Joy Harjo's Web Log
Joy Harjo posts reports here on her trips and other happenings.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Singing for the Child Who Knew the Truth
This morning in the traffic stall on I-40 I sang. I sang for the little girl who a few years back during one of our parties at the b&b told Sue P., as she offered the flower in her hand: God lives here. This is not the god of empires, of grandeur, or the god with a hand out for money from the poor with which to build towers of gold for worship, and not the god who has deemed women unfit for equality. This is the humble god who goes about creation with absolute compassion and comprehension. I sang for her, this girl, this child who has disappeared to the north with her mother. Her mother was a dynamic young law student. Now she calls down drunk; she makes promises to bring the girl back for a visit, or starts fights because she is lonely and angry. Her daughter stands near her when she calls, her companion on the journey. They appear lost somewhere between the heart and America. I had forgotten the story until Sue P. reminded us last night. Does the child remember? And what of the child in all of us?
Incongruities and a Gift
I don’t appear to fit anywhere neatly under this sun. My life is woven with incongruities.
I am a wanderer with (almost) two homes, a sociable loner, a poet, a female saxophone player, (private) singer of Mvskoke songs when males are the singers, a jazz player who doesn’t play jazz, an Indian who doesn’t look “Indian”, a poet who occupies an endowed position at a university who doesn’t act like the typical professor poet, a speaker who is most often silent, a performer, a dreamer. Maybe that moniker fits best: a dreamer. Dreaming is the one place in which the incongruities snap into a continuous, mindful grid. The distinctions don’t matter. They all fit. I am able to fly beyond time, beyond the biting rulers of the kingdoms of human societies. My spirit occupies the spirit world without the dressings of shame, criticism and awkwardness that have characterized my emerging life. The dream world appears closer to the real world. There are no lies. Here is the source of poetry; this is where songs open their mouths to sing.
With this I walk out onto the island, after flying more than a few thousand miles to come home for an anniversary weekend. I’m barefoot, still smelling of dream residue. ”I’m home,” I say to the mynah couple who perch every morning on the telephone pole. I wonder where the cardinals are who sing around the house and yard here. One of their relatives was just assisting me in that other place. I acknowledge the mango tree so bushy and lush with a golden crop. The banana trees have a tightly woven society. They are healthy. The papaya trees should have been planted elsewhere. One thrives anyway; the other is a bit of a runt. The young coconut tree is close to my heart. A bluish lizard is doing pushups on a branch.
The sun has called me out. The earth has called me here. We are surrounded by ocean, by a cool breeze off the Ko’olau’s carrying good luck. Here in this morning light none of the incongruities matter. I am a spirit who is made of the same stuff as all of this life. I greet the morning, offer tobacco and I am greeted in return. This morning I am given an unexpected gift. The sun is bright with a blue star in the middle. The blue turns to turquoise then back to gold. These colors are woven into ribbons of energy. They spiral through time and touch the earth. The earth responds with green strands of energy; they mix. We are in communion, all of us out here in the morning--even the cat who’s been meeting her boyfriends under the house for parties has stopped in awe. We are all part of this gift.
August 27, 2005 Honolulu
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
In the last few weeks I’ve flown from Honolulu to LA, picked up the car in Long Beach, driven to Albuquerque via Tucson, searched Albuquerque for four to five month housing, prepared to teach classes at UNM, still trying to secure parking near my office and keep being turned down so I continue to refuse to pay for parking miles away—I will be finishing my last class in the evening, and don’t want to be the lone woman let off in a parking lot in the far reaches--, sleeping on the couch of a generous friend in the pueblo, writing copy and music for my next project, spending time with my family here, Indian market, etc etc. Life. So, if I haven’t responded to your emails, calls, please forgive.
A new poem (draft, mostly finished):
I know the dark; it is my work. Dusk is my doorway.
I’ve seen it all parade the damp cool earth within my reach.
Everything you’ve heard just might be true,
or not. Last night she kissed a beer goodbye, rolled off the highway.
I bear the thud and scrape of metal wings.
