Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Who We Know Ourselves to Be"

This poem is spillover from the February 4, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] ng_moonmoth and [personal profile] technoshaman. It also fills the "Candlelight" square in my 2-1-20 card for the Valentines Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the Iron Horses thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Who We Know Ourselves to Be"

[Monday, October 6, 2014]

"What is this shit?" Blair squawked,
making Kenzie look up from breakfast
to see what was going on there.

"Yeah, so Rabid City had
a shitty summer and now they're
taking it out on everyone else,"
said Bobtail. "They lobbied
the state legislature to pass
a law attacking superpowers, and
they threw the whole QUILTBAG
under the bus to cover it up."

"This is unconstitutional," Blair said.
"Same-sex marriage is already legal,
they can't ban what Washington allows.
Even plural marriage is legal in some places."

"So when did that ever stop the bigots?"
Bobtail grumbled. "They do it anyway."

"The real question is, what are we
going to do about it?" Kenzie said.

"We don't even live in South Dakota,"
Blair pointed out. "They won't care."

"So what?" Kenzie said. "The Iron Horses
are a motorcycle gang. We can go
anywhere and, I don't know, stage
a protest or something like that."

"Now there's an idea," Bobtail said.
"I'll start making some calls and
pass the word. We should be able
to get people together before they
can actually vote on this shit."

"Right," said Blair. "Kenzie,
go pack. I can take you
on the back of my bike."

"Okay," he said, and went
to make a weekend pack.
Blair had shown him how.

It was a ten-hour ride from
Rocky Boy's Reservation
to Pierre, South Dakota.

They already had boots on
the ground, though, because
Lakota folks had come in from
Rosebud and Pine Ridge to
start the protest earlier.

For the Iron Horses, it
would be a candlelight vigil.

They were joined by others who
had come in from various places.

"There's Nick Benally," Blair said,
pointing out a young man with
two broad scars on his chest
along with several tattoos.
"His mother is Navajo but he
got taken up by white folks, so
he doesn't really fit in anywhere."

"He's making some connections
with the Cheyenne now," Bobtail said.

"Oh, that's good," said Blair. "He
deserves a better family than he got."

Nick was painting over his scars
with a paste made of red ochre.

"Should I, um ...?" Kenzie said,
waving at his chest. "Or would
that be too presumptuous?"

"Do whatever Spirit moves you
to do," Blair said. "It will be right."

So Kenzie took off his black T-shirt
and painted over his scars too.

He left his black jeans on, and
the weather was chilly enough that
he put his leather jacket back on too,
but left his chest bare to show the scars.

Another stranger wore a man's ribbon shirt
of midnight-blue cloth with white ribbons and
pictures of the moon over a woman's skirt.

"Who's that?" Kenzie wondered.

"That's Lou Moonriver," said Bobtail.
"He has both a man's parts and
a woman's parts, and they all work.
He even bleeds with the moon when
he's not pregnant, so he has a lot
of status among the two-spirits."

Nobody seemed to have written out
a list of demands, which Kenzie knew
was important for protests, so he
found a signboard and did that.

"Is this good?" he asked, turning
it to show Blair and Bobtail.

We are two-spirits and
people with medicine powers.

We have the right to marry,
have and raise our children,
be who we are meant to be,
seek help when we need it,
get privacy from caregivers,
and not be hurt by others

"Well done," Blair said,
patting him on the shoulder.

Then people were passing around
candles and holders and lighters.

Kenzie lit his and watched the rest
flicker to life all around him.
It was already beautiful.

A green van pulled up
and several reporters
climbed out. Some began
setting up cameras while
another one came to ask for
permission to film the protest.

"We have nothing to hide,"
Nick said as he stepped forward
with his scars proudly on display.
"Show the world that we will not
be rubbed out, whatever they do."

The news crew got everyone
to sign the release forms so they
could film closeups of each statement
instead of just wide angles of the crowd.

Lou stepped forward. "You came here
and took our land and tried to kill us all,
but we are still here. I have birthed
two children by my husband and
fathered one on my wife. You may
hate us but you can't stop us."

"You took me from my family and
lied about who I was, but I was still
two-spirit, and now I wear my truth
for all the world to see," said Nick.
"I will make my own family now."

"Define yourself in your own terms --
in terms of gender, race, anything,"
Bobtail said. "We are not what
other people say we are. We are
who we know ourselves to be, and
we are what we love. That’s OK.
You’re not alone in who you are."

Blair looped an arm around Bobtail.
"Neither of us fit our bodies the way
you think we should, but that doesn't
stop us from loving each other," she said.
"We have our own ways and they are holy.
Your darkness cannot hide our light."

The candles gleamed in the night,
their flames dancing as people
swayed back and forth.

As the cameras turned
toward him, Kenzie shivered,
but he still stepped forward.

"You didn't even tell me what I
could be," Kenzie said. "You never
wanted me or took proper care of me.
Now I've found other people who teach me
about myself and value me for being
a two-spirit and a shapeshifter."

Nick reached out to clap him
on the back. "Well said, cousin."

The cameras moved on then,
capturing other statements as
more people spoke truth to power.

"Do you think it will work?" Kenzie said.

