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Issue 41 • July 2021
Indigenous Futurisms
edited by Tiffany Morris

Table of Contents

Editor’s IntroductionTiffany Morris

Mexico City, 2101 AD • Juan Manuel Pérez
they came to new mexico • Arachelle
NDNs on Display • KL Lyons
Tooth Dance • Weyodi OldBear
Pidgin Robot • Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe
Tapestry • Ian Goh
Self Care • Jason S Matthews
Stonestars • Carter Meland
Pitao Cozobi: An Incantation to Our Lady of the Maize • Andreas Méndez, translated from the Spanish by Morgan L. Ventura
Rite • Claudia Vaca, translated from the Spanish by Brittany Hause
The First Overture of Sapient Chronological Chromatic Spacetime Warp Experiments • Mari Kurisato


Mexico City, 2101 AD


priests of the night sky
awaiting for the return
upon pyramids

●●
children of Cortez
massacred meal for mutants
fulfilling promise

●●●
spotted near Saturn
the feathered-serpent starship
Aztec god of old

—Juan Manuel Pérez


they came to new mexico

they came to new mexico
as you might expect
they said that they wanted to meet with
the diné leaders
and that the tsalagi leaders should come by plane
within the day 
(along with any other leaders that could make it)

it wasn’t surprising 
to most of us 
that the two largest tribes 
were going to be responsible 
for deciding 
all of our fates

it was surprising 
that they knew our real names
and our languages

(at least 
it was to me
i can barely speak 
two paragraphs
of my own language
but they were 
fluent)

they said that they found out about what happened
(space travel takes a long time)
and that they wanted to make it better
(old western films have a cult-like popularity on their planet)

they said that they found us a planet
and they would take us there

they had already divided up the land 
based on our relative populations
(they didn’t understand that their plan
was reminiscent of the allotment period
in our history
i guess 
the old western films didn’t cover that)

we said we wouldn’t go
(well 
most of us said that
but ndns romanticize space too)

they said it wasn’t up to a vote
that the diné should decide for all of us

but the diné didn’t want to go 
(they didn’t understand why
the diné were supposed to stay within
their four sacred mountains)

i guess 
you could say
that they didn’t understand a lot
it was clear 
that they were angry
that we didn’t live up to 
their pan-indian fantasy

they started listing off reasons
climate change
capitalism
ongoing genocide
thinking that 
they could convince us

the diné spokesperson just said
“we aren’t going to leave
where we are supposed to be
just because it’s hard”

they looked shocked 
at first
but then 
a strange look came across their leader’s face

their leader 
finally 
said that 
there was an obvious solution 

before i knew what was happening
they were rounding up 
every non-indigenous person
in the area known as north america

some people were excited
they didn’t care about the earth
or our land
anyway

i didn’t know how to feel
when i said 
my final goodbye
to my father
(he always loved sci-fi
and this would probably be
 the greatest adventure of his life)

(he wasn’t a great father
but my nʉmʉnʉʉ mother was a lot worse
and now 
is my only parent 
on earth)

the last few days 
have been full
of arguments
and debating ancestral land boundaries 

even half of nʉmʉnʉʉ people don’t agree
with my definition 
of where comancheria lies
and i couldn’t find
a single cáuigù person 
who would agree with me either
(i think
all of them
are kind of biased though)

to make matters more complicated
some of the tribes that were removed
to oklahoma
want to stay 
in oklahoma
(which 
i guess 
is okay)

we’re still figuring it all out
making a national government
maybe 
a continental government
and refugees are already here
seeking asylum here

(we have the space
and the empty homes)

i think it’s going to be hard
but better
soon 

—Arachelle


NDNs on Display

You know how, sometimes, scientists find a skull
and reconstruct what the person must have looked like?

Well, it’s kind of like that.
Touch DNA found on artifacts, 
and voila! Museums full of NDNs.

Since they said my jean jacket didn’t scream “authenticity,”
they dressed me up in some costume someone bought at Party City.
They put me in a display case and made me part of the tour.

At first, they let me tell stories
(I promised them real, Indian stories)
but they never liked the endings so they took my mic away.

Sometimes guests stop and say, “It’s a shame all the Indians died.”
And I raise my middle finger, say, “I’m right here, you fucker,”
but they have moved on to the next display.

But at night, when I dream, there’s no museums, only NDNs.
NDNs talking and laughing all loud,
NDNs that look like my cousins playing ball, 
NDNs that look like my grandparents praying,
NDNs that look like you.

