A Word From Standing Rock


For almost a year, I haven’t been able to drive or walk past an active construction site without feeling PTSD. I remember my drive across Texas last December, after my time in North Dakota and seeing a simple road crew repairing the highway, and how I had to pull over at the next rest stop because I was shaking so bad. The whole time I was looking for the yellow helicopter and snipers with orange paint on their rifles on the hills. I continued to turn off my cell phone for all low-flying planes.

Currently, they’re rebuilding a pipeline in the Rio Grande Gorge on the way to Santa Fe. I do my best not to feel the pain of the Earth every time I pass it. Just last week, in Philly I saw the construction there as what it really is, another war zone.

In the cities, they commit war crimes against the most vulnerable. Everywhere else, they do the same, but also dig up Earth, attacking her directly, poisoning everyone downstream.

I’ve learned my exits in protests, learned how to stay out of harm’s way, but then there was that one time they blocked a caravan of over 500 warriors from returning back to camp after an action where we arrived and left peacefully and in prayer, to check each car for specific people they designated as leaders and wanted to imprison. I thought they were going to arrest all 500 of us that day. Leave our cars stranded and impound what they could. The walked amongst the cars with rifles drawn, face masks on. For them this was some kind of war game to put on.

Before leaving that action, I retraced my steps to make sure my sister that I traveled with made it out okay. The highway was clouds of mace and the approaching army of hundreds of heavily armed police in military fatigues. My phone was blaring the alarm that the highway was shut down due to protester activity and to seek other routes.

My brother who I met in Rosebud camp and was just beginning to develop a solar powered recording studio to record and train native youth in DIY recording when I met him is now stuck in a jail cell because a rogue judge wanted to prove a point and send fear into other protectors. He was on a prayer walk. That’s it. That’s why they put him away.

Red Fawn who was arrested over a year ago, is still sitting in a jail cell for things she didn’t commit. She has yet to even be sentenced and her lawyers and family have a hard time reaching her. We have living prisoners of war in our country. It’s not just Leonard Peltier who’s been stuck in a jail cell and survived several assassination attempts since the 70s for a crime he didn’t commit. This is a women, not much older than myself, who they’ve imprisoned because they recognized her strength.

I was there for election day, but all of this happened in Obama’s America. The acting president of the United States couldn’t even mention the war that was going on in our own country, until most of it had already happened. He was questioned by the UN, by international citizens, and he would dodge the questions. His faux call for a halt to destruction last December was to save face because they didn’t want the bad press of the thousands of veterans who arrived in support and to stand guard over the prayers sustaining the same wounds and trauma that our indigenous relatives had already been going through for months. The pipeline didn’t even stop building for a single day, even though his call for a halt made construction illegal. Even though it was illegal all along because of broken treaties and the lack of an environmental impact statement.

Don’t share this post. Look to our indigenous relatives who faced much worse. Have been fighting against genocide for over 500 years. I share my experience, because the trauma is not forgotten by those who were there. By those who were connected to the movement, even though they couldn’t be there in person. It is still faced by those who are fighting for their lives, for their culture in the dozen or so pipeline and other resource extraction projects currently being built across the continent on indigenous land, right now. Over burial mounds and other sacred sites. Through sacred waterways and traditional hunting grounds.

Today, is an anniversary for a lot of us. For me, it was the eviction of the Treaty Camp that finally pushed me to let go of everything else and get up there. I should’ve been there earlier. I could’ve been there earlier, but felt I needed a grounded group with a plan to arrive with.

I spent most of my time there chopping wood and delivering it to different folks in need. Spent time offering support to the IIYC. I lived the most relaxed life I could’ve dreamed. I actually, for the first time in my life, felt like a human being.

I’ve seen myself in those photos. I still can’t believe how utterly honest the Corporate States of America could be. Armored tanks and military fatigues. Sound cannons and humvees equipped with microwaves. Snipers on the hills and no sign of the police to lock up these hired goons. The fact that I was there and it was in my own country still baffles me.