A boy blessed by prancing Indian ponies can’t see anything at all.
His girl is gone. He’ll never be famous. A gun on his hip;
It’s four a.m. the breaking hour just when he’s breaking through
The post-drug shaking. Come on and fly.
All the oil will all be gone in the snap of a wave.
All the guns, all the grief.
I blessed him as he walked the track of the disappearing moon
through a few traveler clouds; he was waving goodbye.
The cat you see is nothing but a shadow.
And neither are you, if you think about it,
Or not. A mother leaves her dreams for the cry of her feverish baby,
An old man floats effortlessly from the dark to the bright
Heaven of his people dancing in gratitude for rain.
We’ll make it through--
A crown of fledglings sleeps in their adobe nest made of river mud
On the wall of a humble house near the tracks in Isleta.
When dawn touches the trembling skin of earthliness we will emerge
From this realm of darkliness--
A rush of indigo through the white bloom of dawn,
c Joy Harjo August 22-23, 2005 Albuquerque
And will put up an Mp3 of new draft of song(s) soon.
Be careful of monikers. Gary Farmer and the Troublemakers brought the police to the quiet abode of the CCA in Santa Fe for an Indian Market opening event last Thursday night. It was a little rock, a little blues, tame crowd. He invited me to perform either Friday or Saturday night for Indian Market. Couldn’t make it. He’s always up to something. Will be performing with him sometime soon in Toronto. Will let you know.
Was there to help open up a showing of A Thousand Roads, along with Chris Eyre, Rick West, Jeremiah (the Navajo gang member in the film) and Scott Garen. Warm crowd. My friend from up north, St. Lawrence Island brought me a gift of whale meat. Mvto.
Last night did laundry at the pueblo. My friend and I agreed that we do not/won’t hang our underwear out for public viewing. She and the neighbors are still pondering the tiny size of a huge neighbor’s underwear.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Today left Tucson about noon for Albuquerque. Hot. Clear. The vistas on this journey are amazing. All afternoon storm clouds walk across far distances. Lightning laces the sky. Brief squalls are followed by sunlight. Near Socorro, about 90 miles south of Albuquerque thunder clouds accumulate in a beautiful, angry swarm. Mountains to the east behind this stirring monument of power are backlit by a blaze of sunlight. To the west is a black sky. I admire this tremendous building up, see the craft of eddies, the perfect and dangerous fists of winds. This power is beautiful, I comment to myself. I am an observer. I watch from a distance. The danger appears far away, an idea, a dream.
Then, we're in it. Slammed by winds that literally push the car to the edge of the highway. The downpour is harsh, brutal. I follow the red taillights of the white truck in front of me weaving through the turbulence. Then there are no visible lights, or lines in the highway. They're extinguished by the pounding of sheets of rain. I can see nothing. I am flooded by fear, adrenalin, in the midst of this power. It is an alive thing, this storm. It can kill, it can give life to the plants drinking in the rain or uproot them. It will rejuvenate the air we are breathing.
Maybe there is no such thing as objectivity. Or objectivity is limited as it roams around on the mental plane, making suppositions and creating exact measures of physical force and dimension, of matter.
And there's more. I'm crashing for the evening in a warm hotel room in Albuquerque. It's raining here, and a man on the northeast side was struck by lightning.
(First draft of a note)
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Sunday in Honolulu
Sunday in Honolulu:
Greeted the sun, the mango tree, banana trees,butler bird, doves, mynah birds.
Breakfast of hash browns, biscuits, scrambled eggs, mango and blueberries, iced tea. Yum.
Rewrote a dream for a lit mag's call for dream material."The Fire and the Gatekeeper".
Worked up a syllabus.
Ordered some short blue boots with stars. School shoes.
Practiced saxophone: scales II V I's, played along with Prince's Musicology for a little funk session, the rehearsed some of my own tunes--
Practiced guitar. Grace. And working through a classical guitar book.
40 minutes on bike.
