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
awhile while we travel the miles
to a
you will be
graciously confined to
awhile while we hand out the piles
white man’s
graciously supplied

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

Yes, but you fled
showing great
against our


we require

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

Sure, just submit
to our

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
white man’s

“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.”


We’ve talked
while you traveled the miles
have now
forever (until we discover the next valuable resource we want need)
graciously subjected to

“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.”


“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.”


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


“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.



If tears become letters and days turn to pages,
then how would you read his 30 days HARD labor
for fishing
on a lake
in size, depth, clarity and stock?

30 pages: no novel, just a long chapter.
What filled his kids’ bellies? Not fish that their dad caught
by fishing
on a lake
while he worked HARD in the chains.

30 eagles swoop down and catch fish with talons.
Carry them to high nests and fill eaglets’ bellies
through fishing
on a lake
Bites HARD: Birds eat while children starve.

Dedicated to the memory of John Blackbird, an Ojibwe arrested in 1901 for fishing with nets in Bear Trap Creek deep inside reservation lands that border Lake Superior, though some state histories record that he was arrested fishing on the lake. Either way, he was within his rights established through treaties with the U.S. Government.

He served 30 days HARD labor after refusing to pay a $36.75 fine. His case was eventually heard in U.S. Federal Court, the first challenge to a long battle in Wisconsin over the recognition of Indian Nation hunting and fishing rights established through treaty with the Federal Government. The Federal Court overturned the state decision in Blackbird’s favor in a ruling that honored negotiated rights with the Ojibwe Nation. The battle for the recognition of Native American treaty rights and the protection of their lands and resources continues to be fought across America today, eating up precious dollars that would be better utilized to improve the lives of these people in some of the poorest places in this country. Bites HARD.

Words and Photography ©2016 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in poetry, noDAPL & human rights. Bookmark the permalink.


For background on the Dakota pipeline controversy, read: my post from 09/09/2016

Update: Late Friday afternoon, a Federal Court judge ruled against the Dakota tribes, allowing the bulldozing to continue. The Obama Administration quickly stepped in, blocking construction on the portions of the pipeline that cross federal lands, at least temporarily protecting the Missouri River where it enters the Standing Rock Reservation and ancient Sioux burial grounds in the area.

Bites HARD:


Meskonsing: Cutting the Skin of the Drum


If the torrents of our past atrocities will wash our eyes clean so that we see a clear path toward quenching the present fires, then let those realities rain down on our heads. I think, if we are to heal, they are the tears we must cry…

We arrived with smallpox-infested blankets and alcohol. We came for a fur trade to Europe that decimated animal populations, especially the buffalo west of the Mississippi River. We promised a degraded and suffering population protection of their native rights, if they would just sell their lands to our government. The Indian culture beat on drums topped with skins, and we learned how to cut them.

Wisconsin is the anglicized form of the French misspelling, Ouisconsin, of the original Algonquin name, Meskonsing. My state was once home to the Mississippian and Oneota peoples and the heartland of Effigy Mound Culture. When Europeans arrived in the 1500’s the Ojibwe (Chippewa), Sauk, Fox, Kickapoo and Pottawatomie tribes were flourishing. Travel around this state today will take you through communities like Milwaukee, Pewaukee, Oshkosh, Menomonee, Oconomowoc, Sheboygan, Manetowoc and Waukesha. The influence of the original inhabitants lingers.

Talk about racism in America often overlooks the horrible treatment of the diverse and rich cultures who called these lands home.

86% (Wisconsin Water Statistics) of Wisconsin is bordered by water. With Lake Superior to the North, Lake Michigan to the East and the Mississippi River running the western border, we are nearly an island; and this almost island contains more than 15,000 lakes and 82,0000 miles of streams and rivers. Fishing is important in Wisconsin.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s many violent clashes occurred in northern Wisconsin between white people and their Ojibwe neighbors. The issue was spearfishing, a culturally significant part of the Ojibwe history and livelihood – one that some white fishermen found threatening. The clashes often involved white protesters throwing rocks and bottles and shouting obscenities at the Ojibwe spearfishers but escalated to overturned boats and shootings of fishing Ojibwe.

Under two treaties, signed in 1837 and 1842, the Ojibwe transferred their entire Meskonsing homeland to the United States federal government. The still-standing treaties were conditional, guaranteeing the Ojibwe the right to hunt, fish and gather wild rice and maple sap on the vast lands they ceded. In 1854 the last treaty with the Minnesota Ojibwe was signed, and the U.S. federal government established permanent reservations for the Ojibwe bands in northern Wisconsin.

The state of Wisconsin believed that it had the right to regulate all hunting and fishing throughout the state and began curtailing those federally granted rights after 1854. In 1901 an Ojibwe, John Blackbird, was arrested and served 30 days hard labor for fishing on a part of Lake Superior connected to reservation lands. His court challenge began a battle that reached a violent peak in 1989, leading then governor Tommy Thompson to a rare personal appeal in federal court for an injunction against spearfishing in the state in order to stop further violence. The court rightly refused to do so on the grounds that the Ojibwe were doing nothing illegal.

Education and correct information are a start down a path toward peaceful coexistence. As it turns out, the Ojibwe intentionally harvest far fewer walleye than they are allowed and only a small fraction of the walleye caught by non-Indian sports fishermen each year. They also run their own fish hatcheries, adding far more fish to the lakes annually than they harvest through spearfishing.

Real equities of spirit and mind, of hope and opportunity, of dignity and respect escape us. If you watch the video below, you will learn the definition of a “timber nigger” and hear the term put into use. They are just words, right? To my ears, those words are devastating, because they signal loudly that brotherly love or even mere tolerance are far from the hearts of people; and those are heartbeats that disparity will always follow. Do you hear the drums beating? The Indian drums? How about the African drums? If we cut the skin, the drum can no longer be beaten. The sound of a culture disappears, leaving us only the monotonous resonating of our foolish pride. Spearfishing is just one in a long line of drum skins that need protecting, and there are many more in desperate need of renewal and repair.

The picture at the top of this post is taken from a vantage point where the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers meet at my birth place of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin – a town born in the heart of the French fur trade. When I wander these lands dotted with the Effigy Mounds that testify to their rich, Indian heritage, my soul is stirred by the lingering spirit of my Indian brother in the beauty of a place whose wild waters will never allow it to be completely tamed, no matter how many drum skins the white man cuts.

Words and Photography ©2016 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in human rights & history. Bookmark the permalink.


For more history, see: Spearfishing Controversy in Wisconsin provided by the Milwaukee Public Museum.

A clip from the documentary Lighting the 7th Fire about the spearfishing controversy in Wisconsin:

Ojibwe drummers outside the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison protesting mining bill AB 426 which threatened to destroy their ancestral lands: