Water Is The New Precedent

a dream dialectic from Standing Rock

[PURCHASE A COPY NOW]

Next Friday, January 20th, I will be performing at A Benefit For Standing Rock! in Philadelphia. 

I’ll be reading essays from my experiences in North Dakota alongside local indigenous leaders as well as other musicians and artists from the Philadelphia area. It will be Inauguration Day and we will be holding a positive space for our community instead of buying into this new dictator being crowned king.

As part of this benefit, I have released this collection of essays as a book titled, WATER IS THE NEW PRECEDENT.

Copies will be available at the event. You can also grab a copy from my online store. All proceeds from the book will be donated to various councils at Standing Rock and other indigenous led movements towards sovereignty around the American continent. 

Thank you to everyone who gave me feedback and supported my readings of these essays throughout December on my way back up the east coast. I really appreciate all of the positive boosts and blessings. Hope to see some of you on the 20th! For everyone else who was asking, now you can get a copy of these essays all for yourself.

Water Is The New Precedent

Where The Wild People Live

The full moon rises. Another night of song and prayer. Howls echo into the night as mother moon reaches her maxim. Drums are the driving force. Fireworks burst in the night time sky.

All day there are chainsaws resounding across the camps. Groups of people chopping large woodpiles for their neighbors in preparation for the coming snows. Yurts and teepees going up filling every open space. 

Daily actions drive out in caravans to disrupt DAPL’s construction. Those that return tell stories of great strength and peaceful resolve through extreme conflict. Armed DAPL workers that pull out their guns and threaten the Water Protectors. National guard lined up in riot gear. Water Protectors being jailed in dog kennels. Twenty hours spent imprisoned by a police force that is utterly disorganized in their attempt to control the will of the people.

At sunset, my uncles strip down and dive into the freezing waters of Cannonball River. They shout, “In the spirit of Crazy Horse! In the spirit of Sitting Bull!” as they resurface. The river reflects the purple-orange of northern heavens.

A somber note is in the Hayukka Camp. Clowns feel as much sadness as everyone else, if not more. They feel it all, whatever it is. 

News that the pipeline is almost 100% complete in North Dakota has reached the front page of the Bismark Times. Everyone holds their breath that there will be a continued halt to construction as the Army Corps continues to not approve a permit for construction underneath the Missouri River.

The Bismark Times says the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners is going to go ahead with construction anyway. They can afford to pay the fines. They even offer to pay the $10 million in expenses that Morton County has incurred arresting everyone.

This is where this country is these days. The only penalties banks and corporations face are monetary, and they have so much amassed wealth no fine is too much to stop them.

Where are the People to hold these tyrants accountable? You think politicians have any control of these bullies? When are the People going to rise up and demand change?

Iceland is a small island. And yet after the financial collapse they had millions in the streets. Within weeks the bankers that caused the collapse were in jail. A new government was in place. Now they are one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, with the Pirate Party making gains each election in Parliament.

It doesn’t take much for social change. It takes the people trusting their own power. It takes getting rid of cynicism and despair. It takes warriors investing in their hearts.

Standing Rock is where these warriors are born. It is where the wild people live. The last people willing to take risks to save the water where all life comes from. It is a native movement that has encouraged others wanting to find their roots to dig in deep.

Communication is key here. The white way of talking has ruled this country for far too long. Man comes up and tells Other Man what to do. Other Man responds by arguing a better way of action. Both Men spend more time arguing than doing anything.

Here that doesn’t happen. Nightly, the conversation over the fire is about letting go of this old way of talking. Letting go of this toxic masculinity. Listening and showing respect.

Grandfather walks up to the Sacred Fire. The fire goes quiet to listen. Grandfather taps the fire with his staff and says, “This fire. These rocks. This river. These have been here. A long time. These people. We come here to learn the old ways. The ways of our relatives. The ways of this earth. This ground. These stars. The people come to the earth. They ask for her lessons. This is the way it was told. This is what we find here.”

The youth lead the charge. The elders are there with them. The clowns provide distractions to disrupt the Black Snake, so that the rest can continue to take action. The rest learn how to live without the Black Snake’s influence.

Two nights ago, I dreamt of the Black Snake. He had all my relatives entangled in his long winding scales. But he was not invincible. He was not indestructible. In the dream, I was close to defeating him. Another swipe of my sword and he would have fallen.

Life, unfortunately, is destructible. And we must protect it or fail ourselves.

Where The Wild People Live

Gratitude Is The Highest Order Of Thought

Honestly, I find it hard being back in this plane of existence after experiencing the pure way of life that I found up at Standing Rock. I expected culture shock, but seeing as Taos is one of the wokest places I have ever lived, a community made up of all kinds of healers and mystics, I didn’t expect my heart to be all that divided. I mean, what other small mountain town would fill a huge renovated aircraft hangar in the middle of the desert last night to watch Seun Kuti perform his politically-active afrobeat with his father’s arkestra, Egypt 80? I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else for such a rêvelution of sound.

But it feels as if I have left a piece of myself on that southern shore next to the Cannonball River. This piece of self is burning eternally in Rosebud Camp’s Sacred Fire along with the spirits of my ancestors, my native relatives, and the spirits of the Dakota lands. It burns in prayer. A prayer that vibrated throughout me for the eight days that I stood there, chopping wood, sharing tobacco, building winter structures, going out on actions, talking and learning from my relatives, listening to stories told by my elders, feeling hope.

For a lot of you, the actions are the only thing you see of Standing Rock. The arrests. The mace and tear gas. The violent police brutality towards Water Protectors. If I thought it culturally sensitive, I would’ve shared more photos of the sense of peace and love present in all of the camps. But even then it’s really something that is better experienced first hand.

This sense of peace and love vibrates throughout all exchanges. Not a single word of hate against the police, the pipeline workers, or any other oppressor, but instead prayer for them and their children because this is all of our water for which we defend. The oppression of indigenous cultures is relieved as these people open up to the vulnerability of sharing their spirits completely, trusting that those they share with will be moved deeply towards greater respect and active solidarity. Allowing the descendants of white invaders into ancestral ceremony in order to change all of our futures. The coming together of so many colors in order to fulfill prophecy and overcome the industrial upheaval of our humanity. Forming a medicine wheel, symbol of the Rainbow People, tool of healing, holding hands to strengthen our sense of what it means to be human and what it means to be an organism of this Earth.

The Water Protectors are not merely building winter structures for the coming snow. They are building a sustainable eco-village where Protectors will not only survive, but they will thrive. The daily hope I felt around camp, was largely a reflection of the nonstop prayer being sung and drummed at all hours of the day. In addition, every action I took there was given this extra context of walking the walk that I’ve often talked.

Every camper soon found a purpose. This whole society functioned fully on the hard work of thousands of individuals. For me it was gathering and chopping wood to distribute throughout the camp to different groups like the International Indigenous Youth Council who were too busy leading actions and ceremonies and attending meetings to have time for this on their own. For others, it was providing three meals a day with increasing spirit to a whole camp of hungry hearts. There were folks who organized the donation tent daily. Teams that organized and built structures like a meal hall, an outdoor shower, multiple teepees and yurts and tarpees. 

I met a group of sustainable contractors from the Appalachia of South Carolina who drove up to offer their services and were tasked with building a winter tool shed for camp. I saw two busloads of separatists from the Cascadian Movement delivering supplies and putting together workshops about how to live with the land cut off from the outside. I heard Food Not Bombs talking about farming in the spring and eco-conscious everything. 

Even on prayer walks, we all were found picking up garbage in the streets of Bismarck or around camp, so that the land felt renewed beneath our footfall. Health care may not have been provided through private insurers, but the wellness tent, the sweat lodge, the fire worked to heal anyone under the weather.

To be in a society where currency is removed and shelter/food/clothing/community are provided allows the individual to grow. The heart no longer feels a repressed sickness from outside forces. It opens wide to its environment. Love comes easy. Gratitude is the highest order of thought. Dreams are manifested in a time of magic.

