A Spirited Tanka

march to Native drums ~

’til colonized beatings end ~

spark truth’s blazing fire ~

wishes won’t sop up spilled oil ~

words do not pay for the dead

~

(Inspired by the words of Chief Joseph, “Words do not pay for my dead people”, and the Native Nations March on Washington, D.C., today.)

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/american-indians-gather-d-c-four-day-protest-trump-dakota-access-pipeline/

#NativeNationsRise #IndigenousRising #NoDAPL

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in tankapoetry & NoDAPL. Bookmark the permalink.

 

Should I Warn the Neighbors?

“Should I warn the neighbors?”

We are lighting a smoke bomb today. I’m good at this. If the wind is favorable, the smoke will travel to the top of the old, oak tree that towers over my driveway. No one called the fire department in a panic last time. The man across the street lingered in his own driveway sweeping leaves that didn’t exist just so he could watch, but we avoided the sirens and red and blue lights.

Still, it’s a dilemma. Do we alert people or not?

This time we are shooting a stop-motion video in Barbie-doll scale. The smoke bomb for this shoot is full, human-sized. I could engulf a pink, plastic convertible many times bigger than the one my Ken doll occupies. That is a lot of smoke. It should make for a good sequence of stop-motion pictures, unless I am engulfed in smoke too, in which case I will simply keep snapping and hope for the best.

We are using fake blood for this video as we did for the last, “The Fake Guy”. I know a recipe that looks convincing and has a great splatter property. It is made almost entirely of powdered sugar with just a bit of cocoa and a massive amount of red food coloring. Yes, it’s edible. Yes, it’s gross. What is the amount of blood needed for a Barbie-doll bombing accident? Last time, I mixed a cup. I needed a teaspoon. Those dolls were small. I am good at math, but I tend to overdo things.

Ken’s doll double required some post-apocalyptic mutilation. I didn’t want to damage him too much, so I used a small hammer and tapped. That was pointless. Who knew that plasti-Ken had #absofsteel? I grabbed my industrial goggles – no selfies here – and the big hammer and pounded away with all my might. An exhausted 30 minutes later, and Barbie’s beau has a few gaping wounds.

“Should I warn the neighbors?”

What would you say? “Hey, I’m shooting a stop-motion video with Barbie dolls in my driveway. I’m going to be spilling fake blood and lighting a large smoke bomb. Please don’t panic when you see the mini-mushroom cloud rising above my roof line.”

My children think I’m weird and funny. That’s a good thing. It keeps them interested, laughing and engaged. My antics also teach them to think outside of the proverbial, collective box and take creative risks. We will be all hands on the “deck” of my driveway. At least one of them will be standing by with buckets of water should anything go wrong. What could possibly go wrong?

My only real dilemma:

“Should I warn the neighbors?”

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in short stories. Bookmark the permalink.

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Quotas

The St. Louis

On May 13, 1939, the ocean liner, St. Louis, sailed from Hamburg, Germany, for Havana, Cuba. The Third Reich allowed more than 900 Jews aboard. We are counting now. When souls become quotas, numbers matter. The number was 937, most of them were German Jews. They carried what they thought were valid permits that guaranteed them temporary stay in the United States until proper visas could be granted.

The quotas…
The quotas!
The United States quotas were full.
The souls aboard the St. Louis had no clue.

The German-Austrian immigration quota for the United States allowed only 27,370 souls annually. The wait list for entry stretched for years, pages filled with longing names numbered. When souls become numbers filling quotas, what has humanity left to do but count? So we counted them. Number one got in. Number 27,371 did not. She received a free train ride out of Germany to a place called Auschwitz that reeked of smoke and shit and death, where she was given a new number. She died in a gas chamber and was burned to ash. We are counting now. She took her place among six million dead.

That was Europe, the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The St. Louis safely reached Cuba, where 29 Jews were allowed to disembark. Cuba had immigration quotas too. We are counting now. 29 souls found a refuge. The ship was ordered out of the harbor in Havana. To be sure that number 30 didn’t sneak in, Cuban police boats followed the St. Louis. Several passengers attempted to commit suicide.