At night I would sit by the sacred fire in Rosebud and listen to the elders. Mostly they would crack jokes back and forth or talk about where they were from. They seemed to never sleep because I always left them there still talking no matter how late it was.

I remember they talked about the youth a few times. The young warriors who had been maced, tear-gassed, shot with rubber bullets, and physically brutalized during the eviction of the treaty camp and the attempt to reclaim Turtle Island a few days later. The elders commented on how for some of the youth it was as if their spirit had sunk back in them. The light in their eyes was shrinking. They worried about their well-being.

The IIYC talked about it too at meetings. While I was there they organized a candlelit vigil to pray for those still experiencing trauma. To pray for those who attacked them. It seemed like a thousand of us walked with them with lit candles to the Cannonball River where only a week before, warriors had held a line singing prayers in the freezing river while the police tear-gassed and maced them.

During the candlelit vigil there was not a single word of condemnation for the other side. Even with all that trauma and suffering. The youth leaders only asked for the strength to keep going. For the ancestors to help them heal their spirits. I saw so much power glowing in them from that day forward. Their prayers were answered in so many forms.

We live in a capitalist, corporate-owned, police state. We have lived in one since the Constitution was written. Since the Declaration of Independence.

Who’s independence? Not mine. Not yours. Not the hundreds of tribes who have faced cultural genocide since Columbus first set foot in the outer reaches of this place. Not the millions of descendants of slaves who despite Amendment 13 haven’t received their freedom because of the color of their skin.

Folks want to say because of last year’s election, there is a renewed sense of urgency. No. There has always been an urgency. Now, we just get to see it more clearly. The whole damn thing is broken. It never worked in the first place.

We are overdue for something new, or a return to the values of this continent’s First Nations’ peoples.

John Trudell speaks wisdom when he says “We Are Power”. It’s not just power to the people, like what everyone was saying in the 60s.
We are energy.

The corporations and mercenaries in North Dakota understood that. The Corporate States of America understand that. That is why they attacked us with so much force. Their only understanding of power is brute force.

But
We are power
We are energy

Their fear of this power can and will not break our spirit. Their methods of oppression are weak and inferior. Their time of ruling over us is running out.
Together we have the power to overcome all of it and start something post-imperialist.
Post-war.
We have the power to free us all and together create a more peaceful world in tune with this planet we live on and all the nations of people who call it their home.

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A Word From Standing Rock

Dreams of Non-Violent Action

Had a dream last night. Traveled to a city like Boston or Atlanta. Attended a Neo-Nazi/White Supremacy rally. Somehow managed to slip through the police barricades and heavily armed militias with a fold-up desk, a chair, and a typewriter.

I set up my poetry station like I was supposed to be there and sat down. Took my hat off and stroked the feathers. Pheasant for abundance. Stellar Jay for creative spirit. Flicker for speed and agility.

At first no one noticed me.

Then the poem requests started rolling in. I looked into those pale devil faces and wrote poems for people’s mothers, about love and travel, about new beginnings, about politics. The most popular topic as usual was dog poems.

The typical dad joke came and went with frequency, “Haven’t seen one of those in a while”, noticing the typewriter.

I nodded my cap and typed on.

The entire time I was combatting my fears. Fears that at any moment someone was going to come over and attack me. Throw me out. Take my typewriter and smash out my teeth with it. On the surface, I maintained my composure. Focused on the poems.

The attack never happened. They didn’t see me that way. To them, I was one of them. A white man just there doing his thing.

Funny thing, I’ve found. Everyone likes a poet and his poetry. Even a fucking Nazi. Those that don’t, just don’t notice me. I’m invisible to their eyes as long as I keep typing. White privilege is a mask that means I can appear anywhere with usually not too much confrontation.
That is where my power lay.