—KL Lyons


Tooth Dance

In their weak all-skin-and-no-fur form
Their throats could not be counted on
Reliably
To shape the true name for what they were
And honestly they were bored of it
Bored of day jobs
Bored of pretending to be what they were not
Bored of underpants
Bored of their daytime selves
Bored of their own complaints
So they took their lives in their own teeth
Like every deposit of ore has enough trace elements to make an alloy
If you know what you’re looking for
They had enough animal intelligence 
To guide their blinkered human vision
And enough technology
To live simply if they decided to
And by the time thirteen turns had waxed and waned
They were gone
Their domes unfolding like impossible soap bubbles
On the surface of the shining and pock-marked surface of the pale sphere
In what would have been a single turn
In their old round-toothed world
Their domes were meadows full of flowers
Yellow, white, and amaranth
With pale green moths
And juicy rabbits as thick as fleas
They celebrated 
Pulling out their drums
Raising their songs to the sky
And digging the smooth black claws of their hind paws into the ground
As they danced

—Weyodi OldBear


Pidgin Robot

Papa says no talk again, them dey come & I am immediately drawn
into an oath of silence and inaction. Fear 
is dangerous to a boy like me; I am an eaglet
still learning the complexities of flight. My only companion

is Uzo, my pidgin robot. An outcast, like I am, discarded
by the robot factory because it cannot speak the white man's
language. Papa says language is the cord that binds us
to our roots. In the evenings, I converse with Uzo. I speak Igbo,

my father's language, while the robot speaks a language that rhymes
with anguish. I swear, the colonizers have taken much 
from us, from our hands. They are the reason why I call Mama's name
& silence answers. These days, we spot the hovering drones & duck

in fear. I do not want to be struck by a death ray like Mama,
do not want to be strangled by hands of chrome like my grandfather. 
Death nips at my heels like a hungry dog. Uzo beeps, clicks & says
in a white man's voice; I dey for you & my fear vanishes.

—Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe


Tapestry

Like spider silk weaved across twin 
blood moons, the first wisps of white
were woven into their butterscotched 
sky. Terraform needles broke virgin 
soil as the great sand diggers vaulted 
from dune to dune, a tapestry stitched
under the shimmer of Mylar mirrors 
in orbit, starlight sieved through the
eyes of those eager to shape clouds 
in their own image.

—Ian Goh


Self Care

I saw cordyceps powder at the supplement store
Which means people will pay to be carried, like rain,
Down through these leaves to the forest floor.
Their freedom is a real embarrassment 
Just inertia dragging the ever upward onward arc
Of optimization. Gooseflesh, recalcitrant, 
Revenging against the higher parasite
Their self will only ever be itself
Its pain and metabolism will not flower 
Will not feed, and fructify death’s fruit
Permanence husbandded up through an ending.

—Jason S Matthews


Stonestars

In Anishinaabe teachings, Bagwajinini (Bigfoot, in English) comes to good people when they’re lost in the woods and helps them get back on the path to home. In my Bagwajinini poems (there are others!), Bagwajinini sees all of humanity as lost, living the ways we do. They refer to settler heteropatriarchy as “men.” These poems, like this one, are in Bagwajinini’s voice. English is not their first language.

Feel stone underfoot, men, feel stone there. Stone accepts no footprint, men, but stone think of men and the passing impression of men.
 
Stone think long, men, stone think hard.
 
Yes, hard, men say. Stone is hard.
 
No, men, no. Listen! Stone think hard, but stone is not hard, men. Stone is tender. Tender in their care of men, men. Tender in their hard thoughts. Tender in their long ways.
 
Tender, stone seeks stories overhead, men, the stars there. Stone hears stars, men, swirling in the long dark. Stars burning through the hard cold distance, men, burning their own heat, their own light until the long dark swallows them and they turn to unlit distance.
 
Then stone speaks, men. To men, men. Listen! Stone speaks tenderly, slowly, longly. A word takes a week, a sentence a month. Patience, men. Listen! Men must stop to hear stone. Men must stop!
 
When speaking of stars, men, stone becomes star, and when men listen to stone, men, men become the passing impression of hard cold distance. Men, unlit stars in the long dark.
 
Stone’s slow words are starprints, men, long impressions left in the swirling path of stars, men, the hard distance of it unmeasured until stone speaks.
 
Tenderly, stone speaks of unseen stars, men, stars swirling darkly overhead. Stone speaks their burning thoughts of cold distance, their hard impressions of the long dark, and stone becomes star, men, stone becomes light, becomes heat. Feel stone there, men. Feel them. 

Listen! Stones are stars swirling underfoot.

—Carter Meland


Pitao Cozobi: Un Encantamiento por nuestra Señora del Maíz

He contemplado a lo lejos           la grandeza de Cozobi
¡el poderío que desprenden sus ojos!
Sé que con firmeza sostiene nuestro alimento

Hay belleza de cada mazorca cuándo queda al desnudo,
es una bella forma la que hay en cada grano de maíz.