For three days, the St. Louis drifted off the coast of Miami, close enough to see that city’s sparkling lights. Pleas went out via cables from the ship. President Franklin D. Roosevelt never responded. The White House never responded. The State Department finally sent a telegram to the ship explaining plainly that the United States had immigration quotas in place and that the souls on board would have to apply for the proper visas and take their turn on the waiting list.

The quotas…
The quotas!
The United States quotas were full.
The souls aboard the St. Louis now understood.

How did we explain to men, women and children that they were nothing more than numbers in a quota-filling game? What words of comfort did we give? Were we present when many of them were torn from their families and piled like cattle into cargo holds after their bitter return to Europe? Did we travel with them sharing their terror as they were sent to concentration camps? Did we hold their trembling hands as their flesh rotted away from starvation? Did we hear their screams? Did we see them die? They each were given a number. We are counting now. They took their place among six million dead.

We laud a statue that reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Were these not tempest-tossed? The lamp went dark, blown out by xenophobic winds.

We have recycled those winds today in the forms of quotas, restrictions, deportations, bans and walls. We fear.

Souls become numbers, leaving humanity with nothing left to do but count.

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in short stories. Bookmark the permalink.

Two Lumps of a Haiku

sugar in your tea ~

refined by African slaves ~

once a luxury

~

world craves that cheap sweet ~

farmed by those impoverished ~

diabetic high

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in haiku & poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

Violating Haiku

an oily gold rush ~

flows out from the frack-raped earth ~

Mother’s black-inked tears

~

boys rush the Bakken ~

covet all precious treasure ~

shatter the girls’ gems

~

when Females are raped ~

shouldn’t all be shocked and wonder ~

what through pipeline flows?

~

#noDAPL

(Rape and sexual assault against women and girls have skyrocketed in the communities surrounding the Bakken Oil Fields since fracking began, increasing by some estimates more than 160%. These crimes have disproportionately impacted Indigenous females who live on the area’s reservation.)

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in haiku & poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

Two Incalculable Haiku

Liberty Bell breaks ~

three million votes not counted ~

popular disgrace

~

Baron King soon crowned ~

Liberty’s Lady barren ~

a corrodenation

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in haiku & poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

North Dakota Republicans Want to Protect Drivers Who Hit DAPL Protesters*

Weary of protest ~ impatient, itching fingers ~ pen bills dressed to kill~ (My Haiku of Utter Dismay) Hopefully, ND lawmakers have more sense than this…

Hwaairfan's Blog

North Dakota Republicans Want to Protect Drivers Who Hit DAPL Protesters*

Pro-pipeline state lawmakers are proposing a rash of bills that will criminalize protests and put protesters lives in danger.

Water protectors in North Dakota may need to be more careful when crossing the street if a proposed bill to exempt drivers who “unintentionally” hit or kill pedestrians who are blocking traffic is passed.

Republican state lawmaker Keith Kempenich introduced legislation to make an exemption for drivers who unintentionally injure or kill pedestrians who are obstructing traffic on public roads.

“It’s shifting the burden of proof from the motor vehicle driver to the pedestrian,” Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Bowman, told the Bismark Tribune.

Kempenich’s 72-year-old mother-in-law was blocked by a group of protests on a roadway and he admits the law specifically targets protesters.

It’s shocking to see legislation that allows for people to literally be killed for exercising their…

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With Reservation

“Words do not pay for my dead people.”

Shall we talk
about
it
awhile while we travel the miles
of
defiled
land
slaughtered
animals
murdered
people
that
lead
to a
place
you will be
graciously confined to
called
a
reservation
but
you
don’t
need
an
application
just
lose
your
apprehension
and
stay
put
here
awhile while we hand out the piles
of
stingy
food
rationed
goods
white man’s
ways
that
you
are
being
graciously supplied
without
hesitation.

“Good words will not give me back my children.”

Yes, but you fled
showing great
premonition
against our
demands,

AND

we require
your
supplication
without
RESERVATION.

“Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law.”

Sure, just submit
to our
imposed
economic
spiritual
cultural
bounded
limitations

until we discover the next resource we want.

“Give them all an even chance to live and grow.”

