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.


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

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


Buen Esqueleto

Life is short & I tell this to mis hijas.

Life is short & I show them how to talk

to police without opening the door, how

to leave the social security number blank

on the exam, I tell this to mis hijas.

This world tells them I hate you every day

& I don't keep this from mis hijas

because of the bus driver who kicks them out

onto the street for fare evasion. Because I love

mis hijas, I keep them from men who'd knock

their heads together just to hear the chime.

Lake Michigan, Scene 3

The bodies are on the beach

And the bodies keep breaking

And the fight is over

But the bodies aren't dead

And the mayor keeps saying      I will bring back the bodies

I will bring back the bodies that were broken

The broken bodies speak slowly

They walk slowly onto a beach that hangs over a fire

Into a fire that hangs over a city

Into a city of immigrants       of refugees       of dozens of illegal languages

Into a city where every body is a border between one empire and another

big ghosts

big ghosts contra

band my diction war

korea's north sees red as

america flags china's chopped limb


british crowns hong kong

cut for duplicity more capitalist than capitalist

trades commie goods

slant contagion


door slam hello hunger

remember japan's occupation

desperate flee inland seeking

kuomintang line as red gushes sweet at first

from north only to double back

in broken glass kneeling


we flay ourselves in dismay


When the stranger bumps his shoulder into me, hard, without an ounce of concern, I can feel the fire bubbling inside of me. The heat from the concrete rising up, through my feet, reverberating like electricity about to erupt magma through every orifice of my body. Lava that will oxidize every atom and molecule of his body on contact. The city as embodied trauma. The trauma of settlement. I spin around to yell after him, letting the anger fully consume my spirit as it has so many times before. I don't know where the empowerment ends and the dissolution begins anymore.

New Year

         Out of their torments men carved a flower

         which they perched on the high plateaus of their faces

         hunger makes a canopy for them

         an image dissolves in their last tear

         they drank foam rhythmed monsters

         to the point of ferocious horror

In those days

there was an



         on their hooves the horses were rearing a bit of dream

         fat fiery clouds filled out like mushrooms

On Seeing a Photograph of My Mother at St. Joseph Residential School for Girls

A black and white picture


The sun is shining through a window behind you


Your hair black short Your small brown hands folded neatly on a tiny wooden desk


Some of the girls in the picture are smiling You are not Your eyes staring into the camera Seem a million miles away


That stare I will see seldom and one day understand that storms begin millions of miles away

from Sharking of the Birdcage ["the spirit of"]

                   the spirit of

                 your flowers is

         my favourite shelter

             we were in love is

                           the main


      faintest green light in

      tree pulls me forward

whenever life is

beautiful makes

me think of you

carry color of the 

forest to be with

you to belong to

this world with

you to have what

we have and that is it

Start here: