When the Wind Stops
We were not allowed to stay with our family or community
where we fed our animals and grew our gardens, foraged
for wild food and medicines. Most of the harder changes
had come and gone. I only remember some of the old ways.
Papa doesn’t sing anymore.
He sleeps a lot - we don’t get to bathe like before
like when we would light candles around the tree --
stars of life – painted the ox horns red and black.
The desert sand could be molded to fit our bones for comfort.
The sidewalk tile is painted and unyielding. It doesn’t hurt me much
it hurts Papa. He sleeps a lot. We don’t eat much. Papa’s bones
have become angled with the new life of no life,
filthy feet, lice and soiled clothing. We have one cup, enamel,
it holds our sustenance - coins, grains of rice, sometimes tea.
Sometimes I pretend that I recognize people from our family,
our clan of wanderers, healers, singers – I run up to them
holding my cup, grabbing their hand as children do.
The men sometimes touch with the pads of their fingers around my lips
put gold in my cup and say they will buy me when I am older.
Papa cries to sleep. “We are hostages” he says, “to progress, engineers,
strangers with no color pressing black boxes to their faces paying gold
for our moments of no moments.” Papa sleeps on a pillow
stuffed with grime. The no-color-skin man touches my mouth and says
“You should never grow old” and presses the corner of my curved lip
with the same finger that presses the shiny button on the black box.
I am frightened and not frightened.
I remember sleeping in ox carts in cool desert nights with stars
our home was larger than all the palaces
we spun like turrets - arms up as pinnacles
in dresses and wraps of glitter and woven reds
brass and ivory arm bangles clacked and rung rhythmically
to the clay drums, click sticks, and gut–string.
I swirl loose tea in my chipped cup
like desert wind far away from sitting
in the sharp square of Papa’s sleeping hip, corner of
clay wall, painted tile floor - the backs of my legs are cool
getting longer. I am growing up
and the men will one day buy me because I could not stop
the progress of no life
living in the black box.
Summer Photos with the Boys at the Creek
I would not let go of defiance in my straight neck
squared-off look-you-in-the-eye stare unlike Emmett’s
knock-the-chip-off-my-shoulder cocked chin stare.
Mine was solid. The scar at the corner of my flat line lips
from the rim and tire iron incident made it so.
My chest is not out like Emmett’s hit-me-first chest
so I can hit-you-back
hit you back
hit you back
hit you back
My arms crossed, hands securely braced elbows into a square
the predictable square. Jack’s lips were softer than mine. He held his hand
like a beggar. My defiance carried me
through the “incident” at Sunday school
and the medical exam designed for defiant girls
with Sunday school incidents.
I had to learn about the half-body of the subtle
the non-committed-stance of the half-a-thought
and those who inferred arrogance
toward those who didn’t.
I want to write about you
because you are still here.
You were never a tall person. Your height
reflected the size of woodland People.
but not in the photo as a young man pressing your back
into the Desoto’s closed trunk and the heel
of your boot hooked onto the curved, chrome bumper,
hands stuffed in slash pockets of your leather jacket -
Appalachian Jimmie Dean.
As a child I noticed your hands -
thick as Oak roots, wide as Bear paws -
were like your father’s. I noticed
when you handled a wrench, gripped the truck’s steering wheel,
or when you removed petrified baby rabbits
from the middle of the logging roads. Both of you
rounded, brown and small, crouched
before the rolling dust and grill of a chugging Detroit Diesel.
Hoisting with your Popeye arms
you swung yourself into the truck cab.
Your feet barely reached the clutch, brakes, and accelerator.
I asked, “Why did you do that?”
releasing emergency brakes with your 29” inseam leg
and slight grinding of gears, you said, “It ain’t easy bein’small.”
I didn’t think of you as being small.
Your gestures were always big
like the day you said, “C’mon, Suzy, Herbert’s killed the bears.”
You pulled your height upright,
charged across the lawn and headed next door.
You took the shortcut
through the spruce trees, down the banking to the road
that only us kids and dogs used.
I skip-trotted to keep up.
My calloused feet and stubbed toes kicked up patty-puffs of roadside sand.
Herbert lived next door. Already a crowd had congregated
to view bodies displayed side by side belly down
noses parallel. When Herbert talked
he sucked his teeth, the sound, almost
as sharp as snapping gum, he’d squint his eye opposite
the corner of the mouth that leered
when he sucked his teeth. As though
flesh was stuck between them.
“C’mon, Suzy, Herbert’s killed the bears”
and we went to see our relations
rendered waste by bad blood and heat. To see for ourselves
our family - a boar, a sow, and two cubs - the adults, largest in the state.
All lived behind our house on the mountain.
You showed me their tracks.
How they marked trees, rolled logs, where they fished.
When they mated in the hollow, they screamed like women.
You said they were harmless.
They had their space and we had ours.
Herbert killed the bears, sucked his teeth
and told how easy it was to kill babies,
how the male required more -
heavier trap, shorter chain, more bullets -
Herbert just killed.
You spit a puckering spit that shook the Earth
when it hit just inches from Herbert’s feet.
“C’mon, Suzy, we’ve seen enough.”
-from murmurs from the gate (Unsolicited Press 2019) selected by Spring 2022 Guest Editor, CMarie Fuhrman
Ms. Rancourt is Abenaki/Huron decent and is a multi-modal Expressive Arts Therapist with graduate degrees and certifications in psychology, creative writing, drug and alcohol recovery. Her first book of poetry, Billboard in the Clouds, Curbstone Press, received the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas First Book Award and is now in its 2nd printing, Northwestern University Press. Her second, murmurs at the gate, Unsolicited Press, released May 2019. Ms. Rancourt's 3rd book, Old Stones, New Roads, Main Street Rag Publishers, released 2021. Her 4th manuscript is scheduled for release from Unsolicited Press, Autumn 2023.