Monday, April 30, 2012

an old one, meant to be spoken out loud

bleeding badly and from the bottom of my ego “let go” echoes from my body of eager owning “this is not your battle!” the battered womyn shatters me crawling up through my mouth & shouting with shock it's about what's south but it's not about the cock crowing too soon nor the sun sewing up the moon's wounds tuned into such ambivalent imbalance i'm an imbecile unfocused cussing out my halves with words like victory and victim and trickery and sitcom so aggressively i grieve for such losses bossy & dynamic it's sick how much power i might wield shielded they cry bitch or more depending upon the engendered or endangered crowd sometimes my pain is so loud it scares me into joy boy! i might have been born with crisscrossed chromosomes kicking my belly & melting all down my unlimited legs so my mouth fights with frightful fears of gears plunging inward not just piercing me but twisting it thoroughly through & pretending peace is still the answer so it's preached & priested to the pronouned communities yet spilled a lot like hot blood clotting under the doors of our own home yet we've burned sage together sweetened a room with disposable laughter shared a supper a cigarette shaped our space into somewhat of a shelter so battered i crawl to safety in a sanctity that fits like a cage

fall 2002

Sunday, April 29, 2012

the passion tree by jeffrey mcdaniel

The Passion Tree

by jeffrey mcdaniel

This California Live Oak at the end
of my block looks like a couple
mid-fuck: ankles, thighs, groin, hips
entwined, forming a single trunk,

erupting into two separate bodies:
a damsel tilted back, the green breeze
of her hair, fingers gripping the triceps
of a lad thrusting, his rainbow spine

in a perpetual state of timber. Most trees
are only visible from the knees up,
calves unraveled in dirt, shoes fallen off.
Not this one. I keep a tiny piece

of its bark under my pillow. I stuff
its leaves in my underpants. I sleep
naked in its branches, hoping to wake
with its initials carved into my shoulder.

Friday, April 27, 2012

the head/the bed

the head/the bed

with curious mind
from all directions,
run words all over my hair.
fly wet and clean and

come again.
this is a brain i've been tossing
around in, cornfields, staccato breaths,
endless rainfalls.
mine. this is sweat
and sheets, heavy thought.

memory vacuums the back
rooms while choice sweeps
the hallways and here,

my bedroom.

dirty laundry, dog-eared books,
stacks of music, be careful,
proceed. the message was mailed
on water, you've been divined,
invited. here is this hand,
a tall glass, this frame
of work, the set of my next

take it, turn it over, the curtains 
empty and fill.  the stage,
this ample bed. flip
all the pillows.
this chest, this
close glow.  that applause,
that caught-off-guard
laugh, this holy hush.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

inspiration sometimes lives inside books

From everyday is a good day, ed. by wilma mankiller

“so much has happened to contribute to my learning these past few years. This knowledge is there for all of us if we are receptive to becoming connected to and responsible for the sacred beings that are all around us. I believe sacrifice, humility, and suffering provides access to this relatedness. Our people used to live on the edge of survival, always in extreme hardship. As a walking culture, they were so close to everything in the natural world. They knew all of their relatives in the natural world intimately and depended on the spirits of the ancestors to survive. Their prayers, which arose from pain and suffering, were the sincerest form of prayer. They found beauty in hardship and expressed their reverence in their art. They composed ceremonial songs in the face of the cold, biting north wind- songs of gratitude and humility.” - rosalie little thunder

“the main difference I see between the larger society and being Comanche is the value we place on our kinship system. We have a sense of responsibility to one another, and it is reciprocal. Even in the ancient Comanche way, these kinship relationships did not have to be blood kin. The relationships were established and maintained on the basis of what you did for one another. They were based on reciprocity. We even think about animals, the Earth, the Sun, in kinships terms. And when one thinks of others in kinship terms, one has a responsibility for them.
Within that kinship system and frame of reference, we don't accumulate material wealth for ourselves; we accumulate things so we can do well for others. The Comanche have a very flat society. The more honored and privileged you are, the more you have to give back. It is your responsibility to redistribute what you have. In the old ways, most tribal cultures had giveaways, potlatches, or other forms of redistributing their wealth. Giveaways are a form of honoring, and they help keep the community level so that one group or set of families will not be on a higher economic scale than the others. In contemporary times we still give away material goods, but we also give away knowledge, ideas, and resources. It is important to find ways to fit traditional values into our contemporary lives. I sift everything through my Comanche values, and if I can't understand it within the context of my Comanche values, or if it doesn't feel right, it sends up a huge red flag. When I have tried to push my traditional values behind me, I have been less successful. I do well when I am just myself, a Comanche woman. Our young people are trying to figure out how to continue to maintain their traditional values when they live and work away from their communities. It drives me crazy when people say we have to live in two worlds. We can't live in two worlds. We have to live in one world and carry those values with us and live them every day wherever we live. People become dysfunctional when they adopt situational values. You can't live one way in a tribal community and then go out of the community and have a totally different set of values. One has to be creative and think about how to continue to hold onto their traditional values, to be sharing, to be respectful no matter where they are.” -LaDonna Harris

“stories count, footnotes inhibit and control. Too much history is written as if the people of any era were just puppets responding to the great issues of the day. Too many of the biographies concentrate on the important events when the course of daily life has provided the context within which people make their decisions, often based on considerations that have little historical meaning but immense and intense concern for the people around us.” - vine deloria jr.

“when people relearn their language, the first thing they wish to do is pray in it.” -darrell kipp

“if this is what constitutes reality in american culture, it doesn't hold much appeal to the women at this gathering who struggle to remain genuine in a world where material wealth reigns supreme, many people are distant from the natural world, and kindness is perceived as weakness.” -wilma mankiller

“the major differentiating characteristic between tradition-oriented indigenous people and non-tradition oriented people, both indigenous and nonindigenous, is the nature of our spirituality, specifically the role it plays in determining our identity with regard to our way of life and orientation to the world. Though my professional career has focused on indigenous language, my greatest efforts have been explaining who we are as indigenous people. As an educator, this has involved countless hours promoting and defending Native educational methodology and curriculum. Even today, most professional educators have not been properly prepared to work with indigenous, or even culturally diverse, students. Contributing to this deficit in the education profession, our educational philosophy as indigenous people has not been adequately articulated for the general society, which still expects Native students to be educated with national cultural values that are often counter to Native values. Our schools, therefore, have failed to develop our Native human resources that are so vital for Nation building. We need to develop educational policies that respect and integrate indigenous philosophical perspectives.” -octaviana valenzuela trujillo

“The government and the outer community accuse Indian people of losing their culture because they don't speak their language or dress every day in traditional clothing or look like the Italians who play Indians in the movies. Whites don't dress in pilgrim clothing either and are not readily identifiable as Greek or Portuguese or English or Irish. Why then do they insist that all American Indians should look alike or that they can readily identify who is Indian and who is not? Can we readily identify who is Irish? Culture is not race and race is not culture. They can both apply at the same time but not necessarily. . .Though language carries a lot of cultural information, there are other facets to culture, such as slang, humor, gestures, dance, music, art, literature, taboos, and more.” -Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

“sovereignty is the ability to carry out your own direction.” -Audrey Shenandoah
“Sovereignty in an indigenous context implies self-reliance, independence, and self-determination. Autonomy seems to be the common ground we indigenous people seek for our contemporary societies.” -Octaviana Valenzuela Trujillo
“Most of our best leaders are defending the land, wildlife, sacred sites, and protecting our lifeways. To these people, leadership is not about self. They are truly selfless people.” -Rosalie Little Thunder

“Octaviana Velenzuela Trujillo acknowledges she has benefited from the Women's Rights and Civil Rights movements but questions the relevance of mainstream feminism to some indigenous women. She characterizes mainstream feminism as the 'struggle to be recognized primarily as an individual and not as a member of a gender class. This has multiple implications for all women, as well as special implications for indigenous women who consider the traditional values of indigenous cultures paramount to the self-determination of the individual.'” -Wilma Mankiller

“Feminism is a Euro-American response to a misogynist problem created by Euro-Americans.” -Rosalie Little Thunder

“While I am working on my music, poetry, or stories, I am constantly diving down and coming back with amazing things that are much larger than I am. . . The overriding theme of my life has been transformation and how to keep moving, despite the tests.” -Joy Harjo

“the sort of universe anyone has control over is internal.” -Linda Aranaydo

“The most important challenge we face this century is assuring our basic cultural survival within a society that has either denied or actively oppressed the perpetuation of our culture. After nearly two centuries of existence in an oppressive society, many indigenous peoples' sense of survival is constrained within the framework of American values, which promote a lifestyle of physical comfort and convenience at the expense of other human beings and the natural world. It is this long-term oppression that sometimes blinds us to the greater challenge of being responsible for the survival of humanity and all of the relatives. Because we are silenced and devalued, it is much harder to maintain our knowledge system and culture and pass it on to future generations. . . To do things without ishikiei shui, or any expectation of reciprocity, is one of the hardest disciplines to achieve but one with the greatest rewards.” -Rosalie Little Thunder