Every single one of those Nazis was a bad tipper, but that’s not why I was there. In each poem, I wrote secret messages, there for their eyes to read. For the poems about mothers, I reminded them of Mother Earth pillaged by our fathers and fathers’ fathers waiting patiently for us to return to honoring her. For the poems about love, I talked about consent and how hearts connect across the universe conjuring magic that only two lovers know. About travel, I wrote about the main reason for travel is to broaden one’s views and learn about the diversity of the world taking in all this culture and finding ourselves. About politics, I wrote about our real enemies: the corporations that own our politicians and pit us against each other so that we fight one another while they rob us behind our backs. With dogs, I wrote about the wisdom of our animal relatives and how we’re all wild animals ourselves.

As my confidence gained, I started to write more radical things. To bridge the worlds and send light into the darkness. The words just kept flowing, transforming the requests into a seed for the heart.

To say this was a dream is short-sighted. It was an absolute nightmare. Surrounded by all of that heavily-armed hate, and all I could do was burn sage and light incense. All the while writing poems that I thought at the very least would garner some type of verbal barrage followed by physical assault. Just dealing with these alt-humans and their completely backwards viewpoints made my stomach sink. Had my heart giving me chest pains. Really increased my anxiety.

But each time, just like always…the response was gratitude and a smile or a “that’s awesome”.

The dream made no sense. Even in it I was confused.

I was almost driven to write a poetic response to the next Nazi who stepped up with any topic and have it speak to him more directly saying, “You’re a fucking Nazi. Go home. We’re tired”, to see if it would get the expected response. But in the dream, I lacked that kind of bravery. Lacked the same kind of bravery that it would take to punch each one of those Nazis. Wasn’t sure if being direct would have any effect anyway.

All I could hope was that those tiny pages of light, planted seeds that would eventually grow, crack right through the fascist concrete exterior and blossom renewed hope in these wayward children.

At the end of the dream I burned all of the money. Some watched me with open stares but most went on about their business. I packed up my poetry office and walked off back into the shadows. I awoke and realized I was never there to begin with.

In the dream, I think I must’ve been tired of marching. Awake, I wonder if doing this in real life would be good medicine.

Dreams of Non-Violent Action

Poets For Peace in Taos

POETS FOR PEACE
Tour no. 4
Day 4 – Taos: recap
on the road with Julia Daye and Anthony Carson

[Read the article in Taos News here.]

To return to the high desert. A community we’ve all grown in. Surrounded by our peers of peace. The night is full of ceremony.

Rose petals made love to are passed around and everyone is instructed to hold them throughout the night channeling peace into those red rosy petals to be buried in the earth later like a seed. Then Alexandra Grajeda shared the prayers of her ancestors to help us to be present for the exchange.

Her words come out slow and graceful. The audience relaxes brought into a space of community.

The Poets For Peace have already shared various emotions in their previous events. Punk rage. The inner clown. This night the tears begin to flow.

As I read essays on my experiences at Standing Rock, I can feel chills stir in the audience and those chills then run up my spine stirring me until I am uncontrollably weeping at each sentence, reliving the experiences as I read them.

Julia and Anthony feel this too. We are all on extra edge. The power of the night causing us to pay special attention to the spells we cast.

At the end of the evening we sit in a circle and everyone exchanges their thoughts and prayers. Hearing the diversity of voices, seeing the diversity of faces, I can’t help but think of an image of Peace that was common when I was a kid. All the people of the world holding hands while dancing around the circumference of the planet.

We sit and exchange.
Everyone listens.
Again I am weeping.
Hearing so much purity of heart.
Hearing the talents of this wild place.
The room feels cathartic.
We are all in this together.
Finding our way.

Poets For Peace in Taos

Poets For Peace in Boulder

POETS FOR PEACE
Tour no. 4
Day 3 – Boulder: recap
on the road with Julia Daye and Anthony Carson

The night in Boulder ends at a pizza place. The table filled with poets old and new. Poets For Pizza. It’s the history of the town that puts this in context. Here we are, the Allen Ginsberg’s, Jack Kerouac’s, Neal Cassidy’s of our generation hovering around our slices of pizza like coffee mugs, discussing the politics of the day.