You ARE free to live
and grow –
within the
restriction
called
a
RESERVATION
and
all
its
white man’s
imposed
economic
spiritual
cultural
bounded
rules!

“Let man be a free man – free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to think and talk and act for myself – and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty.”

Sigh.

We’ve talked
about
it
awhile
while you traveled the miles
to
bitter
tears
stolen
lives
broken
hearts
that
you
have now
been
forever (until we discover the next valuable resource we want need)
graciously subjected to
called
a
reservation
but…

“You might as well expect the rivers to run backward as that any man who was born a free man should be contented when penned up and denied liberty to go where he pleases.”

but…

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises.”

but…

“All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers…”

but…

“Words do not pay for my dead people.”

All the words in quotes above were taken from a speech given by In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat (Thunder traveling over the Mountains), more commonly known as Chief Joseph. He was chief of a tribe of the Nez Perces (Wal-lam-wat-kin band of the Chute-pa-lu), a group of people who had maintained peace with white people since they had first met and helped Lewis and Clark in 1805. It was always his goal to live peacefully with the white people. After a few young Nez Perces men took revenge on a white settler group who had killed their own fathers and brothers, Chief Joseph’s tribe became the target of military action and revenge, in spite of his appeals.

He led an extraordinary 1400 mile retreat with a band of 750 men, women, children and elderly through the mountains and canyons of the Northwest. He was simply seeking a safe place for his people to dwell. In four months, his people fought 18 separate battles against the pursuing American troops that numbered more than 2000 regular army men with an added number of militia. They were stopped just 40 miles from the Canadian border that would have provided their protection. Chief Joseph’s surrender speech, given after a five day siege near the Bear Paw Mountains, is a painful one to read. It includes the quote: “I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I will find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”

The speech from which I quoted Chief Joseph in the poem was given in Washington, D.C. to lawmakers as an appeal for his people to be returned to their ancestral lands in Oregon as he had been promised upon his surrender. His people had been taken, against the terms promised, to a desolate, malaria-ridden reservation in Oklahoma where many of them died.

Chief Joseph and some of his followers were eventually moved to Washington Territory where this courageous, wise, peaceful man died from what his doctor termed “a broken heart”. He was labeled and is remembered by many whites as the “Red Napoleon”, an incredible misnomer.

In order to understand the passion behind and the importance of the DAPL peaceful protesting in North Dakota, I think it helps to understand our history of broken promises, ignored treaties, stolen lands, decimated resources and appalling reservation conditions that native people have faced since white people began moving into, destroying and taking control of Indigenous lands.

Words and Photography ©2016 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in poetrynoDAPL & human rights. Bookmark the permalink.

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A Poor Child’s Manna

Why is it
that
food fit for your garbage bin
should be a poor child’s manna?

cans crushed and dented
as if they had once been
the subject
of vigorous
street kicking games
Your “donation” is insane
Ever
hear
of
botulism?
Yes, Scrooge, reduce the
surplus
population

cans missing labels
as if this is a game
of guessing
the
mystery
food being served
Your “donation” is absurd
Ever
hear
of
food allergies?
Right, Dad Bunker, ‘cuz
WASP’s sting
the poor in Queens

cans long past their date
as if antiquities
well-preserved
of
grocery stores
now gone defunct
Your “donation” will be junked
Ever
hear
of
bacteria
Fine, Uncle Vernon, leave
Harry
all the rottings

Why is it
that
food fit for your garbage bin
should be a poor child’s manna?

and

While you are at it,
please
tell me
what child wants canned
alligator
meat
for dinner?

Words and Photography ©2016 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in human need & poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

The first time my older boys helped with a post office food drive through the local food pantry, they returned indignant at the volume of waste “donations” they had to sort through and discard. Many of those cans were years past date, severely damaged and unlabeled; and, yes, canned alligator meat was on the menu. A food pantry drive isn’t the time to clean the junk out your kitchen. Real people depend on food pantries as a stop-gap measure against malnutrition and starvation. Please fill the donation bags full but only with items you yourself would consume. For those of you partial to canned alligator meat, I apologize and cringe.