Monday, April 23, 2012

strange fruit

strange fruit

by abel meeropol
sung by billie holiday

southern trees bear strange fruit
blood on the leaves and blood on the root
black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
pastoral scene of the gallant south
the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
scent of magnolias sweet and fresh
then the sudden smell of burning flesh
here is fruit for the crows to pluck
for the rain to gather for the wind to suck
for the sun to rot for the trees to drop
here is a strange and bitter crop

Sunday, April 22, 2012

healing is a form of resistance

“it is a resistance against all kinds of things that are like war.  because living in modern society, one feels that she cannot easily retain integrity, wholeness.  one is robbed permanently of humanness, the capacity of being oneself… so perhaps, first of all, resistance means opposition to being invaded, occupied, assaulted and destroyed by the system.  the purpose of resistance, here, is to seek the healing of yourself in order to be able to see clearly… communities of resistance should be places where people can return to themselves more easily, where the conditions are such that they can heal themselves and recover their wholeness.”   -thich nhat hanh

Saturday, April 21, 2012



crusted in your eyes
i am telling you
i am taking my hand
gently to your face it is

but not obvious


Friday, April 20, 2012

Canary by Rita Dove

for Michael S. Harper

Billie Holiday’s burned voice
had as many shadows as lights,
a mournful candelabra against a sleek piano,
the gardenia her signature under that ruined face.

(Now you’re cooking, drummer to bass,   
magic spoon, magic needle.
Take all day if you have to
with your mirror and your bracelet of song.)

Fact is, the invention of women under siege   
has been to sharpen love in the service of myth.

If you can’t be free, be a mystery.

from Grace Notes

Thursday, April 19, 2012

tiny treasures.

thank you
the snakeskin is outgrown
the sweetness is in the details, in what surrounds.  i am specific with my home, the environment which i inhabit, stretch, reflect myself.  my room is a space of control, one which i carefully shape to fit this love of color & pattern & the miniscule.  the place i call "mine" also tends to be filled with the memories and creative gifts of other people that i love.

my private heart, captured in small, intimate photos & revealed in the most public of spaces:
owls remind me of moonshine

salutations to the cosmic mother nature, durge smruta

collecting tidbits

sketches of billboards for a bigger art piece

a selfick original

photo taken in chicago, found in west virginia flea market

stencil made by shoog from foto of me, veronica, & noam at march in dc

i love you, flowers.

everything is still.

a gift painted by my longest friend ginaB, given to me over 10 years ago

yerba mate, bombilla, thermos= the necessities
sweet note from cara, sent amidst my trauma, reminding me to love myself

box filled with fish bones, left on my doorstep by vik


a homemade patch i made for someone i loved who left it all behind
armadillo shell i found (with incredible delight) on the beach in nicaragua
birds birds birds, on a box of tapes tapes tapes
what is important in all good relationships
crows are oracles
hangin with angela davis, stencil courtesy of vik
west virginia flea market find, photo from chicago in the 70s
a chip original
a box of riches

i coveted this for years before cara passed it along
una bolsita para mi, gracias a las mujeres (y radym)
something so wonderful about chainmail
i can't just read one book at a time, i have to read nineteen

patterns reveal secrets

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

before coming

before coming

out inside
turn them
holes & still

i can dive
planting heads, unraveling
morning still
creaks & bounces
no hands, but bicycles
between pages
was said

if i don’t
head my top
books best & balanced
transient anchors & sailblows
can touches tie ropes?
cut, a second
sensitive & grown
hair i’m a cell

heard in a body
seven years can happen
shaking 8 & not
eyes & obsessions
fingers fingers fingers
state of flu

down-coming, doctored
secondhand jumping
honestly, i leak huge
really this is about
you blood blood you blood
pretending at badly
scripts in the mail

cheekbones won’t
convinced i am
have been
stomach sad empty
aches, snow-edged
flakes as such &
liking it

february 2005

Monday, April 16, 2012

the arsonist stood up in court and said by jeffrey mcdaniel

The arsonist stood up in court and said

I am not an arsonist. I dreamt
the building was a phoenix
and needed my help. Before sticking me
in a sentence, like a four-syllable word
with only one meaning, consider
what becomes of the ashes: see
how after smearing a palm-full
hair grows on a bald man's scalp, how
just a sprinkle makes irises sprout through
sidewalk cracks. You call me sick,
but have you ever seen a suicidal
parakeet, a homeless buttefly?
You want to know how you go crazy?
One marble at a time. It's the law
of your language that dictates mess
is the precursor for messiah. You don't
understand my logic to the hmph degree.
Your style of math is forty-three floors
beneath me. But you should have seen
the fire, a symphony of mayhem, people
leaping from windows, like lightning
bolts somersaulting out of a terrible cloud.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

