Saturday, February 25, 2012

Poetics: Renape



from his pedestal outside Nordstrom
he does not sing The colors of the wind
as his daughter does in the movie by Disney
but collects them from pigeons
in white, purple and green

like tributes once paid by his nation,
thirty tribes brought together, only to be laid low
by settlers, invaders, it all depends on
who holds the pen

only children stop to stare at Chief Powhatan
and stumble over his given name,
WAHUNSUNACAWH
which rolls like marbles, foreign on the tongue

one, her dress a spring day
gathering around her legs, shiny black flats
on her feet, maybe her Easter adornment just
bought at one of the high end shops, asks

"Mommy, who was this man?"

and i want to say, "he was once a man
who was willing to fight for his people
and his land, whose daughter was stolen,
who watched brothers & friends
desiccated by disease dry up like river beds,
slain by pale hands as they defended their freedom
and family, displaced & lost in history
to the romanticized legend
of John Smith (not Rolfe) & Pocahontas so that we
could build---

shopping malls
to fill the void of consumption
once there were no more
great conquests"

but her mom sums it up in,
"an indian"

& they are off to another anchor store,
as i down the last bite of soft pretzel,
and nod not to the monument
but he who was willing
to stand behind it.

Process Note: Renape is Algonquin for "true humans"

Today @ dVerse Poets, Victoria has a wonderfully sculpted prompt for us. Hehe. Don't stand there frozen like a statue, come on over. Doors open at 3 pm.

79 comments:

Mary said...

I appreciate how you can turn real life experiences into poetry. Too bad that the mother did not turn that moment into a teachable moment with her daughter! A memorable write, Brian, and a good lesson.

Mary said...

Wow, I have never been #1 before. Smiles.

Gloria said...

I love this Brian. You know when I was a little girl (of course BEFORE Pocahontas) always dream with be and indian, and feel that maybe in other life. Nice!
gloria

Tara Miller said...

It's so important to teach our youth of today this history. It's a part of what has shaped our world and to belittle it is sad. Maybe the mom was just in a hurry and will teach her little one more about his character later. Good lesson my love.:)

oceangirl said...

I waited for the poem tonight. I think I got it :) I enjoyed the story. Thank you.

Josh Hoyt said...

That was a great tribute to a great man and nation! It is sad how we forget our past and do not pass on the greatness to our younger generation.

tera said...

Wow. I like so much of this I don't know where to start. My dad is part Indian (I am not - long story) and it pains me sometimes how we've forgotten so much of their history and lore.
We have a park near where I work that had a lovely statue of Chief Joseph but last summer someone stupid kids broke the nose off it. They have now replaced it with some half-assed modern sculpture that is supposed to represent a totem pole. I miss seeing the Chief on my way to work...

tera said...

ps. I also really like the line
"her dress a spring day
gathering around her legs"

:)

Pat Hatt said...

I think you might have scared the kid with that spiel
But at least it would have been real
So many just pass by
With the who cares attitude in their eye
Except when needed to be glorifed and dumbed down for a movie
Making everyone think it is groove
And like they know a thing or two
Thanks to Disney coming to the rescue
Or that HORRIBLE Colin Farrell movie that came out
That thing was one of the worst movies EVER without a doubt

Carrie Burtt said...

So much valuable history gets lost in this day and age....what a wonderful lesson here Brian!

Rebecca S. said...

Very good, Brian. That's a poignant remark, too about consumption filling the void when conquest was achieved. Too true. What an avaricious people we are.
Desmond Tutu said, "What we learn from history, is that we don't learn from history."

I really loved the last bit, where you 'raise your glass' to those who stand behind the monument.

CiCi said...

I could just smack that mom.

Grace said...

Isn't it sad that parents don't share such valuable lessons and pride of our lands, to our children? These lines speak to me:

and nod not to the monument
but he who was willing
to stand behind it.