I look around at my peers and am in awe of the power of these individuals around me. Journeyers and dreamers. Wordsmiths and musicians. Voicing the concerns of the oppressed. Creating a more intersectional reality. Serving their community inwards and outwards.

Earlier there was a poetry reading at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe, one of the only poetry-specific bookstores in the country. Full of beatnik and meta-beatnik flare, as well as so many other incredibly powerful voices.

The reading begins with the words of Jona Fine. Taking us back to the shooting at a night club in Orlando last year. The outcry of the LGBTQ+ community. The fear that beckons at our door again. The strength of those who have been through it before, coming together and raising each other up to face another day.

Matt Clifford follows. Honoring the inner clown. Espousing through satire, 2nd amendment laws and the way government polices us all. His truths that we all die, most of us relatively soon, are met with bursts of laughter. Jaws dropping. Turning over this bleak reality. And yet the joy inside a moment so fleeting.

More and more students and vagabonds begin marching in. Fellow peaceniks and curious townsfolk. Carrying signs and songs of the rêvelution. The room swells for the Poets For Peace.

It creates the space for two clowns and the voice of the mother earth to take to the microphone and shed applause and laughter on the atmosphere. The room evolving from poetry to vaudeville. The clowns laughing so hard, they’re not sure if others laugh with them, at them, or maybe are all silent, their own laughter being so loud it serves to seem like it’s everyone’s. The voice of the mother earth giving soothing, healing vibes with her groundedness.

A round robin of poetry from each one of them. Haikus that sing. Prayers to Mother Earth. Songs of enlightenment.

The one clown with a guitar makes faces that cause some clowns in the audience to burst out laughing. He says, “Oh, you like that? You like my face?” and continues with more eccentricity in his expressions and voice acting.

The voice of the mother earth blows wind into the two clowns’ fires. She speaks eloquently and passionately about the plague of toxic masculinity on her surface. On her terrestial body. It causes the clowns to settle down with their horseplay and focus on how they too are a part of the problem, but can also be part of the solution.

The other clown reads of the Hayukka. The Sacred Clowns of Lakota legend. He talks of direct action and nonviolent protest. Something of a skit like The Three Stooges that took place at Standing Rock, involving clowns in a canoe and police following along the shore in a professional golf cart.

The night almost lasts too long. But it’s just perfect. Short enough to be a dream. Long enough to leave everyone feeling complete.

To finish it off, one of the clowns pulls out a kaleidoscope and shares his psychedelic visions with the peaceniks who have amassed around him. One of them drops it and it shatters into a million pieces. Confetti for the breeze to take away into the infinite star dust above. When the clown picks it up and looks back through this kaleidoscope monacle, the vision is even more twisted and satisfying.

Everything in rainbows and ecstatic multi-colored light.

Poets For Peace in Boulder

March Forth, My Friends

​MARCH FORTH, MY FRIENDS
We assemble for a friend’s birthday party and it doesn’t take me long to realize all of these friends I’ve made over the years come from completely different backgrounds and schoolings with one main defining similarity. 

They are all farmers.

These friends I’ve connected with for all sorts of reasons, when it comes right down to it, enjoy nothing more than putting their hands in the dirt and making seeds come to life.

So here we are, sitting in a circle discussing a variety of tools from permaculture and the changing growing seasons, as well as what native seeds we got at the most recent seed trade and how owned land is hard to come by, so making due with squatting on abandoned land works just as well.
As the conversation moves into a reaction towards regressive politicians, the night begins to take on the look and feel of a general assembly. And as I look around me, I realize the free radicals around me are all regenerative agriculturalists. These guerilla warriors are planting corn where a rowhome burned down 20 years ago and garbage has been disposed of since.

They’re the people on the frontlines of every protest, dressed in all black, taking cracks from the policeman’s billy club. 