twelve years ago, this was one of my favorite poems

a short reminder
by jim carroll

they've tricked you, these boundaries
the way each stares back to the next
hoping the change might occur

but the organ started up again
as the hand tightened the grip
on the knob of the door
the way you only guessed it should be

up until now the way a star
greets you so openly, you forgot
for a moment that it meant nothing after all
thought tonight it was all you had ever hoped

and you were right

because the people are all gathered
along the cliffs. . . hung like breath
their hearts are like the pets
of some terribly dreary penthouse
as clouds descend to protect their dreams

then the trees pointed off. . . over there
where the man stands hunched over the slope
who was he? and what did he want?
becoming a part of it? that same “it”?
only more useless now, intricate as a nipple,
though so easily realized even along
the busiest streets of daylight, the spirit
that leaves you tangled in some later hour

which is here

where the paintings drop to the floor in rows
because you do not care to think about them again
now that you have developed this power to forget about pain
innocent, of course, but hands shaking nonetheless

you sit down in a restaurant and a glass
breaks on the heel of your shoe. . . people turn. . .
outside the window a pathway of heat guided from star to tree
breathless at first. . . but where is the solution?
and why the tree so alike each of the others, so that

when space comes into the formula the only thing
you concede is that you're “in it”
guided by another like you

Saturday, April 14, 2012

[American Journal] by Robert Hayden

[American Journal]  
here among them     the americans     this baffling 
multi people     extremes and variegations     their 
noise     restlessness     their almost frightening 
energy     how best describe these aliens in my 
reports to The Counselors 
disguise myself in order to study them unobserved 
adapting their varied pigmentations     white black 
red brown yellow     the imprecise and strangering 
distinctions by which they live     by which they 
justify their cruelties to one another 

charming savages     enlightened primitives     brash 
new comers lately sprung up in our galaxy     how 
describe them     do they indeed know what or who 
they are     do not seem to     yet no other beings 
in the universe make more extravagant claims
for their importance and identity
like us they have created a veritable populace 
of machines that serve and soothe and pamper 
and entertain     we have seen their flags and 
foot prints on the moon     also the intricate
rubbish left behind     a wastefully ingenious
people     many it appears worship the Unknowable 
Essence     the same for them as for us     but are 
more faithful to their machine made gods
technologists their shamans 

oceans deserts mountains grain fields canyons 
forests     variousness of landscapes weathers 
sun light moon light as at home     much here is 
beautiful     dream like vistas reminding me of  
home     item     have seen the rock place known 
as garden of the gods and sacred to the first 
indigenes     red monoliths of home     despite 
the tensions i breath in i am attracted to 
the vigorous americans     disturbing sensuous 
appeal of so many     never to be admitted 

something they call the american dream     sure 
we still believe in it i guess     an earth man 
in the tavern said     irregardless of the some 
times night mare facts we always try to double 
talk our way around     and its okay the dreams 
okay and means whats good could be a damn sight 
better     means every body in the good old u s a 
should have the chance to get ahead or at least 
should have three squares a day     as for myself 
i do okay     not crying hunger with a loaf of 
bread tucked under my arm you understand     i
fear one does not clearly follow i replied 
notice you got a funny accent pal     like where 
you from he asked     far from here i mumbled
he stared hard     i left 

must be more careful     item     learn to use okay
their pass word     okay 

crowds gathering in the streets today for some 
reason obscure to me     noise and violent motion
repulsive physical contact     sentinels     pigs 
i heard them called     with flailing clubs     rage 
and bleeding and frenzy and screaming     machines 
wailing     unbearable decibels     i fled lest 
vibrations of the brutal scene do further harm 
to my metabolism already over taxed 