I saw a Bald Eagle fly over our action on DAPL Headquarters. Two Bald Eagles flew overhead during our Veteran’s Day March. Another Bald Eagle followed the car I rode home in as we exited North Dakota. These spirits of the land constantly came forward as if in a waking dream. These shared visions encouraged our ways. The Earth actively voicing its support. Its guidance. Its resilience against extreme adversity.

I saw police officers moved to tears. I saw DAPL workers silent in reverence. I saw dialogues that spread across cultural hurdles and expanded already progressive thought patterns.

When I say, I was living in the future, I’m not exaggerating. 

There is just no other way to describe the scenes that I witnessed.

In my mind, I constantly revisit my memory of the elder who came to the Sacred Fire in the middle of the night, while I was sitting there in prayer. He said the people who have come to Standing Rock, have come there to learn the ways of their relatives. To learn the ways of the land. To protect their ability to be human beings born of the Earth on which they live.

While the majority of the country is stuck in an endless sado-masochistic news cycle of “What Trump said”, the people up at Standing Rock are actively pursuing the future. Not only that, they are creating the future through which we will all continue to not only survive, but soon be able to thrive. 

As these people, return to their homes, expect this future to spread. Expect that it won’t matter who is president, or Attorney General, or White Supremacist head of cabinet. There is enough movement forward to wrangle in the Black Snake and set us free from its corporate stranglehold of our lives. There is enough movement forward for us all to find a way out. 

It starts today. Grab your readymade sign or banner. Defend the Sacred Waters. Defend your Community. Hear your voice heard in the streets. Begin with Love and feel the rest of it come forward easily. This new day is rising. We can no longer sit back and watch the present unfold. 

We must come together and fight for our future.

Gratitude Is The Highest Order Of Thought

Don’t Go With The Flow, Flow With The Go!

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(written while staying in Taos, NM)

Met a poet the other day named John Mason. A real hip cat of a fella. As a poet, still living life as much a student as a teacher. Too young to be a proper beatnik, but spent enough time with that generation. Reciting rhymes. Stories of the road. Lost sweet hearts in New Orleans. Run ins with Nixon. A real mind blower if I ever met one.

He told me this vision of a Beat convention at Naropa in Boulder, Colorado. Circa 1980? Ginsberg, Snyder, Burroughs. All present. Maybe even Jan Kerouac. I swear she wrote about it in her second novel.

John Mason bet his buddy with a bus ticket he could beat him there by hitch hiking. Both traveling from Detroit, Michigan. A real rambler in a time before cell phones. He lost the bet, but only by 4 hours.
First thing he does after arriving in town is ask an organizer about the open mics. Organizer says, “Sorry John. We ain’t thought about that.”

So John goes to city hall, rounds up a bunch of open air venues and bookstores. Comes back and hands a list to the organizer and says, “You got 500 or more poets coming in from all across the world. That’s a whole bunch of folks who should be reading. Here’s a complete list of your open readings and shared microphones for the next three days.”

A real wrangler. Ended up sharing the stage with Bill Burroughs before the convention was over. Got drunk at a party with Harold Norse. Really became a part of the scene.

Then he tells me this other story in lyric form. Recites it from the top of his head as if it were sitting on the page in front of him. A real epic if I ever heard one. Stole the cadence from Rudyard Kipling. Story starts with a taste of a 4 way window pane before setting out on the road. Thumbs a ride somewhere near Chicago and gets picked up by a normal looking guy and his wife. Before him, the road animated like a crystalized quartz jewel opening wide.

The driver seems wise to his plight. Strikes up a conversation about civil disobedience, riots, and the holy NOW. John Mason didn’t hesitate a moment, jumping right into this philosophical diatribe. The holy NOW is what really caught him most and my retelling won’t do it justice. You’ll have to talk to John Mason yourself for any sort of clarity, because see, it ends up this driver and his wife are somewhat scholars of sufi-mystics. They’d practiced the Tao and read up on Zen. So with all John Mason’s spirit leaning towards hippy activism, they had a response for him that seemed to intuit doing nothing.