Read an old New Yorker in my stack of back issues. Am prompted by a review to read English writer Hilary Mantel's new novel, Beyond Black. The main character's spirit guide isn't called Oz or Running Deer, she says, but Morris. And he's a grizzled old criminal whose fly is often undone. While she is leading her psychic meetings, he is out in the parking lot, opening car doors, loosening the straps on baby seats...
Cooked up sofkey: flint corn and lye
Visit with J. Quapaw and his wife. He's Creek from home. The sofkey for him, Tiger and me.
Cleaned up quickly before Quapaw came.
Washed dishes again.
Visited with Mike who came and loaded up L's canoe for sale to try it out. He bought it.
Talked to my granddaughter and son in WI, and my daughter in NM.
Meant to call Tiger. Will take him sofkey tomorrow. He gets his new leg this week.
Practiced new song. Round dance version of Remember.
This isn't in order.
Responded to emails.
Looked for Alex Kuo. Does anyone know where he is?
Reprinted by permission of Allison Hedge Coke. Excellent letter.
military funds to Colombia
Sen. Tim Johnson
July 24, 2005
Dear Senator Johnson,
As a recent visitor to Medellin on a peace mission, I must write to you on the behalf of my Indigenous friends there. Being from South Dakota, you know fully well the impact of hostile takeovers on tribal people. It happened in the US a hundred years and longer ago and is currently happening in Colombia under each group warring there. The Indigenous people have claimed neutrality and are remaining peaceful. Yet, hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered rather than protected by the rest of the world funding this war from all angles. What is at stake is actually the landbase of the Indigenous peoples. You must look at this situation closely and do all you can to rectify the misinformation going out to Americans regarding this and to protect the lives of the Indigenous people there struggling to survive on their homelands under the gun of people with other agendas.
Like the American Revolution here, the land that was lost (in the 1770s), as you know, was actually Indigenous homelands, and the people burned out and flooded out by the generals were Native people in their own homes. On my father's side, our tribe lost 88 villages during the revolution and it is estimated that perhaps 3/4 of our people were killed in that and previous warring that was not ours, was not caused by us, and whereas actually then technically guerrilla Americans (mostly British subjects before the day they claimed otherwise) wanted out of their own regime that taxed them and wanted to expand themselves onto Native lands.
Though, unfortunately, it is often taught much differently in school and media, this was truly the case at hand and is actually very obvious once you stop to look at the actuality of the situation.
As you know, I am a constituent. I am heartedly calling upon you regarding recent Colombia legislation on the foreign operations appropriations bill. Please, in the future, support new policy toward Colombia, and vote YES on any amendments that cut military aid to Colombia, or that cut military aid and transfer it to social aid. Plan Colombia is supposed to end this year, and given its failures, I believe it should be replaced by a policy that works. Drug crop fumigation in Colombia has not helped lessen the price or availability of drugs on U.S. streets, and direct human rights violations by the Colombian military have increased since U.S. aid began in 2000. We need a major shift away from fumigation and military aid, and toward alternative development programs and aid to displaced families. I would like you to work diligently to change this policy, and to prioritize social assistance instead of military aid.
The fumigation is causing health hazards to the Indigenous people. I was sprayed in the fields as a child working in agriculture (in the US) and ended up with 15 years of carcinoma probably directly related years later. This is a sample of what is present danger with the massive Agent Green (Round-Up) spraying on Indigenous peoples, their lands and their foods. It is doing nothing to curb drug use or abuse in the US and people are dying and gaining health woes.
I have friends, who are very peaceful Native artists and poets there who are in certain danger in their own homes and it breaks my heart. Please as a leader from a state with so many Native constituents, please work to save what is left of the Native people and lands in Colombia and introduce legislation that will guarantee them lands and livelihood. You, of all the people in office, should have bearings on the state of the Native people in the Americas. In South America, there is still time to preserve many of the cultures which are intact still and not duplicate the extent of damage to Indigenous America as a result.
In the strength of unity through peace,
Allison Hedge Coke
Sious Falls , SD
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Report from an Island at the Edge of the Regime
Night fall in Honolulu. I'm a night person, a morning person, and have difficulty with the middles of things.
