Church of Frida

(Melissa Bennett, Yellow Medicine Review, Fall 2013)

 

I want to be priest of the Church of Frida.

Where the homilies will be given in poems,

the communion wafers will be pyramids of dark chocolate

and the blood of Christ will always be frothy white pulque.

 

The altar will be covered in orchids

and the stained glass will be paintings by Frida.

 

It will be a place where women are priests,

men are dancers,

and the children praise God

with hand drums and gourd rattles.

 

When the name of the Holy is uttered,

whether in exaltation or in whispered longing,

she will be called

Tonantzín, Coatlicue, Xochiquetzal, Toci,

Mother, Grandmother, Wild Woman, Serpent Goddess.

She will be Our Lady.

 

The Spirit of Frida will haunt the halls,

make incense rise,

scent the sacristy with roses,

and cause bells to ring.

 

One Sunday a month

a new Kahlo painting

will be left at the church doors with a note,

“Truth is Love. Frida.”

All the Sundays in between

bottles of tequila

will appear tied with red and green ribbon

nestled in piles of rose blossoms.

On each bottle will be a note,

“See that Our Lady gets some. F.”

 

If you listen closely,

you will hear her singing.

Songs that last through the night.

Songs that could be coming from stars.

Songs that echo in your body

and leave you longing for God,

weeping on your knees in the dirt.

 

When you sleep

she reaches into your chest

takes out your heart,

drums a song on its soft flesh

and replaces it before morning.

 

This aching for God will not stop.

She will keep you like this for years.


Neverland

(Melissa Bennett, Four Winds Literary Journal - Taking Back Tiger Lily, 2015)

 

JM Barrie

You can keep your Tiger Lily

This figment of your imagination

This what you think Indian women ought to be

 

Savage, Redskin, Fodder for men

 

At the mercy of lost boys and pirates

Your Picaninny Princess

Bears a knife between her teeth

Teaching white men what Native women are not

Being drowned and rescued by colonizers

A play toy for their amusement

 

No thank you

I reject you

Your story has already taken too many of our women

I kick your version out

 

Keep your Tiger Lily

She is not me or my sisters

She is not me or my aunties

She is not me or my mothers

She is not me or my daughters

She is not me or my grandmas

She is not me or my lovers

 

I reject your Tiger Lily and give you instead

Real Indian women who have better things to do

Than play with lost boys and pirates

 

We have better things to do than be defined by white men

Especially white men with pens

Your character is flat, one-dimensional, barely human

Our women are complex, dynamic, fierce, and resilient

 

We are busy being mothers, sisters, aunties, grandmas

We are busy being friends, confidants, counselors, and clergy

We are busy advocating and empowering, creating and transforming

 

We are writing our own stories

Creating our own art

Dancing our own dances

Singing our own songs

Making our own magic

 

We are too busy healing our people

And ourselves

To keep your definition at the center

 

You, JM Barrie, with your Hook and Peter Pan

Can stay in Neverland


Trauma

(Melissa Bennett, Indigenous Goddess Gang & Survivance: Indigenous Poesis)

 

The bathwater is getting cold.

I haven’t played with the kitten in days.

It is nearly one a.m. and I am afraid to sleep.

Afraid of the grandmothers who chase after me in dreams.

I have come to close to their secrets.


FSU Goes to the Rose Bowl

(Melissa Bennett, Native News Online 2014 & Yellow Medicine Review Fall 2015)

 

Unwrapping my new stainless steel French press when you

On the couch three nephews away from me

Unwrap your 1996 flannel shirt and show us all

With a big smile on your face that points nowhere near me

Your new Florida State Seminoles t-shirt

 

And that pasty white face

With the two red war paint stripes

With the low hanging feather

And the mouth open in a battle cry or mourning wail

 

Is the only thing I see in that room

 

The Christmas tree with its white lights and red ornaments has disappeared

The presents left underneath fade away

The smell of holiday ham and Grandma’s pineapple sauce evaporates

The laughter of your boys as they open gift after gift has never existed

Mom and Dad are gone

Your wife an illusory mirage at the edge of my vision

 

It is you

And it is me

And it is that shirt

 

Almost 38 years I have been a daughter in this room

36 of those years I have been your sister

In the time it took you to unwrap your flannel

And reveal your allegiance

To racism and oppression and colonization

You made me the Indian sister to the white brother

The adopted one

The outside one

The alone one

The one no one listens to

Or cares about

 

And it all comes back

 

When I was four and overheard Mom defending her choice to adopt an Indian baby

When I was six and our Great Aunt told her friend standing next to me,

“You know she has that red blood in her”

When I was twelve and everyone began asking, “What are you?”

When I was sixteen and became a “Half Breed” certain to get one of those “Indian scholarships”

When I was twenty and my abusive boyfriend reminded me I was a “Lazy Indian”

When I was thirty-two and a man in my grad school class said,

“I bet you could sneak up barefoot on a white man and slit his throat:

And on Monday when I heard that an Indian man was killed because the police officer mistook

            his sweetgrass braid for aknife and shot him

And how my friend was the dead man’s cousin

 

All of it comes back

 

Every cut

Every micro-aggression

Every feeling associated with

Every word

Every look

Every act of violence

 

All of it

 

The adoptions

The sterilizations

The relocations

The reservations

The suicides

the homicides

The blood quantum

The boarding schools

The 522 years of genocide

 

All of it hides in that pasty white face on your shirt that is supposed to be me

 

An Indian

Your sister