Claudia said...

that's the problem with these statues, hewn in cold rock, standing almost in our way-- if there isn't someone who makes us feel their pulse again, smell the sweat and the pain when they fought hard and still lost everything-- we won't see-- so thanks bri for making us see-- and feel--

farmlady said...

My Cherokee Indian great, great, great, great grandmother read this with tears in her eyes.
Beautiful, but sad.

Vicki Lane said...

Excellent observation -- kind of the ultimate indignity to have to stand outside outside a shopping mall in perpetuity.

Sub-Radar-Mike said...

Agh, such bitter irony, having a statue of a native american so close to a shopping mall :/

Laurie Kolp said...

The girl deserves your answer!

Gloria said...

Brian if you want to see i made a new post i think you would enjoy:)o

Anne said...

"Which rolls like marbles, foreign to the tongue" I love that line Brian. Also the way you said the story is different depending on who is holding the pen is very important. As an Irish Catholic, I can relate to that. There are things I'd like to write about our history on my blog, things that would be true, that would cause such a storm that I dare not do it. We have not recovered from our past and I don't think we ever will and that is sad.

Sue said...

Our society has too much stuff, not enough substance, and very little remorse.

No wonder we're in such a hurry to run away from ourselves.

"/

rosaria said...

Outside Nordstrom!
It all depends on who holds the pen, you write. So true!
We know not history, but the propaganda machine of the mighty.

Daniel said...

Oh, a wonderful observation and point of view. Lacking knowledge of history and the great ones that came before, can lead to us repeating our past mistakes.

Kitten said...

It could definitely have been a teachable moment about our history. To better understand who we are, it's impportant to understand where come from.

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Brian, an elegant tribute to a great man. Have you read "Lies My Teachers Told Me"? About American social studies textbooks and the Eurocentric focus of "white is right." Deals a lot with native peoples and their exploitation.

Your tip-of-the-tongue response to the little girl was spot on. Thank you for telling the truth so beautifully. Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/the-ward-and-me-sunday-whirl/

darsden said...

Wow.. awesome as always and so true

hedgewitch said...

Please, don't confuse anyone with the facts here! Sad poem with many sweet lines(dress a spring day gathering) and a very bitter dose of realism.

Helen said...

... the truth will always set us free! This is a wonderful must read poem!

theprimate said...

So true Brian, and the lines

" to fill the void of consumption
once there were no more
great conquests"

Are truly memorable...thank you for this write. I will come back to it.

vivinfrance said...

I truly admire this poem, Brian. There are so many memorable lines, it's difficult to pick just one: the first to make me prick up my ears was "it all depends on
who holds the pen" which sums up the perspectiv he of his truth, her truth and THE truth.

dulce ♥ said...

love how especially on sundays you join great poetics with your kids and family life ... ;-)

JeannetteLS said...

Wonderful... years ago I was hired to write the history of the Central Susquehanna Valley in PA. And what I dug up was the history of the Six Nations Tribes, drawn together out of necessity. Had the chosen to fight, at the time, they would have decimated the settlers and British. But they chose peace and paid dearly.

I won't go on. The woman who ran the ad agency where I did freelance work loved it--it told what STILL was not taught in schools. The chamber grudgingly allowed it.

Your poem was more eloquent than my history. It said what I felt inside but had to hold back as I stuck to the facts--which still spoke loudly.

WONDERFUL

Blue Flute said...

That was a poignant moment you described with the mother and daughter, and how much more of a story there was to the statue than the summary she got.

lifeisaroadtrip said...

Absolutely brilliant, Brian!

kaykuala said...

It's often easy to forget history. A mother in a hurry is no help. It's nicely brought out in your write!

Hank

Daydreamertoo said...