But here’s where the argument changes. There is a moment of clairvoyance. Before you know it the driver’s tossing out a new mantra that a whole generation could get behind.
And this is the real mindblower. Both for John and for me in his retelling.

The driver, he says, “John, don’t go with the flow, man. The only thing I ever saw go with the flow was a dead fish floating down the river.” He says. “See, John. You gotta learn to flow with the go, man. There ain’t no other way about it.”

And right there, John Mason’s mind on acid tips right into a new direction. And here I am in the 21st century, having the same reaction.

Don’t go with the flow, man.
The only thing that ever did that was a dead fish.
Instead you gotta flow with the go.
That’s the real way to find enlightenment.

Don’t Go With The Flow, Flow With The Go!

The Lessons of the Crow

For the last year, The Crow has been telling me our planet is into its last stage of suffering. It’s only a moment before we pass the point of no return and the whole thing tosses us off of it. In many ways we’re already there.

I’ve seen it across the country in the form of waste. From landfill along the highways to deforestation and strip mining in our national parks. In East Texas, they hand you an over-cooked hamburger in a styrofoam container 5 times a normal size, with a plastic bag and a handful of bleached white napkins. On the Oregon and Californian coastlines there are the dead bodies of seals and sea birds decaying slowly, their guts full of plastics and no one notices. Back home in Philly, I’ve watched folks unload an entire car trunk’s worth of garbage bags in the abandoned lots of East Kensington only to have them open up days later scattering tons of plastic and paper product into the wind and across the sidewalks into the local ecosystem.

I’ve seen it everywhere and I’m no saint. I propel my poetry tours upon the ignited fumes of a fossil record that reaches back eons. And I, a storyteller, know nothing of its history. I, like everyone, have been taught to fill the tank without asking questions about where the fuel comes from. Right now each gallon comes cheap and I know it’s at the expense of some sacred waterway in North Dakota or a child’s life in the Middle East.

Yet, I keep going. We all keep contributing. This endless cycle has no end in sight.

That’s the reality.

The Fool in me sees the other side to this blunt truth. He sees that dreams can be manifested. He believes in The Artist and The Poet, and their abilities to create new realities. He sees The Crow, and says, “Well, there must be some reason The Crow is talking to me specifically, and not only that…He’s talking to other folks in my tribe as well. There must be some reason all of us in particular are even noticing.”

And then it clicks, and it’s pretty simple. It’s that we are the solutions that we seek, and all of this can be remedied if people like us continue to wake up to it.

I’m all about social activism. But the Earth is my number one bae. She doesn’t get enough attention in this current hierarchy of things that need to be fixed. I wish that were differrent. The warning signs are all there and it’s up to us whether or not to use them to empower ourselves and our home planet into a brighter future.

The industrial revolution is over, it’s time for a rêvolution of heart.

Anyway, Happy Earth Day, friends!

The Lessons of the Crow

Excerpt from Travel By Haiku

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“Height awakens peace of
mind, of spirit. Look up! See? An
ancient remedy“

_____
Daily Haiku by Marshall Deerfield

Buy the new book, Travel By Haiku available from Amazon. Travel By Haiku is a collection of haiku poetry written while traveling across the United States in 2014-2015. Each haiku is a meditation on the divine beauty found in the natural world and a boost to get the reader there.

(source: marshalldeerfield.tumblr.com)

Excerpt from Travel By Haiku

Excerpt from Travel By Haiku

image

“A desert road sign
reads like a poet’s mantra:
‘Slow down and enjoy the view’.“

_____
Daily Haiku by Marshall Deerfield

Buy the new book, Travel By Haiku available from Amazon. Travel By Haiku is a collection of haiku poetry written while traveling across the United States in 2014-2015. Each haiku is a meditation on the divine beauty found in the natural world and a boost to get the reader there.

(source: marshalldeerfield.tumblr.com)

Excerpt from Travel By Haiku