Poetry for Peltier
For 22 years the doors of justice have been closed to Leonard Peltier. Now, the door may be opening a crack. A few months ago AIM activist Dennis Banks announced that Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, had agreed to hold oversight hearings into the events leading to Peltier’s arrest and conviction. Wounded Knee, the COINTELPRO programs against AIM, Peltier’s illegal extradition from Canada, and the many irregularities in his trial will be among the issues brought to light.
The Northwest Leonard Peltier Support Network has announced an International Indigenous Peoples’ Day March on the U.S./ Canadian Border for Justice for Leonard Peltier and the First Nations to take place on October 10–12, 1997. Events include a Rally for Justice at Olympia, the state capital, a caravan to the border, a “Run for Justice” and a mass meeting in Bellingham, Washington. The organizers need money and help. Contact them at POB 5464, Tacoma WA 98415–0464, tel. 253–3839108.
Here in Detroit, through the efforts of persistent Peltier supporter Mick Vranich and others, the annual Peltier benefit was held at the Cass Cafe in March to raise funds for Peltier and inform the local community of his situation. Emceed by storyteller and former FE staffer and White Panther political prisoner Pun Plamondon, the event featured readings from poets Alise Alousi, Mark Grafe, Chris Monhollen, Dennis Teichman, Chris Tysh, José L. Garza and FE staffer David Watson.
A literature and information table was supplied by Kevin Kamps and friends from the World Tree Peace Center (POB 50814, Kalamazoo MI 49005). Mick’s musical/poetry ensemble, with musicians John Bardy, The Blackman, Jim Johnson, Akulahti and Eric Walworth accompanying his poetry, ended the evening with a powerful performance. The poems here were among those read for Peltier.
shanghai (poem from Continuity Girl)
broadened to include funereal piers
which is to say not the slit already suspect
that opens in the paddy fields but the camp
itself, unrelated to forgetting from soldier
to prisoner passing his hands from truckfloor to water without even a hint of what must be
told one day: the body that burns in advance
jams, at the skin, the shortwave crackle of these events
that it seek place on the rolled up scroll
as marker or history depends on the economy
of knowing. Slack motor across the compound.
Gangs, sentries and flies like a camouflage
matinee cut up before the squatting crowd
framed and separate from the letters of war
by a running fence, its barbed meaning
not yet trenchant nor plain
— Chris Tysh
(waiting for the Woodward bus because you took all my money, and the car keys, Detroit, Jan. 21, 1997)
Dazed and confused, tequila blues,
I tighten my belt a notch
because you said so, sentenced
to riding the pinche* D.O.T. bus
in winterized, pulverized 1997.
Chasing this pinche puppy tail life around,
makes a person want to say
pinche all the time ‘cause
you said so made it all come true.
Ambushed by Godzilla and Rodan imposters,
your pinche friends not mine.
One of these glorious, wondrous pinche
I am going to win la pinche
loteria, the million dollar lottery,
y despues I can afford without regrets
my own pinche book of poems
with only the word pinche in it;
repeated time and again
because you deemed it so,
flowing from the pinche tongue,
the pen, the pinche broken vida/heart
you so expertly, surgically removed
with your dull knife/knife of secret revel
Thank you so pinche much.
— José L. Garza
*pinche = damned, forsaken
“May your feet imitate heaven.”
— Theodore Roethke
but dancing close in,
the orrery of the limbs
what the body wants.
Energy most fierce
inside the thin ribbon
movements small as seeds
or butterfly flap
The spine supple as a mast
at full sail
stretching from tap-root
birds singing in the spars.
The hands of my beloved two whisps of cloud.
— David Watson
and a monstrous sun cradle vapors
of Indian ghosts dying over again
A woman stands weeping
her flesh obedient
her hunger a dialogue
her language is time
her cries extend the sea
Slender and golden
the moon marks a promise
the shadow haunts itself
I speak to you of madness
I speak to you of a violent stare
taking eyes to another form
I speak to you in a soft voice
with thickness of emotion
and the lightness of a body
walking from the night
the day is tangled in body salt
the sun resides in the wait
What burns inside you is melted
what is taken with you is yours
— Christine Monhollen, 3/97