Tag Archives: original writing

Four Corners

Across the border, without incident,

Passing through Red Mesa

(Tho’ it might as well be the moon),

You stop for the night at a Motel 6,

Cheap, and warm enough.

She’s promised you a hot meal once you reach the valley.

Catching the eye of a woman

Turning the key to 107,

You nod goodnight.

Not a threat, just another hungry traveler.

Sometime, three, maybe four a.m.

You wake; hear the muffled shout,

The scuffle in the corridor outside,

A thud, then silence.

You lie, breath held, in your sweat-soaked shirt,

Every creaking floorboard,

Every car door a trigger warning;

Watching the clock’s vapid glow,

Every muscle screaming fight or flight,

Till the tell-tale sun whispers urgently at the blinds,

And you turn your water-splashed face to

Another desperate morning.

Passing room 107,

Your sleepless eyes register the open door,

The unmade bed,

The empty room,

The smear of something, rusty brown,

On the door jamb.

On the far side of the parking lot

Only a coyote watches

As you climb into your truck, and drive away.

In February 2018 the US hotel chain Motel 6 was being sued for racial profiling of guests with ‘Latino-sounding names’ and for passing guests’ personal information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who have then detained people, without probable cause. Having just completed a short play script about DACA deportees, I was prompted to tell this story too. There is no Motel 6 at Red Mesa, but there are locations in Arizona where this has occurred. There is a border patrol point at Four Corners, a remote region of northern Arizona, and as an immigrant myself I feel extremely uneasy crossing the border, even a border within the States. In the current political climate, anything can happen, and many things can go wrong. 

 

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34.5°N, 112.4°W

I park up

On Enchanted Canyon,

To pay my respects

Beneath a vulture’s gaze.

 

Losing the trail,

Granite shards biting

Through inadequate shoes,

Ocotillo snagging careless limbs,

 

I reach the canyon head.

‘Take it’ I roar,

‘Take my blood, these gobs of flesh;

This is small change,

 

This is lip service;

When my brothers and sisters,

The Hopi, the Hualapai,

Bleed out for less.

 

Ask the Apache,

Ask the Yavapai.

I’d beg their forgiveness,

But they are invisible;

 

Easier, maybe,

To trust the coyote’.

So I take a ride

To the heart of the rez.

 

The hi-vis worker

Directing traffic flow

Around the roadblock

Catches my eye.

 

He is Navajo,

And in the glance,

Neither friend nor foe,

speaks a million words.

 

‘Ask me’ say his eyes,

‘what it is like

To watch your mother

Burn like a forest fire.

 

Ask how we got here,

Arrived at this juncture,

Where I direct traffic

While you build on my land.

 

These houses, this golf course,

This ‘recreation facility’,

These are your monuments

To my people.

 

You dishonour the sandstone,

Deport the petroglyphs

To Willow Lake,

Where they do not belong.

 

They serve no purpose.

They are hunters’ trophies.

Interpretive signs

Mark their resting place.

 

And then,’ he says,

‘to twist the knife,

You name this subdivision

Petroglyph Point.

 

I’d raise my hands skyward,

Summon the raven down;

Fight with tooth and claw,

But I have forgotten how’.

 

There are several ‘truths’ in this piece: losing my way on a trail and stumbling through scrub, tearing my arms and legs; the unseen community on the reservation (known locally as ‘the rez’) that surrounds my town; catching the eye of a Native American man when I was stopped at roadworks, and something significant, and unspoken, passing between us. And the city council really did remove the petroglyphs to build a golf course. I took these individual elements and reworked them into a new reality.

Native American elements in the text

The vulture, coyote and raven are abundant in my town and all feature heavily in Native American mythology; the vulture is a magical creature, coyote is the trickster. Raven is a shape-changer and messenger. Petroglyphs, or rock carvings, are unique pictorial representations of their surrounding environment, recording hunting grounds, directions, crops and water sources. They were the nearest thing the tribes had to written records, and in this scenario were displaced, and thus rendered meaningless (imagine moving Stonehenge to central London). Navajo, Hopi, Apache, Yavapai and Hualapai, are all indigenous peoples within this part of northern Arizona.

Sometimes I have a conversation I wish I’d never started

Wintertime in Yuma.

We smoked. I asked:

‘Have you been to the Proving Grounds?’

‘Oh yes’ you replied,

‘I have been tested.

I have been pushed to the limits of my endurance,

Tried for strength and durability,

Broken, blasted into a million shattered pieces,

Shrapnel snow, falling from a burning sky.

I have lain, staked out under the blistering sun,

Flayed with the whips of misunderstanding,

Stretched on the rack of an unforgiving child’s ire,

Beaten with bars forged from the mistaken identity of vengeful silence.

I have examined the sub-atomic explosion of my life and run for the bunker.

I have questioned its neutrality.

If that is what you mean,’ you said.

‘Not quite,’ I replied, inhaling the disconcerting taste of an ill-considered question.

“Dude, I mean, have you been to the Proving Grounds?

Just off State Route 95’.

But you had already fallen asleep.

Haiku of a liberated woman

Ever since you left

It’s like a new beginning.

Look! The bird flies free!

Solar Eclipse

Time, suspended. In gathering stillness

we breathe, and the pregnant air

hushes our expectations.

Night is come, mid-morning,

lulling the birds to sleep

and we wait

we wait

Time suspended

then huffed away on an ancient breeze

old as the universe

cool as the ocean’s deep.

Geography…

Them: So, when you lived in London –

Me: I didn’t live in London; I lived in England.

Them (thoughtful silence): Um…what’s the difference between London and England?

Me: (Bangs head against wall).