The Counselors would never permit such barbarous 
confusion     they know what is best for our sereni 
ty     we are an ancient race and have outgrown 
illusions cherished here     item     their vaunted 
liberty     no body pushes me around i have heard 
them say     land of the free they sing     what do
they fear mistrust betray more than the freedom 
they boast of in their ignorant pride     have seen 
the squalid ghettoes in their violent cities 
paradox on paradox     how have the americans 
managed to survive 

parades fireworks displays video spectacles 
much grandiloquence much buying and selling 
they are celebrating their history     earth men 
in antique uniforms play at the carnage whereby 
the americans achieved identity     we too recall 
that struggle as enterprise of suffering and 
faith uniquely theirs     blonde miss teen age 
america waving from a red white and blue flower
float as the goddess of liberty     a divided 
people seeking reassurance from a past few under 
stand and many scorn     why should we sanction 
old hypocrisies     thus dissenters     The Counse 
lors would silence them 
a decadent people The Counselors believe     i 
do not find them decadent     a refutation not 
permitted me    but for all their knowledge 
power and inventiveness not yet more than raw 
crude neophytes like earthlings everywhere 

though i have easily passed for an american     in 
bankers grey afro and dashiki long hair and jeans
hard hat yarmulka mini skirt     describe in some 
detail for the amusement of The Counselors     and 
though my skill in mimicry is impeccable     as 
indeed The Counselors are aware     some thing 
eludes me     some constant amid the variables
defies analysis and imitation     will i be judged 

america     as much a problem in metaphysics as 
it is a nation earthly entity an iota in our 
galaxy     an organism that changes even as i 
examine it     fact and fantasy never twice the 
same     so many variables 

exert greater caution     twice have aroused 
suspicion     returned to the ship until rumors 
of humanoids from outer space     so their scoff 
ing media voices termed us     had been laughed 
away     my crew and i laughed too of course 

confess i am curiously drawn     unmentionable     to
the americans     doubt i could exist among them for 
long however     psychic demands far too severe 
much violence     much that repels     i am attracted 
none the less     their variousness their ingenuity 
their elan vital     and that some thing     essence 
quiddity     i cannot penetrate or name 

Friday, April 13, 2012

a snake poem

a snake poem

all the written words tremble like loose letters on a page
made of peat moss, in loose soil. we are all disappearing
and the ink u n writes with a body of its own yet
not a mind. all the zooming trapped animals in their prints
and tracks, we are taking names and counterfeit numbers, we are hollering
in the streets. once, they started to scrape the sky. we all
fell in awe at the long shadows of what we had done. it was
a playing field, a game like baseball, a gum franchise, we built it,
we come back.  tripping over each other with triggering
fists grabby looks filthy stares dangling near necks, wrapping. this gut
spilled itself on that computer, ruined a hard bargain, a soft drive.

in small bites the experiment chews and      chews. the money
like gum sticks pick up sticks popsicles it          slithers


Wednesday, April 11, 2012



the therapist says:
don't ever say what not to do

a la forbidden fruit,
they'll just want to
devour it, no matter
how many worms

sometimes i wish
the interweb social media
could be an airplane for hire

i'd scrap a bunch
of money together,
make a big banner

it would say
(insert your name)
is soooooooooooo
emotionally available

can't you see it from here?

you're entitled, like bobby
brown, to your prerogative,
right? i think there might be

a chorus, or perhaps
backup singers. the white folks,
the dudes, the colonizers,
the homophobes, the rich,
the unforgivable,

they all sing along.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

to talk to the tornado

excerpts from the way to rainy mountain by n. scott momaday

To look upon that landscape in the early morning, with the sun at your back, is to lose the sense of proportion. Loneliness is an aspect of the land.

I remember coming out upon the northern Great Plains in the late spring. There were meadows of blue and yellow wildflowers on the slopes, and I could see the still, sunlit plain below, reaching away out of sight. At first there is no discrimination in the eye, nothing but the land itself, whole and impenetrable. But then smallest things begin to stand out of the depths – herds and rivers and groves- and each of these has perfect being in terms of distance and of silence and of age. Yes, I thought, now I see the earth as it really is; never again will I see things as I saw them yesterday or the day before.

A word has power in and of itself. It comes from nothing into sound and meaning; it gives origin to all things. By means of words can a man deal with the world on equal terms. And the word is sacred. A man's name is his own; he can keep it or give it away as he likes.

When Aho saw or heard or thought of something bad, she said the word zei-dl-bei, “frightful.” it was the one word with which she confronted evil and the incomprehensible. I liked her to say it, for she screwed up her face in a wonderful look of displeasure and clicked her tongue. It was not an exclamation so much, I think, as it was a warding off, an exertion of language upon ignorance and disorder.

There, at dawn, you can feel the silence. It is cold and clear and deep like water. It takes hold of you and will not let you go.