Following is an articled emailed to me by Indian Country Today:
Ancient prophecy is modern reality
© Indian Country Today July 28, 2005. All Rights Reserved
Posted: July 28, 2005
by: Editors Report / Indian Country Today
Christians don't have a monopoly on prophecies that tell of an ''end of times'' or an end of an ''era.'' Many tribal nations, significantly the Hopi and the Haudenosaunee, but including many others such as Cree and Lakota in the North and Maya, Lokono and Maquiritari in the South, have prophecies within their spiritual traditions that describe an ''end of times,'' an era very similar to our present times and depicting or describing prophetic signs apparent to those who watch for such things. The signs, according to each culture and prophecy, reveal that major changes are afoot.
The Christian tradition is compelling in that it dictates a clear scenario for believers that accepts, on faith, the belief in the resurrection of Jesus' physical body from death itself. The resurrection myth propels to an end-tale with the return of the living Jesus. This ''Second Coming'' is to gather those who had believed in him as the only way to salvation. These would, in fact, be resurrected and ascended into heaven to live in eternal grace with their Lord. Everyone else, unfortunately, ends up in hell for torture and pain throughout eternity.
There are those who say that the Second Coming, which is also described as ''the Rapture,'' is already guiding American foreign policy. Certainly, it appears that the true believers within the present circle of U.S. policy makers and of many media outlets are steering toward connecting the worldly events in their various fields and departments to the sign of the coming Rapture. No doubt, many fully expect to be among those who board the celestial ship to life eternal. These analysts, mostly but not exclusively on Christian radio and television shows, conjecture for millions of Americans that propelling Israel as a major super military power in the Middle East and invading and occupying a whole country - Iraq - at the ''cradle of civilization,'' portends the acceleration of the struggle between ''good and evil,'' expectedly toward Armageddon, the final mother of all battles, after which comes the return of the living body of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps this is so, or perhaps it overstates the Christian case; but no one can deny we live in the age of terrific religious fervor, when more and more of humanity attaches itself to essential or elemental stories that are the basis of whole religions, whose dictates and strictures can often clash and expand into dangerous areas - including that of self-fulfilling prophecy. We are also in an era when the resources of the Earth that have fueled and supported industrial lifestyles are quickly diminishing. This is where some of the Indian prophecies come in.
John Mohawk, Seneca historian and Indian Country Today columnist, recalled not long ago the mutual visits by Hopi and Haudenosaunee traditionalists as early as 1948, where a prophetic tradition, popularly referred to as ''the purification,'' was exchanged. This was way before the ecology movement, before ''New Age'' and even before the ''energy crisis.'' The elder Indian spiritualists from the Hopi of that time not only had prophecies of meeting ''Indians from the East,'' they actually fulfilled their own tradition and traveled east to meet and tell the Haudenosaunee about it. The sincere exchange of views that followed saw these and other Native peoples review and renew their prophetic traditions and this dialogue, largely unrecorded, has gone on for more than a half a century after the 1948 visit.
Unlike the faith-based Christian liturgy, what the Hopi tradition warned about involved patterns of human activity on Mother Earth that had profound and predictable consequences. They expressed, as have most Indian traditionalists to this day, that the greed for material possessions and technological gadgetry had the potential to severely affect the systems of the earth and that this was in fact happening within Western civilization, which they were witnessing, and that they had been told they should warn all peoples about the impending changes and disasters.
No one listened then and too few are listening now, as the ancient Indian warning is diluted by modern economic and political concerns, but the message does resonate with observers of our current energy crisis who tell us of major and very difficult changes ahead for most of humanity.
The American ''way of life'' predicated on the wanton consumption of cheap oil is in its last throes. Quantitative reality points to severe developing problems with industrial civilization and its dependent systems. We are entering what a well-researched book recently excerpted in Rolling Stone magazine terms the ''end of the cheap-fossil-fuel era.'' (''The Long Emergency'' by James Howard Kunstler, Rolling Stone, March 24, 2005.)
