poetry, Strong Women

Chyrstos Poetry

Fugitive Colors by Chrystos
Fugitive Colors by Chrystos

My waking hours have been filled with poetry and tissues this last week.

The cold germs found their way past the daily vitamin C I take and turned me into a sneezing, coughing, dry mouthed mess. Thank goodness for the poetry.

Last week, two poets presented an opportunity which I took because I love poetry and I dabble (very lightly) in composing poems myself.

The first poet needed beta readers for an upcoming chapbook, so I read seventy plus pages of melodious words and did some critiquing (as a reader, not a poet).

The second poet, Michelle Wing, an AROHO sister, poet, and Facebook friend (who’s own poetry collection “Body on the Wall” will come out in Spring 2014) posted an interesting game on FB. Anyone who ‘liked’ a poem that she posted would be assigned a poet. In turn, the ‘liker’ would choose a poem by that poet and post it on their FB page.

Michelle assigned me to read poems by Chyrstos, a Menominee rights activist for Turtle Mountain Band of Chipewa, Norma Jean Croy, and Leonard Peltier. Her poems are in numerous anthologies and she has five poetry books published. Many of her poems speak about the living traditions of her people, the edgy rhythms of urban life, and violence.  

These two poems resonated:

The Man Who Couldn’t Live Without Me

I’m sitting at the bus stop holding a pillowcase of dirty laundry

when he informs me passionately,

Baby, you’re my only

real reason for being,

If you love that other bastard

I’ll kill him

Baby I need you

Sunshine ain’t nothing

if you aren’t mine

Laughing I thought he made about

as much sense

as any woman who has said such stuff to me

Pretty efficient to obsess about a complete stranger

since the truth

arrives much faster and less painfully

When her bus comes-she leaves you

No ego loss there

As my J Church rolled up I said,

Bye, bye my one true love

Laughed with myself and every lover

I’d promised to kiss forever

cause I know now the only person I can’t

live without

is me

Not Vanishing

In the scars of my knees you can see
children torn from their families
bludgeoned into government schools
You can see through the pins in my bones
that we are prisoners of a long war
My knee is so badly wounded no one will look at it
The pus of the past oozes from every pore
This infection has gone on for at least 300 years
Our sacred beliefs have been made into pencils
names of cities gas stations
My knee is wounded so badly that I limp constantly
Anger is my crutch I hold myself upright with it
My knee is wounded
How I Am Still Walking

If you love poems that interweave personal stories with edgy narrative, social justice themes, and poems exploring the Native American experience, check out Chyrstos poetry.

Chingonas, poetry, poets, Uncategorized

Braiding Words into Poems


It was at the AROHO retreat when words began to jam the inside of my head, seeking the way out, like never before. I wrote my first poem while I was in a workshop with Jillian Lauren , who taught “Writing on the Edge.” Two days later I had two more poems. I thought in verse without knowing or trying.

Maybe it was the gorgeous landscape around me, coupled with the synergy of wise wonderful women (bien Chingonas) attending the retreat, or maybe it was the spirit of Ghost Ranch and the motto of New Mexico: “The Land of Enchantment.”

Since returning from New Mexico, five weeks ago, six more poems have leaked out of me. The one below came to me in the middle of the night, a few days after I returned from AROHO. My critique group, Women Who Write, helped me form the poem into something a little more coherent.

The original name of the poem was Braids, but today, in honor of National Poetry Day and NPMonth, I retitled it to post on a blog I happened to stumble upon, Poetic Bloomings. The task was to write a poem about composing a poem. The prize is a book of poetry (and you know I love free books).


Braid words
to reach across
expanse of experiences

Pull together strands
of pain, joy
sadness, hope,
wisdom, love
bit by bit, strand by strand

Form strength
tighter, stronger, thicker
criss cross
hand over hand
fingers nimble
fast, slow

Pull together
thick cords
ropes of strength

Sycamore trees, Oxnard, CA
Sycamore trees, Oxnard, CA

On my walk yesterday,  I came upon a Sycamore, usually the only trees in the whole neighbor and my coastal city, which give evidence that autumn has arrived. Among the palm trees and drought resistant plants, the Sycamores stand out in their demise, brilliantly. A red leaf dropped in front of me and ‘walked’ like a starfish across my path.

Starfish on Asphalt
Starfish on Asphalt

Starfish on Asphalt

From the depths of an ocean

coastal winds blew you near

a starfish on asphalt

for me to see.


moving towards others,

huddling in the cold,

dying in color.

A fish out of water

to return

next spring

huddled leaves
huddled leaves