We (white races) have much to answer for, in our history for what occurred back then but, it is also a case of 'to the victor go the spoils; as it's always been too. I was reading somewhere where before whites arrived and instilled 'we must work 6 days a week and rest on the Sabbath' Native Americans, knew no such work ethic at all. They did what needed to be done and that was it, they didn't need to work to survive, they simply, lived.
They had so much they could have taught us in the ways of being wise and yet, we thought we knew so much better than they did and all but destroyed them with our being 'civillised'
Yet another real-life write, Brian and it's so sad and so indicative of the sad world we've become when all the mother could reply was: 'An Indian.' When he was so obviously so much more than that.

RD said...

what we say today, will not defend what they know tomorrow...

"and I want to say..."

I see a tear of blood trickling from your lip

Peace ☮

Vodka Mom said...

can't you write SOMETHING i might hate?



damn you.

xx

Mama Zen said...

I love this, Brian!

Victoria said...

Our history vis-a-vis the Native Americans always tears me apart and this poem is a huge testatment to the man and his people. The way you've clothed it in your experience at the mall makes the contrast all the more effective.

happygirl said...

The romanticized story of John Smith and Pocahontas. Because, most of us can't handle the truth. Good one.

irene said...

I really like the setting you put your story, and the odd juxtaposition of history with commerce.

Beachanny said...

the opening line sets a modern stage, the play begins (because all is history) a 21st century jaded mother with her child who represents spring and youth and innocence walks on under the giant stylized letters that read N O R D S T R O M - meaningless grouping to those in the 24th century as much as WUHUNSUNACAWH is to the child, the statue begins to talk: he recites this poem, the audience moans, then applauds. And another night in the theater ends, people go home, and life continues supposedly.

Charles Miller said...

This is so vivid and truly ironic, given the state we have left the land their pain and suffering bequeathed us. You capture that irony so beautifully, sadly. The debt we owe these heroes extends so far back, are so deeply engrained in our waybof life we have lost all memory. So they stand in statues in odd placed, haunting so surreally a mall, or the US capitol, and we simply forget... or try to, since the blood that flowed and watered the land so we can live as we do will never speak, except in poetry as here.

Ravenblack said...

Thanks for the story. A pity the child didn't get the full answer; but such is the world in general, "that is that, let's just move on".

pandamoniumcat said...

It all depends on who holds the pen... well said... tore down paradise to put up a parking lot... If only we could learn from past mistakes. Powerful write !

janaki nagaraj said...

Nice story. It is important to teach our kids about our heros who played an role is sculpting our history.

Who Is Afraid Of Miss Lovett? No, Mrs.Lovett... said...

Hi! Brian...
"Mommy, who was this man?"
and i want to say, "he was once a man
who was willing to fight for his people and his land, whose daughter was stolen..."

What a very [powerful] thought-provoking [beautifully written] poem.

"shopping malls to fill the void of consumption once there were no more
great conquests"

This quote is so very true..."We" [sometimes] fill our lives with so many "empty things" that shouldn't matter...

"but her mom sums it up in,
"an indian"& they are off to another anchor store,as i down the last bite of soft pretzel,and nod not to the monument,but he who was willing
to stand behind it."


Instead Of, dealing with truths that should matter...Thanks, for sharing and caring...too!

deedee ;-/

nsiyer said...

Brian, I am touchd by your poetry. You bring life through poetry. WOW AND WELL WRITTEN

stu mcp (hate @ hope) said...

Love how you captured this interaction. Sad that these sculptures exist- but they seem to go unoticed when there is so much history, such a story to tell. Really liked the way you presented the consumerist element ad a modern distraction- and it's funny how sculptures of such significance always appear in places like this- probably with the intention of them being seen by more people- but who wants to take a moment to understand and appreciate history, our ancestors and their bloody struggles when we could go shopping right?

Dave King said...

This is so widely applicable. It ought to be posted in every shopping mall in the (not so) civilised world. Stunning.

James Rainsford said...

A moving and authentic write, Brian.

Tom said...

too bad the image of the indian has been so sullied by movies and their present downtrodden existance that they've been dismissed so easily by the general public. No gonna preach, but they deserve better. you just can't go back, can you?

