Postcolonial Text / Author

Five Poems


Indians I Have Known

My Chippewa friend’s hair was so heavy,
when she was pregnant (at fecund intervals)
she lopped it all off – the headaches were too much.
Like her earth, her blood, her waters, babies, tresses
would again arrive without ceremony.

My acrimonious Nez Perce buddy Patrick Head
dreaded me calling him peehead, but then even
his nickname accurately captured his penchant…
flow me a river.

Trenchant Chris would snap Arapaho booty
when I called her Comanche butt.
But we would have missed our most notable
sisterly attribute, why not toot about the golden immutable?

Penobscot mama could not sleep without the light on
too much in fright of bygones. The goners and
bison thunder that dove way under the visioning.

Not these the sorts with a great great grandmother
Indian princess or the code talkers, night stalkers.
Not these the drug store, drunken whore gimme more
No not these from your before the white man’s rescue.

I am and we are what visions cannot see
the Indian in me, in Cree, in Onandaga, in Lumbee
in feather, leather, buffalo, Potawatami.
I am and we are beyond vast plains and sacred grains
treaties, tears, nameless fears.

We have stamped, with sueded, unjaded, berated feet
the borders of a universe that will not face defeat or

I am and we are what hearing cannot capture
laughter and drum and wind, legends, beads,
bloodlines, shells and whooping yells.

The Indian in me, Yakima, Shoshone, Delaware
Hopi, Mandan, Kiowa. We know ourselves and find
ourselves and bind ourselves fast; the four directions
and declarations, reinventions and extensions of band,
tribe, geography. The Indian in me.


Turkey Red

I would surely have been among the village women
who, spying the deliberately strewn cloth patches,
found myself in nether hatches of some slave ship
reaching a shore that would demand more and less
of what I might ever have become in what would never
again be home.
I would truly have found that, because of what I saw
and tried to follow, I would then discover a love of
the needle and reinventing what I might capture of loss,
remake and embody something new
           a beautiful, wishful thing.
After, others would find that fragment of free expression
and follow it to the hope that was not meant for me
but became as permanently bound as the determined
joinery that landed aground within my hands if not my reach.



So you ask, how do I cope?
Sistah, this don’t come off with soap
I hear the mantras that advise
you’ll assimilate if you’re wise
The vanity of profanity
The emptiness of vapidity
The response of inanity
Get it in there with rapidity

They come with answers
but no time for questions
you swallow their potions
they reject your suggestions

Some admit they wear the mask
I just ain’t made for that task
not exactly corporate, but no loafer either
why can’t the category be ‘neither’?

OTHER my brother, just ain’t workin’
the classifiers be tic and jerkin’
won’t find a fit, you’re declared a stubborn ox
c’mon, just check a close ‘nuff box!

So you ask, how do I cope?
Sistah, this don’t come off with soap
The vanity of profanity
The emptiness of vapidity
The response of inanity
Get it in there with rapidity



And now those brilliant genetic cartographers
prove to us that no more than one tenth of
one percent (how readily can YOU visualize THAT?)
of what makes us ‘human’ is not shared.

That tiny, less than a kinky hair’s worth of gap
in the complex schemata of our being
often has been allowed to determine the wide gaps
we use to individuate/differentiate.

Wealth, appearance, the vagaries of geographic
overwrite – aquiline nose, Hapsburg overbite
freckles, dimples, disease, aging
melanin, tall, short, thick and thin.
How do we consider all that’s been?



We all began as African
African some lynch or revile.
Some sigh over style.
We all began as African

Hard to wrap your mind around?
How many ape that R&B sound?
Hairstyles, dances, ghetto walk
Colors, fashions, special talk.
We all began as African.

Even if you might deny it
Something in you testifies it.
It will emerge, nudge ‘round your edges
Assert itself, primordial pledges.
We all began as African.

No matter whom we marry,
how dark or light our skin
whether our nose be pointy or broad
or our lips thick or thin
We all began as African.

From Madrid to Mombasa
Que viva la raza!
Lucerne to Lhasa
No matter what the motherland
We all began, began
We all began as African.

Try to set yourself apart
you’ll still find the same start.
We all began as African.

Africa, a woman not your mother
First offered her breast to you and me
Baldly claims us, frankly names us.
We all began as African.

From Kampala to Karachi
Iceland to Iran
The dark and the wan
she never has gone.
We all began as African.

Insidious muse, ambience flue,
gives us black blues, jittery shoes…
Try as we can, denounce any plan
We all began as African.
We all began as African.


PT Dannells