

so i whispered and tiptoed with nervous discretion


but after six months of her life spent sitting on lids

as she sips on her milk, nostrils sniffing up shit

banging her head on toilet-roll dispensers

i wonder whether these public-loo feeds offend her


The First Day

When I was five I was put on a bus

and sent to Catholic school

not unlike my mother who was five

when she was put on a train

and sent to residential school,

both feeling that gut feeling

that this was not going to be

a place we would like.


My parents told

my older sister

to watch over me

but she had long ago

grown to not like me,

let alone protect me.


As we waited to go in

that first morning

a group of boys decided

The New School

Do you remember, Nancy,

when we sat in the Creole restaurant

and glanced up at the television to see students running

with their hands in the air and photographs

of two young men?

Their angular faces. Trench coats.

We didn’t understand what was happening,

our brains felt like mush, it wasn’t the wine,

it was like being in a foreign country,

on the street corner, at a hospital,

struggling to understand or be heard.


This morning, on the way to work,

memories of my youth

as children

we learned to stand on one leg

clasping bundles of hope between our teeth


not because we wanted

to resemble flocks of black flamingos


one foot in the smelly pile was better than two


the sky beckoned

its blue hues a promise

we carried in those little bundles

clamped tightly between our still forming teeth


some of us were trapped

unable to free the one foot-fall for lift-off



A half-hour.



Thirty minutes.



One thousand eight hundred seconds.



They sat.



Protest is not supposed to be comfortable.



Civil disobedience does not

fit into pristine conformist ideals

of opposition.



You are supposed to feel something.






Was your perfect day ruined?






urban NDNs in the DTES

had a dozen foster parents

                                   tell me to run from my mother’s truth

                                   the track marks up her arm,

                                   shy away from the streets

                                                                           they said ate her alive.


                            wasn’t until i had rewilded

                                   unto the very streets

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