The term ''global oil-production peak'' is very important in this context. This is the ''turning point,'' when global production will generate ''the most oil it will ever produce in a given year,'' after which annual production can only decline. U.S. oil production peaked in 1970 at 11 million barrels per day. Currently some 20 million barrels a day are consumed just in the United States, which produces 5 million and imports the rest.
There is now developing consensus that the global oil-production peak, expected by 2010, is happening now - in 2005. The remaining half of the world's oil deposits is in large measure unextractable; that which is extractable is increasingly difficult and costly to extract, of poorer quality and located mostly in places hostile to the United States. The industrial world's principal source of energy, which underwrites everything about the international and particularly the industrial economies - from transportation to heat to food to the hugely integrated range of most other production - is drying up fast.
The new energy crisis is permanent. The cheap energy, cheap food and cheap living produced by cheap oil has no detectable replacement that can sustain the current industrial lifestyle. And not only oil, but natural gas is also declining (by five percent a year), with steeper declines expected. Most power plants built after 1980 and half the homes in America run on gas. Nuclear energy, touted by some once again, comes from plants such as Three Mile Island and has many serious unsolved problems, in long-term radioactivity control and waste storage, which generate intense opposition in the population.
It gets worse: clean water is also diminishing fast. Already, globally, more than a billion people don't have safe drinking water. About 15 million children under the age of 5 die miserably each year from drinking polluted water. (See: ''With a Push From the U.N., Water Reveals Its Secrets,'' William J. Broad, The New York Times, July 26, 2005.)
The news on declining oil and water, and on costly extreme weather disasters, is sobering. The convergence of forces now seen as permanent reveals trends that will severely change life as we know it, limiting Western technological society and altering the familiar economics and social planning of the 20th century.
Large-scale social change could help. But while these threats compound, the American media and major news channels grow shrill while losing the ability to tell schlock from substantive and useful information. Socially asleep at the wheel and led by the easy profits of ''reality'' shows, infotainment of bizarre cases and celebrity gawking, most basic reporting is replaced by hackneyed pundits repeating their spin on channel after channel. Public trust and doctrines of fairness are now hostage to profit incentives. No major idea or power in the current society is likely to be challenged, investigated and analyzed for fear of losing its corporate or governmental support.
Breaking through this wall of disregard for natural reality was the intent of the elders who came out of their remote communities to tell their prophecies and perceptions in the mid-20th century. Because they did not call for miracles over life and death, because they did not request we ''act on faith,'' their admonitions merit attention more than ever today: they said that the new way of using up the earth will have dire consequences; indeed, the new reality is of a world where the promise of industrial progress is much reduced.
The elder Indians spoke of food self-sufficiency and of fighting tenaciously for your lands as the basis of tribal survival. They urged the younger generation to stay close to the earth, aware of the sources of good water and land for growing useful plants and animals as the ''real economy.'' They spoke of staying physically active and the people striving to work together in harmony. Even back then, they warned the leaders to prepare for a future of great uncertainty. ''Prepare from the ground up,'' they said. ''Community by community and family by family, learn to do these things for yourselves.''
Given the callous disregard for these life-threatening issues by America's current political and media leadership, the elders' advice - to do for ourselves and to prepare to meet all conditions - might be as good as we are likely to get.
By Suzan Harjo, Reprinted by permission of Indian Country Today and Suzan Harjo
Just rewrote the following poem. Kind of works with the article. And today was the disturbing news that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Kamehameha School, a school for native Hawaiians is racist in its admissions policy as a Hawaiians-only school. Speaking of racist...who's racist here?
Report from an Island at the Edge of the Regime
There are children sleeping
And the sky aches with dark
As it prepares to give birth to light.
--A chuk chuk of gecko song--
And a young tradewind follows another
Through the window
Down the hill in Chinatown
A sailor sodden with fight and blood
Zips up from a piss.
He curses everything he stumbles against
In the neon ruins.
One god breaks against another.
And so it is.
C Joy Harjo November 11-2004 Honolulu (Rewrite 8/3/05)
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