Ancient, poems by Christine Stark
Christine Stark is an award-winning writer, visual artist, national and international speaker of Anishinaabe & Cherokee ancestry. Her first novel, Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation, was a Lambda Literary Finalist. Her essays, poems, and creative non-fiction have appeared in numerous publications, including University of Pennsylvania Law Review; The WIP; Florida Review; The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prize Winning Essays; When We Become Weavers: Queer Female Poets on the Midwest Experience; Hawk and Handsaw: The Journal of Creative Sustainability; and many others. Her poem, “Momma’s Song”, was recorded by Fred Ho and the Afro Asian Music Ensemble as a double manga CD. She is also a co-editor of Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography and a co-author of “Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota”. Currently, she is completing her second novel, Carnival Lights. For more information: www.christinestark.com
Review of Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation and Interview with Christine Stark http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/dignity/vol2/iss4/7/
The More I Try to Remember
the poem I wrote while half asleep in the cats’
chair dreaming of black branches snapping against
a sulky white background the faster it flies toward
Minneapolis where it plans to alight atop the Foshay
Tower the shortest tower ever in the petite history of
Minneapolis its crabby feet securely wrapped about the spire.
Come back! It’s not so bad here!
Why there’s an antique store
and the lady with the blue
eyeglasses says we have
a strong tradition of arts.
Poem, be reasonable,
I purr. There’s Lindbergh Park–
his family home has a ten foot wire
fence no longer scaled by anyone.
I heard he was a Nazi.
I heard he wasn’t a Nazi.
Certainly there’s irony in that.
There’s my old German neighbor who
won’t sell me the Ojibwe baskets she
bought for $1 to hold her back-up mittens.
She says she never could forgive Lindbergh!
And I pretended to believe her!
So don’t be scared!
There’s the city government
ignoring its citizens—
won’t even pave the bad
side of town now no one will
rollerblade there ever!
Everything you need
right here in Little Falls, Minnesota
Poem, I wail,
But to no avail poem
skitters off Highway
10 into Rice and I remember
something about the light rail–
Yes, the light rail, I coo and poem
emerges with a melted Heath
candy bar coffee from
the local gas station.
Come back, I whine wake my dog
slumbering behind the white cotton
curtain dreaming of his latest shopping
spree at Walmart. It’s difficult to be PC in
rural Minnesota, I state in his defense to no one in
particular, who pokes at the severed head of a Cardinal
deposited by a glacier one million years ago on
the front steps. Didn’t last much after Xmas, no
one in particular announces to my lost Ojibwe
neighbor whose white wife wants my sage tells
stories of two white boys hacking up Chief
Hole in the Day’s grave on the bluffs.
That’s why we don’t get rain.
Come to think of it, I don’t even know
whether the Walmart dressing room worker
believes in being PC, after all Walmart pays
1/100 of her bills and she is 1/10 some sort of
Indian from Wisconsin that begins with a W.
Winnebago, my dog asked in the Scooby Doo
accent he saves for people he knows not well.
Think so, she said unimpressed.
All I can remember I shout after the poem—
a fantastic piece heavy on lettuce, no mustard
three pints banana sardonic which would surely
bring me fame and fortune in the hallowed
halls of Minneapolis poetics where white boys with
goatees and thick black glasses skulk—is something
about what to do with the 1/100th of me that’s not Indian
or was it the 99/100th of me that is Indian?
Whatever will become of that part of me!
All I can remember of the dream is my body
separated: Second floor. Attic. Basement.
All I can remember is my skin turned turquoise.
All I can remember is the downstairs froze.
All I can remember is I swore I’d never go down there again!
Not as long as I live!
I would stay upstairs—
all my parts Indian and not.
Then who would be the one to
survive when the water rises and
the rest of you wish
you had a canoe?
Poem poem poem come back here I remember more!
They say there are three levels to the human body
They say there are books about the US government experimenting on children
They say my Ojibwe great grandfather did not ride trains
They say a light rail train will be built between Rice and Minneapolis
They say it will cost six dollars round trip
They say Freud rode trains in the nude
They say Freud was an idiot
They say there will be ample parking
They say it will arrive in downtown Minneapolis in 40 minutes
Can you beat that, poem?
They say I will be able to ride it in search of you, fleeting
poem, clutching to whatever dirty thing you can find.
*Charles Lindbergh’s childhood home is in Little Falls. After he completed the first solo, non-stop flight from New York to Paris, so many people visited his childhood home they built a fence to keep them out. Lindbergh supported Nazi Germany
I’ve asked the age-old question so many
times free radicals are percolating
through my veins. What are we, after all,
if not breathing mobile coffee makers able to
rollerblade great distances? What are we if not
chuffing huffing trains pulling graffiti marked
boxcars of green baggage?
But back to that age-old question and its effects
on the normative aging process. Why,
just last night in the health food
section I asked repeatedly of the bleary
eyed teen working the counter: Why
must cats lick urinary tract preventing
questionable meat source canned food off
a spoon with the covers down and sheets
exposed as if—and this is the key—
as if they were licking meaty ice cream
cones? I believe I nearly imploded on the last
word for I feel strongly that this behavior trivializes
my love for not to mention the much needed calcium
source of McDonalds 97 cent vanilla ice cream cones
which I especially enjoy while waterskiing backwards
down the Mississippi.
The snapping turtles with their spiny protrusions and ancient
glazed eyes do not appreciate my antics especially when
I discard the small bleached white paper encapsulating
the bottom third of each genetically modified
delectable Mickey D cone into their habitat.
Not to mention the large swirls of rainbow gasoline
spiraling to the shoreline where small children play with
pebbles eating p & j sandwiches laced with flax seed due
to its high omega content which fathers en masse do
not allow them to obtain from fish sold at the supermarket
unless, of course, it’s been frozen and flown from Alaska
where PCBs have been found from China but not in as great
For me, waterskiing backwards down the Mississippi while
eating ice cream cone after ice cream cone is a spiritual
odyssey. I imagine the sunset (no longer visible due to the
feathery smog) in the frolicking gassy rainbows. I imagine once
I was a frustrated orange monk with tiny feet. I imagine once I was
born with three toes and momentarily mistaken for a giant sloth.
There have been fleeting moments swift as a finch’s hiccup when
I’ve imagined those spiny protrusions to be fingers pointing at us all
but I’ve snapped out of it immediately exchanging my four dollar one
prescription fits all Walmart reading glasses for another.
It is said Tibetan monks smoke backwards.
It is said flannel is warmer than cotton.
It is said cats love to be tickled on the meaty pads of their feet.
It is said 80% of women have fibroids because they have lost the earth.
It is said Chinese PCBs are healthier due to the ancient Chinese practice of chi.
It is said it is more difficult to get into vet school than med school because people are sick of people.
I do not know if I believe any of it,
however, all of it could be true.
Belief is nothing if not a wheel without a latch.
But back to that age-old question that has perplexed
philosophers and seamstresses alike for many million
years. I’ve often overheard my neighbors plead with their meaty
eating ice cream cone cats At the very least, for Christ’s
sake, could you eat your meaty ice cream cones on the couch
so as to save my imitation silk sheets from certain ruin?
The cats, for their part, merely hunch their shoulders lick
even more delicately and with greater precision.
It’s been reported that every once in a while one
flexes a foot as if to say tickle my meaty
pad while I lick my meaty ice cream
cone in your bed with the sheets exposed.
What is known is spitlets of questionable meat
fall no matter what for that is the nature of ice cream
cone consumption. What else is known: we all plead,
whether we know it or not, Please make the damage less.
© Christine Stark