The Kiowa language is hard to understand, but, you know, the storm spirit understands it. This is how it was: Long ago the Kiowas decided to make a horse; they decided to make it out of clay, and so they began to shape the clay with their hands. Well, the horse began to be. But it was a terrible, terrible thing. It began to writhe, slowly at first, then faster and faster until there was a great commotion everywhere. The wind grew up and carried everything away; great trees were uprooted, and even the buffalo were thrown up into the sky. The Kiowas were afraid of that awful thing, and they went running about, talking to it. And at last it was calm. Even now, when they see the storm clouds gathering, the Kiowas know what it is: that a strange wild animal roams on the sky. It has the head of a horse and the tail of a great fish. Lightning comes from its mouth, and the tail, whipping and thrashing on the air, makes the high, hot wind of the tornado. But they speak to it, saying “Pass over me.” They are not afraid of Man-ka-ih, for it understands their language.

At times the plains are bright and calm and quiet; at times they are black with the sudden violence of weather. Always there are winds.

Monday, April 9, 2012

feminist farming, what does that mean?

(from the original email i sent out months ago, as izzi and i were looking for other folks to work with...) 


we are organized around feminist anti-racist principles, where womyn, transgender, and genderqueer people create a supportive & encouraging core of leadership.  we approach this work with an understanding that our present day experiences have been built on the brutal history that is tied to this land and our ancestors.

through genocide and colonialism, slavery, forced migration, environmental racism, genetic engineering, and the encroachment of technology, we inherit the privileges, struggles, and sorrows of those who have lived and labored before us.  we work in solidarity with others today- to create community, share food, teach & learn skills, dismantle oppression, and live creatively and lovingly, as a resistance to all systems of domination. 

we are organized cooperatively and are committed to working through our struggles together, sharing ownership and empowering one another.  we generate income through selling our vegetables, but instead of capitalism, we structure our principles around cooperation. 

The goal of putting this out there now is to begin creating a working group of those of us who are passionate about food justice, while also recognizing that the creation of this group is belated. Here are some things pulled from the original email, with some questions about HOW to plug in, as farmers:::

