Standing Rock Burning

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Sharing another piece from my writing class with the Writers Studio Amsterdam. The technique used in the poem was modeled off of Font by Linda Gregerson. The content was inspired by the heartbreaking events at Standing Rock this past week.

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Every year around Thanksgiving

our schools would assign us

to dress up as either a pilgrim or an Indian

 

Pilgrims wore cut out paper collars

Indians got to wear

colorful feathers and beads on their head

 

No one wanted to be a boring pilgrim

We all longed to be

Pocahontas running through the corn fields

 

Now I watch through a box on my screen

the camp, set aflame,

not by the police but by the water protectors;

indigenous people;

Native Americans;

“Indians”

 

A ceremonial burning of structures;

plumes of smoke upwards into snowy sky;

                                    fire claiming what is theirs

before the bulldozers and tanks can get their hands on it

 

Some stay until

the others called to protect and serve

march in like a black wall

 

Columbus’ men landed on a wave of greed

noting how these peaceful people

would make good Christians and slaves

 

Centuries later once unpronounceable names are now used for

school districts;

sports teams;

roads

stretched out over treaty land

 

But it shouldn’t be too black and white

too spelled o-u-t

Where’s the nuance? my mother says

 

What she really means is

why must I assume the sins

of my ancestors?

 

Lengths of pipe will

go in

the lengths men will go to rule the unruleable

 

The black river will flow

under the Missouri;

buried steel and plastic

 

pumping 470,000 barrels of crude oil

a day

across the Midwest

 

black veins

masked by

earth and drinking water

 

Heavy work boots

Stomping on mud;

ash;

bones;

 

What did you do at school today? she asks

the craft glue and plastic beads still drying

on my headdress

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Learn more about the Standing Rock Sioux.

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