They’re the clowns in the background raising spirits.

In all of this, they’re the ones making moves when a lot of us feel frozen. Urban gardeners continuing to prepare for the apocalypse.
Their gardens are the next to be lost. In this city, like every city, that cares more about tax revenue than moderating development to make sure developers keep in tune with the identity of the neighborhood they rape and pillage, green space is running out.

These gardeners have already lawyered up, organized petitions, and cut locks to keep their gardens operating. Food For The People are words of revolution for them.

A day later, I’m in the streets of my old neighborhood. I’m playing trumpet in a New Orleans style death march for a cat that passed away only recently. We’re all dressed in shiny, psychedelic costumes from Mummers parades past. Some of us have drums, kazoos, fireworks and other noisemakers.

The march starts with somber notes. Slow and cold we fill the street, holding a walking vigil. I feel like I’m playing a melody that is for the death of my old home in East Kensington. We pass shoddily built condos. $450,000 4-story megahomes. They’re all ugly behemoths atop streets full of sinkholes and cracked concrete. I remember all the former lots, the former community gardens, the weird art sculptures, and the grounds we had pop up music shows in.

Some of us are weeping. A lot of us are feeling glad to feel this warmth of community. We bury the cat and our leader who is part Cherokee sings a song of returning the earth to its former glory. Encouraging the grass to grow where the burial mound now is.
A neighbor overhears one of us discussing how shitty her giant condo is. She yells, “Hey, I heard that. I heard you saying that about my house.” Drunk, the guy says he doesn’t care. He can’t wait till it falls down in three years.

There’s a lot of tension and I think to myself, “Welcome to Philly.”

Someone does eventually say, “Welcome to the neighborhood.”
At that we start marching again. This time the melodies are upbeat and raucous. “Oh when the saints…go marching in….oh when the saints go marching in.”
There are a lot of drum break downs and horn solos and the band starts singing as their followers join in dancing. 
Eventually we make it back to the house party for March Fourth.
“March Forth,” everyone yells.
A simple parade. Perhaps the beginning of new traditions.

March Forth, My Friends

The Pussy Grabs Back

THE PUSSY GRABS BACK

(photo from Earthcam on the National Mall in Washington DC)
A million women and their allies marched on Washington today. Millions more marched in cities around the world in solidarity. Even the organizers were surprised and maybe even a bit overwhelmed by the turn out. 

For those with any sort of connection to the feminine voice of our generation, we knew the numbers were going to be yuge. But being deep in it felt like finally this was the new world rising. 

A world in touch with its feminine side. A world with respect for its mothers, sisters, partners, and comrades. A world humbled by beauty, centered in love.

To be there one felt an end to the patriarchy. This system of self-destruction that has tied us all up in mountains of despair. In its stead the voices of matriarchs from far and wide came to magnify our joys, our communal struggles, and our ability to heal.

The movement on the National Mall was full of smiles between strangers, signs spouting slogans empowering pussies, and almost every issue one can think of that we face in this modern era from Climate Change to Anti-Pipelines to Black Lives Matter to Health Care As A Human Right being laid out categorically as a part of the fight.

There was a crude alchemy in the way this next wave feminism gathered its voice. Always simple and to the point with hashtag lines and meme-based illustrations. Sometimes tripping up the older generation who joined our ranks and asked questions like “What’s a Queef?” or “What is that green drawing that they’re calling Dope Kush?”

It went deeper too though. This surface jest gave way to the greatest demonstration of sisterhood that I think any of us have ever experienced. Even with a sister, as a cis male, my own personal experience of this type of sisterhood has only ever been looking in from the outside.

To be in the middle of it all, though, was absolutely humbling.

I saw women complimenting each other on their beauty. I watched as they assisted each other to have a better view or to get where they were going. The crowd made way for disabled marchers in wheelchairs and with walkers. Even with a million people amassed together in a small space, there was hardly anyone pushing up on anyone else. The few times I was bumped into, I was surprised to hear an apology.