Lorraine said...

wow that's beautiful, it is said in a once told story that one of my ancestors, a wowan of great, beauty had an affair with an Indian, could explain that half my family is light and blue eyes and the other other dark hair dark eyes, while both my brothers have blue eyes, blond hair and, olive green eyes, dark hair it ould be ture

Heather said...

oooh, nice....you know you are so right, a good lesson you've brought up today - i will try to be more indepth when explaining history to the little people in my life....

Polly Janos said...

Another master work. (How is it that, from your pen, bird poop can appear so poetic?)

Raven said...

This is exceptional in it's width and breadth of compassion and knowledge.

Adam said...

a great poem, especially for those with Native American ancestry

Caroline Gerardo said...

Brian this is fabulous.
IT has wonderful unique language and brought me right into the moment in the mall. Most of all it opens eyes, teaches caring and makes us think.
Thank you

hyperCRYPTICal said...

A wonderful observation and great tribute Brian. Excellent!

Anna :o]

Friko said...

All gone, all forgotten, except by a poet or two . . . .

turtlememoir said...

a wonderful tribute, Brian - thank you for this.

but her mom sums it up in,
"an indian"

feels like a slap in the face... and after that your process note made me think: yes, once there were "true humans"

Bodhirose said...

"an indian"...that sums it all up right there.. but I love your narrative about a statue of an important historical figure...now immortalized in front of a mall...what's wrong with this picture?

Betsy said...

oh so true! we were the invaders and took over their land. nobody likes to remember that little fact!

kez said...

great write ....love the incident with mother and child you wrote about weaving the every day into this historic tale ...thanks for sharing x x

myheartslovesongs said...

do you talk like you write? you make it seem so conversational at first then build into a rhythm that captivates... brilliant as always!

Fred Rutherford said...

fine tribute piece Brian, love the large remark on society as a whole that you put out thee with just a busy shoppers lack-of-thought filled remark to an impressionable child. And then i wonder what that child will tell her own down the line, probably something to a similar tone. Fine piece. Thanks

Ginny Brannan said...

"...he was once a man
who was willing to fight for his people
and his land, whose daughter was stolen,
who watched brothers & friends
desiccated by disease dry up like river beds,
slain by pale hands as they defended their freedom
and family, displaced & lost in history..."

You expressed this story about this man, this native American, so eloquently. I find history like this so fascinating. To be summed up as "an Indian" might be the short answer, but does such a great disservice to the actual man. Not all of our country's past is very pretty, and it is nice to see someone remembered for who they actually were. Well done.

Magpie said...

I'm reading some books written by Sharyn McCrumb. She deals extensively with our Native American forefathers' plight.

beccagivens said...

It is a shame many do not know the importance of our history, the prices paid, and the lessons that should be learned! Nice write, Brian. :)

Reena Walkling said...

Wonderful commentary on our society of excesses. Outstanding Brian!

Lisa Golden said...

This is a much needed thunk on the head.

Goofball said...

On ski vacation , I had to watch Pocahontas 5 times. Pretty weak story, wish I could have heard more true history in all its nuances & depth

Raven said...

Every word you said here has import. I suspect that #1 you are an incredible father, #2 you have loving, fun and "caring" kids. I love to watch my daughter "mother," as in the verb to mother. It is a real art. I suspect fathering is an art for you.

California Girl said...

beautiful thought behind the imagery.

Myrna R. said...

Nice how you blend consumerism with conquest and ignorance all in one poem. Good history reminder.

Mirelon D said...

So much valuable history gets lost in this day and age... what a wonderful story!!!

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Syd said...

Nice to read about the history of Powhatan. I learned about him early on in Virginia history which was probably sanitized greatly for kids. But Powhatan's Chimney is in Gloucester and Wicomico was supposedly shortened from the Werowocomoco which was the tribes' meeting place along the York River. This took me back to my roots in Tidewater.

william said...

excellent poem to a cool man, very well written...