kale in november... which we are eating now, as it overwintered.
ORGANIZED AROUND FEMINIST, ANTI-RACIST PRINCIPLES- how does this look on the ground? What ethics are woven through our whole process? Who can we look to in order to learn from? How can the “organization” reflect these major principles? As we are a work-in-progress, what are the goals we are always reaching for?
WOMYN, TRANSGENDER, & GENDERQUEER PEOPLE'S LEADERSHIP- what forms does this leadership take? How are cis-men (individuals who were assigned male-bodied at birth, and who identify as men) accountable, and what is their place in this project? What is our shared analysis around binary gender? What are our individual gifts and limitations?
HISTORY TIED TO THIS LAND & OUR ANCESTORS- who were the original inhabitants of the land that we are now farming on? What has the legacy of farming in the “state of wisconsin” given to people and taken away from people? How do we see ourselves fitting into this history?
GENOCIDE/COLONIALISM- how are we examining the present-day colonialism that continues to perpetuate? How do we see ourselves as “owners” of this project/this farm? how do we mourn the genocide that has happened on this land that we are poised to be stewards of?
SLAVERY- how do we mourn the legacy of slavery that continues to perpetuate in the lives and minds of all people who have inherited this history? How do we link the slavery that continues today- in florida, throughout the planet- to our own privileged consumerism? How can we bridge connections to land & farming for those who have significant historical trauma connected to this?
FORCED MIGRATION- how do we resist the xenophobic, racist discourse on immigration in the u.s.? How can we connect our privileged farming with the large-scale exploitation of farm laborers? How can we continue to build a small-scale farm system and dismantle the large monocropping factory farming (& subsidies) that force the migration of millions of people?
ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM- how can we support access to land and healthy food, especially for people of color in the city with limited opportunities for gardening, and/or limited transportation, time, or nearby grocery stores? Where are madison's food deserts and how can we be part of changing this? How can we help defend the sovereignty of tribal nations in protecting their food & water supplies from contamination, mining, and land speculation?
GENETIC ENGINEERING- how can we educate and inform ourselves and others about the overwhelming threat of biotechnology, and how it is poised to make clean, organic food a thing of the past? How can we resist this perpetuation of economic globalization & colonization? How do we respond to the growing health problems that result from genetic and other toxic food-engineering?
ENCROACHMENT OF TECHNOLOGY- how can we continue to perpetuate our bare bones, low-tech approach, as we build and grow? How can we involve & inform without exclusive reliance on technology? How can we utilize the bullhorn of technology to promote food justice?
WORK IN SOLIDARITY- what is your definition of solidarity and how does this look to all of us who share privileged identities? What does it mean to have “solidarity not charity”, especially when working with folks who are not farmers? How can we approach collectively working together from a place of trust, and a sense of doing something that we each could not accomplish on our own?
CREATE COMMUNITY- how do we work to make connections both within and outside of our comfort zones? How can we prioritize “showing up” for our community? How can we elevate the emotional, holistic needs of one another in order to create a community that can sustain itself beyond our inevitable internal struggles?
SHARE FOOD- how can we centralize our common wealth of food, and move from a place of abundance, not scarcity? How can we teach cooking skills, preservation, appreciation of food? How do we see the food we eat as part of our cultures? How can we encourage that connection, of sharing cultural exchanges while sharing food?
TEACH & LEARN SKILLS- how can we be patient and willing to share the knowledge and skills that we each possess? How can we be determined and committed to learn the skills and knowledge that we lack? How can we recognize that our learning/skill-sets are holistic, not simply those of farming & the growing of food? How can we honor and recognize “hidden” skills & knowledge, seeing them as crucial to this farm?
DISMANTLE OPPRESSION- how are we attentive to “safe space” that oppressed people need? How are we looking within- at our own senses of entitlement, privilege, ignorance, & self-righteousness- to be accountable for ourselves? How do we individually take responsibility for these attitudes & inherited mentalities, and not force other people to police our behaviors? How can we be patient and loving with one another as we are each learning?
LIVE CREATIVELY & LOVINGLY- how can we each see the farm as a playground for building our dreams upon? How can we be patient & tend to the basic needs of the early stages of the process without becoming jaded or bogged down by it? How can we incorporate creativity into our problem-solving and our frameworks? How can we maintain laughter and loving concern for one another?
SHARING OWNERSHIP/ORGANIZED COOPERATIVELY- how do we make room for everyone's voices, especially when there are so many of us? How can we strike a balance (or is it the tension that our connection rests upon?) between autonomy and cooperation? How can we support each other in taking the lead in certain areas, when it means that we then individually have to let go & trust? How can we step up and lead with confidence, especially for those of us who tend to accommodate? how can we step back and allow others room to have their voices heard and prioritized, especially for those of us who tend to take the lead?  How do we let go of aspects of our individual visions in order to craft a collective vision that we each feel a strong connection with?
EMPOWERING ONE ANOTHER- how do we foster respect between ourselves, so that this shared encouragement and trust can get bigger & bigger? How do we understand our own boundaries and needs, and speak to them with confidence? How can we work to respect each other's boundaries and help one another build analysis, intentionality, and a deeper connection with our selves?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

sandpaper sandpiper

sandpaper sandpiper

it's rough i say,
rough. chasing this wave to ride
on apparitions of skin. the ocean had it fixed,
like usual. unlike my opposites, how we got
our names, i clean like clean will clean
it up. virgo is the name of the sky
sometimes. however like a fish

i am forever flapping around sacrificially
into the macro, feeding the micro
perfectly. will the piper
fit the sand with flawless feet & rhythm?
who chose the sand that stuck
to the paper? will it soften the right
edges, will it edge out the leftover

angles? these crevices are rough, i'd say,
just ask. these questions are rough, you say
by not answering.

you say sandpaper i say sandpiper
one is playing at the saline boundaries with abandon
one is softening surfaces of self houses with abrasion

but when i heard paper, i heard
promise, imagined sand in hair,
trips taken to the ocean and back,
no shoes, sun running. i imagined
dancing. actually, i heard

i'd say, the sand is hot, you'd say
contradiction. not even
a pisces, you were taken in small
pieces and build into a body of mostly salt-
water. you simply brought sandpaper
and i packed for the beach. i was thinking
of places faraway and familiar, like
that look when first saying hello. go ahead,

i say, smooth away your old splinters.
go ahead, i sing, still a bird
pursuing an edge to keep me alive.
go ahead, i say, and you hear
scritch, scratch,
sandpaper. go away, you say,
and i hear
crash, splosh,


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

the scars of utopia by jeffrey mcdaniel

The Scars of Utopia

by jeffrey mcdaniel

If you keep taking stabs at utopia, sooner or later
there will be scars.

Suppose a thermometer measured contentment. Would you
slide it under your tongue and risk being told

your serenity was on par with a thirteenth-century farmer?