Su pelaje, y la vestimenta verde que la hacen relucir,
en cada una de ellas es distinta,
y sé que con el pasar del tiempo cambia su color.

Señora Cozobi,
Señora grande,
Señora de renombre,
Señora madre,
Hija de dioses y no de hombre,
Tú – tu que eres un poema zapoteca!

Adornada estás con un tocado representada con poderío del jaguar,
con su fuerza y fortaleza           eres representada,
entre plumas y pelajes           eres adornada,
entre mazorcas de maíz siempre           eres representada.

Oooh gran Señora Cozobi,
Deidad de la abundancia!
Siempre estaría aquí.

—Andreas Méndez

* * *

Pitao Cozobi: An Incantation to Our Lady of the Maize

From afar I have contemplated             the splendor of Cozobi 
her eyes emit such power!
I know the strength by which she sustains our food.

There’s beauty in every ear when made bare,
a beautiful shape present in every grain of corn.

Her golden fur coat and green vestments make her glimmer,
each of her kernels is distinct,
and I know with the passage of time she changes color.

Madam Cozobi,
High Lady,
Renowned Lady,
Lady Mother,
Daughter of gods, not of men.
You—you are a Zapotec poem. 

Adorned with a headdress signifying the jaguar’s might,
with your strength and fortitude             you appear
among feathers and furs             you are adorned
between ears of corn             you are always present.

Oh, Great Lady,
Our Goddess of Abundance!
You will always be here.

—translated from the Spanish by Morgan L. Ventura


Rito

Los relatos que nos cuentan sobre la vida y las leyendas de los colores
han sido encontrados en las grutas de cada casa
             donde las tías hacen sus altares junto al jardín
             como queriendo representar el vientre del jaguar
             que protegerá en círculos cada voz y respiración de quienes habitan el hogar.
En los patios de las casonas mesoamericanas y amazónicas
los vientres de las palmeras son invisibles      brotan en primavera junto a sus frutos.
En el invierno, las grutas de los patios y los vientres de las palmeras
                                                                                 Cantan para los cuerpos
                                                                                 bailan en las manos del pintor
                                                                                 honrando la vida de cada color
                                        con los ojos cerrados
le caen lágrimas en su rostro
las lágrimas diluyen los colores sobre el lienzo
las lágrimas lavan los pinceles.

Para el pintor: el hondo pozo de sus heridas 
es lamido por la lengua de la tierra
el tiempo es una invención de la vieja noche
             decide bailar en un trance arcoirístico
abrazado por la conciencia de mariposa
duerme en la conciencia de curucusí
grita en la conciencia de puma
zapatea en la conciencia sedentaria de los recolectores de leyendas.

La conciencia nómada de los pintores
es una chispa de fósforo buscando las velas
la luz de las velas busca un lugar 
el lugar está en tu entrecejo, deja que hable tu tercer ojo
para trascenderse a sí mismo en las leyendas sin leyes ni dioses
en las noches del norte volviendo hacia la tarde sur
en la tarde sur retrocediendo hacia el amanecer de las granadas en la boca del colibrí y las cascadas del hito roto en las normas de sus conquistadores.
Las cataratas del Iguazú entran en la garganta de quienes bailan y cantan el trance-rito
honrando el fruto selvático lírico mítico
espejado en las manos que aplauden las orillas lunarias de este salto de fe.

—Claudia Vaca

* * *

Rite

The tales we’re told about life and the legends of the colors
are found in the recesses of every house
              where the women of the family build their altars at the garden’s verge
              as if to make manifest the womb of the jaguar
              that encloses in protective circles every voice, every breath in the household.
Within the patios of the sprawling houses of Mesoamerica and the Amazon
the wombs of palm trees lie hidden       burgeoning in springtime along with their fruits.
In the winter, the recesses of the patios and the wombs of the palm trees
                                                                            Sing for bodies
                                                                            dance in the hands of the painter
                                                                            who pays homage to the life of each color
                                           as with his eyes closed
tears slide down his face
tears dilute the colors on the canvas
tears rinse out the paintbrushes.

For the painter: the earth’s tongue
laps at the deep well of his wounds
time is an invention of the night that came and went
              which decides to dance its way through a rainbow trance
embraced by the mind of the butterfly
sleeping in the mind of the dragonfly
screaming in the mind of the puma
stamping to the beat in the sedentary minds of the collators of legends.