"They're watching," Blair said, nodding
toward lit windows in the building above,
some of them with shadowy shapes.

"That film will be really embarrassing,"
Bobtail said. "It makes the politicians
sound like a bunch of bigoted hicks."

"Which they are," Blair muttered.

"Yeah, but they don't like people
to see them for what they really are,"
Bobtail said. "That will spook them."

"Maybe," Kenzie said, "it's why they hate us."

"Wise words," Lou said. "May Grandmother Moon
hear them and look on our work with favor."

"Well, give her a song then," said Blair.
"Nothing's so bad a song can't help."

So Lou raised his voice, achingly sweet,
and others soon joined in. Kenzie only
knew a few of the Ojibwa words, but
they repeated, so he followed along.

He didn't know what the vote would
bring, but in the end, it didn't matter.

Either way, they would still be here.

* * *


Nick Benally -- He has tinted skin, brown eyes, and short black hair with a scruffy mustache and beard. He is slender with powerful legs, a swift runner who enjoys wilderness racing. He has several tattoos, including a flock of seagulls on his left shoulder, and conspicuous scars from top surgery on his chest. He is 22 years old in 2014. His heritage is American, Cheyenne, Navajo, and Ute. Nick only speaks English. He was born to a Navajo mother in Navajo territory, but not enrolled because he is not 1/4 Navajo and she doesn't have a tribal card because she considers the blood quantum racist (which it is). His father's heritage is unknown because Nick was conceived in a one-night-stand at a powwow. He was adopted out to a white family when he was four, but never really got along with them, even before coming out as transgender in grade school.
As a result, Nick doesn't fit in with either Navajo or white culture, and hasn't even tried Ute. He is trying to explore Cheyenne culture, with a little more luck. Sometimes he hangs out with the Iron Horses, who are intertribal enough that they don't care about his mishmash heritage. He has several friends among the two-spirits, including Blair Her Road Goes Both Ways.
Currently Nick travels around the Southwest and Plains areas. Most of his belongings fit on his motorcycle, a 2003 Gilroy Indian Chief Roadmaster in silver cloud colors.
Qualities: Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Intrapersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Two-Spirit
Poor (-2) Split Feather Syndrome

Benally (Navajo)
From binálí (“his grandchild”), a commonly adopted surname when the BIA required Native Americans to take surnames for the purpose of official records.
Proper noun
1. A surname.

Membership criteria vary from tribe to tribe, and the Navajo Nation has made some changes supposedly to help disconnected tribe members, that sometimes just make it harder to reconnect. If you were torn away from your parents as a toddler, how are you supposed to figure out what their clan was -- or what a clan even is?

This map shows some of the major Native American cultural areas.

Lou Moonriver -- He has tinted skin, brown eyes, and dark straight hair usually worn in a long braid. He is slim and graceful. His heritage is American and Ojibwa; he speaks English and Ojibwa. He is married to a man and a woman, as local custom allows two-spirits to take a mate of each gender that they desire. So far they have four children. They live in the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota, where Lou works at the tribe's Language Nest. He also sings tribal songs at powwows and other events. This keeps him so busy that he struggles to find enough time to take good care of himself.
Origin: Lou was born a two-spirit with nascent parts for both male and female reproduction, which matured at puberty.
Uniform: He customarily wears a combination of masculine and feminine clothes, often a ribbon shirt and skirt.
Qualities: Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Language Nest Teacher, Good (+2) Parent, Good (+2) Singer, Good (+2) Two-Spirit
Poor (-2) Overworked and Underslept
Powers: Good (+2) Seahorse
He is a fully functional hermaphrodite, able to sire or bear children. Unlike some seahorses, he has a complete womb and menstruates monthly when not pregnant. This gives him a particularly high level of respect among two-spirits.
Motivation: To take care of his family.

See maps of Anashinaabe tribes and Minnesota reservations.

* * *

"Define yourself in your own terms. In terms of gender, race, anything. We are not what other people say we are. We are who we know ourselves to be, and we are what we love. That’s OK. You’re not alone in who you are. There are people out there who will love and support you. It’s about doing the work and believing and finding those people—if they’re not in your local community, there’s somebody online that you can talk to for support."
-- Laverne Cox

These poems detail some of Rabid City's miserable summer experiences:
"Surviving Difficult Times"
"Painting the Town Red" (Sunday, July 27, 2014)
"Rapid City Gets Cold Shoulder" (Sunday, August 24, 2014)
"Anti-Soup Agitators Open the Sealed Evil in a Can" (Sunday, September 28, 2014)

"The Pursuit of Happiness" details some marriage history of Terramagne-America.

"No Power Like the Power of Youth" explore activist customs in T-America.

Activism is the process of pressuring leaders to do better. Learn how to do it.

Motorcycle packing takes practice. A checklist of materials can help.

Distance between Rocky Boy's Agency, MT, USA and Pierre, SD, USA (US)
From Rocky Boy's Agency, MT, USA
To Pierre, SD, USA
Driving Distance: 714.52 mi , Duration: 10 hours 17 minutes, Route: US-2
Different Units: 1149.91 km, 714.52 mi, 620.9 nmi.
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, networking, poem, poetry, politics, reading, spirituality, writing
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