An Instrumental Tanka

trees shake maracas ~

a Taino rhythm to keep ~

rattle past’s recall ~

the new world vomited bile ~

poisoned, the old leaves fell dead

~

(note: Maracas originated with the Taino people, the Indigenous inhabitants of the Caribbean Islands and S. Florida. The coming of Columbus brought a time of disease, slavery and murder that left approximately 5 million humans dead, nearly exterminating the Taino. Indigenous people today face a continued battle in America to protect their treaty negotiated lands, waters and ancestral burial sites most recently from gas pipelines. An honest look at history is a starting point in healing old wounds and preventing new ones.)

#noACP

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in tankapoetry & noACP. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

 

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.

Insatiable

 

eagle claws
like matches in a tinderbox
struck pyrite
and swallowed it whole
washed it down a long hose
like a gizzard
to endlessly hungry industrial chicks
with gaping mouths
a regurgitated meal
snatched out of the earth
by metal talons
that sparked wild fires from cracked stone
and burned the Native forest down

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in poetryfree verse & #noDAPL. 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.

A Wall Built High

how can we build a wall high enough to keep “evil” out?

with children’s buckets of sand
stolen by the kindergarten bully,
a molded garrison
wet with their tears –
youth’s hording
mockeries

or

with sticks and stones
and mountains of bones
of broken bodies
decayed on the ground –
states’ colonizing
batteries

with bricks and mortar
mixed with the ashes
of cremated remains
from gas-filled
sorting-house
factories

it sounds simple
like child’s play –
steal from one
allow another to
horde
colonize
sort

and

construct

a wall built high

I think when he says, “keep ‘evil’ out”,
he really means,
fence
it
all
in

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me.

Posted in poetry & free verse. Bookmark the permalink.

Too Pretty Haiku

our photoshopped rights ~

“all men created equal” ~

frames pretty picture

~

the past unfiltered? ~

ugly view, begs discarding ~

TRUTH: point – click – delete

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in haiku & poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

Coronation Day ~ a Triple Haiku

Richard Two betrayed ~
The Tower receives a king ~
Lancaster takes throne

~

Rumor plays her game ~
yet Percy’s rebels disMADE ~
Hal fills “Hollow Crown”

~

fair France do beware ~
this Truth history books unfold:
blood spills at kings’ feet

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Hollow Crown plays: “Henry III” and “Henry IV parts I and II”.

Posted in haiku & poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

The High Tower

“Let’s build the tower high again!” the newly crowned king shouted as he rode his tall steed through the kingdom’s cobblestone roads for his coronation parade.

The subjects cheered, “Rebuild the High Tower! Rebuild the High Tower!”

Stupidity echoes loudly off the walls of stopped ears.

The High Tower, symbol of the kingdom’s former glory, spiraled to a height never before achieved in any other nation. Chiseled stone on chiseled stone, long ago carried on the whipped backs of imported slaves, rose into the clouds. Along the lines of human chains each brick was painstakingly laid. The mortar mixed with blood displayed a uniquely rusty hue. The subjects of the kingdom exported the excess stones at great profit. That was long ago.

The High Tower was built among the Emerald Hills, a verdant, rolling paradise selected after the native population had been culled, its survivors driven off to desolate grounds on the outer edge of the world. Cleared of its original inhabitants, the garden variety slaves were free to dig, plant, weed and harvest an abundant and varied crop of produce, watering the ground with their sweat and tears as they toiled. The subjects of the kingdom grew fat with joy and exported the excess produce at great profit. That was long ago.

“The slaves won their freedom. The native inhabitants won the freedom to live on ‘their own lands’.” That’s what the history books read. (In truth, the slaves won the right to no longer be slaves, and the native inhabitants lost everything important to them; but, if you tell this to the now cheering subjects of the kingdom, it will fall on stopped ears, lost in the continuing reverberations of stupidity. I digress.)

The Emerald Hills rotted, first with overuse, then with neglect. Decaying foliage filled all its stagnant pools. The High Tower cracked and crumbled. The stone steps that spiraled to its peak, providing a view all the world’s kingdoms, was no longer safe to climb. The subjects were embarrassed but not enough to become stone workers or gardeners. They coveted their own sweat and blood, and labor in brick or dirt brings a meager pay. This is now.

“Let’s build the tower high again!” the newly crowned king shouted.

The subjects cheered, “Rebuild the High Tower!”

Stupidity echoes loudly.

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in short stories & satire. Bookmark the permalink.

 

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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