The wandering minds of the painters
are sparks struck from matchsticks seeking candlewicks
the candlelight seeks out a place
the place is just between your eyebrows, allow your third eye to speak
to transcend itself in legends both lawless and godless
in the northern nights that reach back toward the twilights of the south
in the southern twilight that retreats in the direction of the dawn containing pomegranates in the mouths of hummingbirds and torrents that gush from the landmark that’s been shattered on the statutes of its conquerors.
The torrents of Iguazú pour into the throats of those who dance and sing the trance-rite carried out in honor of the lyrical mythical jungle fruit
reflected in the hands that applaud the lunar shorelines of this leap of faith.

translated from the Spanish by Brittany Hause


The First Overture of Sapient Chronological Chromatic Spacetime Warp Experiments

Prelude
Blurry dreams of Aunties
in Heavens unglimpsed
While Nimama
Remains, the last
of her
generation of
sisters
alone and
hurting through
the quietest
hours of

Midnight
Oil
burns
unseen,
 
silent,
staring at screens,
wondering about
nonsensical
squid equations

swirling
faster-than-light
bowls of
gravitational-
motion,
interstellar
flotsam-flavoured
spaghetti
a rising fist
of my body
expressed as
movement
across the weave
of spinning
spacetime

until
these poems to
you
silently
tear me
apart, in a
violent ecstasy of
Unheard Sonatas

a primordial wall—
this mind’s eye?
My interdimensional
bridge
of staggering
unfathomable distance
(maths and pressures per
square gigaton per second)
equal to ‘
Eight-Minute Old Heat’
for me
and

Sunlight
angles its way
Onto carpet, chair, cat.
Bad news on radio waves,
Worse events hidden
in unrendered decisions.
Not reported, not investigated
Not resolved not ‘newsworthy,’
but murderously important
all the same
while

Colonial ships drift
on imagined temporal seas,
our future’s history
unearthed in some “geologically
recent” past
leaving

Ēastre break to ease over me,
Āsteron’s bones whisper
From Western forest graves.
Tinctured Concertos
 
My Consolation Prize?
Burning winds
howling nights
voices on the interteevee
Nonsensical yet soothing
swirling through and over
darkness of the unthought for
hopes when sun father star rises
over Mother Earth
while Grandmother Moon
mourns her lost sisters
then this sharp shining music
of all of them remembered
dreamed of,
Sol Deus Ultima Absence
 
And the person reading this?
Who are they?
Are they thinking about
each word
like me?
Do they understand the poem’s
Attempted rhythm,
Or reinvent their own?

I read out loud my
Thoughts from
minutes recently past
when I was
just a hand
some legs
and a task
this body needed doing

But do you, magnificently
Appreciated,
Approved-of,
And awe-inspiring
Splash of temporal lightning
reader
through time’s
ever-stretching dimension
Do you
read this work the same as
as I forged it?

I wish you could

I wish you could see me rocking
My head forward and back—
Port hand hammering at
Backlit keys while the starboard
clawing terminus
anchors me to my “New
Used Goodwill”
Desk
While overhead lights
Admits defeat in the face
Of this marvelous intrusion
a burning luminosity
a glaring bright cold eye
This Synthetic Thing
that remains
my last,
my only true
looking glass
window into
you.
(the idea of you,
at least)

My canvas,
My voice,
My bookshelf,
My escape,
My place of apology.
(because it does not
Accurately reflect my inward
mind)

until
I remember that I
Cannot remember what
that mind was like, because
it is too much
Perfectly, explosively
Colorful,

swimming
In movement that was
at once
warm, soft lake water
and yet
the clear sky
breeze

of a springtime
Paradox a
Schrodinger’s nest
Piled sheaves of
romanticized
false memories.
Based on dreamed
sensations of safety,
pain, decay and
forty-four
light-years of
limitations uncounted,
Inaccurate segues
Poorly painted
Planks of purple prose
That, more often than not
Move no one to ponder
The exquisite joy of their
hidden, enshrouded soul
as glimpsed by my heart,
communicating in rhythm with
My body
As best as it has in years.
Though I let slip
the grip of my edge of
no return—
That metaphorical
Singularity which foretells
The obliterating vanishment

Of me

from the
the universe you Reader—
(Or you Skimmer,
or perhaps you.
Sentient Copying
Machine)
sees

During the year this
Rambling
“Aria of ruin”
Was published.
Or in years,
Decades,
Mayhap
centuries
Later

I look past
unyielding stares of
White luminaries
Into my darkest night,
Of the unknowing overture.

It remains
our unplayed game,
this eternal
dance of infinite movements,
with notes of silent blues,
hidden reds, and glanced
white-hot
complexity

Imagined
in my haltingly
hard years of exile,
(descending as I was into
 entropic irrelevance, unmourned by
many)
that feverish dream desire
That synesthetic heaven’s vision
passes
mid-transit from my
once living mind to your page-
screen,
to your
ears or eyes,
Or other sensory
Parts as yet
Undefined.

And maybe some vast
Sentience Beyond Knowing
will one daydream of me
listening to my Aunties
next to Nimama
and the rest
of my family.

—Mari Kurisato