These are still surface details.

What I’m talking about is a million non-male identified people and their allies stood on the street together and created a space that felt so safe, even the voices that might typically keep to themselves were made loud and clear. 

These are the mothers who have let the world of men throw their temper tantrums and still at the end of the day they offer warmth. The partners who have suffered abuse and emotional vampirism, and yet still find a way to forgive. Those that identify as queer or identify as trans or identify as uniquely themselves and are patient as the rest of us stumble over the simple request of stepping outside of the binary in our pronoun usage. Friends disenfranchised and attacked because of the color of their skin, being vocal on how we can stand beside them in their fight for their lives.

Sisters who give way too many hints that they’re not interested in the dudes hitting on them at bars, or catcalling them in the street, or in their homes, or work space, or wherever men are around, and yet still include men as victims of the patriarchy. Survivors of rape and sexual assault who rediscover their power and share it with the world. Drag queens and earthen goddesses. Nasty women and Black Bloc anarchists.

This safe space was their vehicle.

And as a fellow activist, it was exhilarating to see so many of these warriors standing up, some for the first time in a public forum. But we all know, they have been standing up for us for our entire lives. 

Since the moment we were born, our mothers have nurtured us. Doing this while secretly hoping the next generation would understand the love of its mother and not fall into the false egotism of its father. If for whatever reason not our biological mother, this mother planet which we stand on. To be more compassionate and caring. To take on the weight of the world and fight until it is brighter.

This is why I march. My mother. My sister. My planet. My earthly sisters. We together will overthrow this toxic masculinity. We will rally together around justice and peace. It will be the end of the patriarchy. A better world lies in the female heart of tomorrow. I see it on the horizon. It wears pink lipstick and shouts “The Pussy Grabs Back!”

The Pussy Grabs Back

2017: The Year of The Clown

I’m calling it now. 2017 is set to be the Year of The Clown. 

Day 1 and you already have some junior tricksters turning the whole state of California and part of the internet upside down with a simple prank of turning “Hollywood” into “Hollyweed”.

More importantly you have two brave Water Protectors climbing into the rafters of the US Bank Stadium in Minnesota, a thousand feet above the audience, in order to drop a huge banner saying “DIVEST / #NoDAPL” calling on the city and state to pull their money out of US Bank who is invested hugely in the DAPL pipeline. My favorite part is these brave warriors don’t pull out after the banner drop. They begin twirling around upside down and smiling for pictures like a bunch of circus clown acrobats. Adding extra drama to entertain the audience with something more empowering than the game of football happening on the field below.

Then there’s this class clown bully who a bunch of people elected to be king, and who has got together a whole insane clown posse to fill his cabinet with chaos and destruction. These clowns remind us not all clowning is fun and games. Sometimes The Clown can be the court’s worst enemy. Sometimes he can throw the whole world into a state of anarchy. But only if we give power to his antics and let him get away with his insanity. 

Clown tyrants are easily tamed and put back in their place. It requires the people sticking together and healing his tirades with hearts full of love. It requires unity.

In all of these cases, it’s important to see The Clown as merely a reflection to our own state of being. Their comedy often reveals the underlayers of our own humanity and brings light to all those traumas that may not otherwise be brought to attention. They do this through tactics that often go outside the box or approach an idea completely backwards. 

Their arguments are poignant and yet sometimes so simple. The Clown gives us a good laugh where maybe we really need to cry. Both emotions tug at our hearts and both can be incredibly healing, but only one is still full of light as the spirit goes through a cathartic shift, leaving the mind even more ready for action. 

This is the gift of The Clown.

Everyone needs a little motivation in their life. The Clown is the first step towards taking that Fool’s leap into a higher realm of consciousness. 

No looking back now. It’s 2017. The Year of The Clown. The only place to go is forward. 

Take that leap and learn to fly like a Golden Eagle.

2017: The Year of The Clown