Would you abandon your portable conscience,
the remote control that lets you choose who you are,

lets you pick the right personality for every occasion?
I wish we humans cared more about how we sounded

than how we looked. Instead of primping before mirrors,

we'd huddle in echo chambers, practicing our scales.
As a kid, I thought the local amputee was dying in pieces,

that his left arm was leaning against a tree in heaven
waiting for the next part to arrive. There should be Band Aids

for what you don't know; whiskey breath mints so sober people

can fit in at wild parties; a Smithsonian for misfits:
an insomniac's mucky pillow hanging over a narcoleptic's

drool cup, the teeth of an anorexic like a white picket fence
designed to keep food from trespassing. I wish the White House

was made out of mood ring rock reflecting the health

of the nation. I want an atheist night at every church. Needle
exchange programs. And haystack exchange programs too.

Emotional baggage thrift stores. A Mt. Rushmore
for assassins. I'm sick of strip malls and billboards. I dream

of a road lit by people who set themselves on fire.

No asphalt. No rest stops. Just a bunch of dead grass
with footprints so deep, like a track meet in wet cement.

Monday, April 2, 2012

vegetables & herbs, dancing through my mind

extensive quotes from sharing the harvest by elizabeth henderson & robyn van en

the way is as important as the goal.

According to USDA statistics, off-farm income supports 84 percent of the farms.

Many farms are able to supply at least twenty shares per acres. . . for a single farmer to make enough money to live on, the minimum number of shares is around 100, if the CSA is the only market.


living on a farm blurs the line between life and work- it is a lifestyle choice that usually means less cash, fewer consumer amenities, and more physical labor. . . many love relationships have turned sour under the strain of picking too many vegetables for market. Should we then conclude that the work itself is the problem? Or rather that we need to change the economics and learn how to organize the work better?

Wendell berry says-

farming is a hard life. That's what these rural sociologists were talking about in the start. It's a hard life, therefore nobody ought to live it. What a remarkable conclusion. There are several steps that are left out. What causes the difficulty? Does freedom come out of it? . . . does some kind of idea of community come with it? Does some kind of idea of stewardship, of essential, irreplaceable, indispensable stewardship, does that come with it? Do ideas of affection or love or loyalty or fidelity come with it? The basic question is, how hard would you be willing to work in order to be free?

For all employees earning over $150 a year, the employer is responsible for social security and medicare. The combined tax rate is 15.3 percent of gross cash wages (this does not include payments in kind, such as farm produce or lodging).

...According to carol, they share most work, but they divide responsibility according to what each cares more about, or dislikes the least.

Taking on interns has a broader importance as well. If we want CSA to continue to grow, experienced farmers must learn how to pass on their knowledge. . . when you explain to an intern how a repetitive job fits in the context of the farm's systems, you keep alive for yourself the interconnections that are so essential to a sustainable farm.

Most of the people who are interested in learning to farm come from non-farm backgrounds. They have a double set of lessons ahead: learning how to do physical labor, and learning how to farm... as cass peterson puts it in her letter to potential interns, “it takes time to learn some of the basic farming skills that most people nowadays think of as 'unskilled labor'. It isn't unskilled labor. Hoeing requires agility and practice. Harvesting requires judgment and speed. Marketing requires communications skills and experience.”

getting into physical shape is only the first necessary step. To use your body without hurting yourself and perform tasks with the least amount of energy takes practice and experience. Cooperating with other people on physical tasks adds another layer of complexity for which most people are not born with an instinctive awareness. When I bend to pick up a board, I can sense instantly if my companion understands what is required to move that board in the easiest way. If you grew up in the suburbs as I did, you might need a few pointers to master what farm kids take for granted as common sense.

Shane's goal is not just to train farmworkers, but to empower people to farm on their own.

From angelic organics-

a farm is a weaving. Everything that happens on it affects everything else on it. If time is lost because of a late start, or using an ineffective tool, or because a communication is misunderstood, the work still has to be done some time; it doesn't just go away. It will have to be done in the afternoon or in the evenings... otherwise, the weeds will get away from us, or the harvest won't be completed before the rain, or transplanting will be delayed and the crop will be impaired, causing our CSA members to receive shabby or inadequate produce.

From cass peterson-

farmwork is hard. It involves long hours at times, as well as sore muscles, insect bites, sweat and dirt, and the duress of cold, heat, and rain. Not many jobs require real physical strength, but you will need a good measure of endurance. If you are expecting summer camp, complete with weenie roasts, hay rides, and romps in the ol' swimming hole, please consider doing something else with your summer. We strive to have a good time, and we do like to kick back at the end of the day with a cold beer. But our success depends on a certain obsessiveness about what we're doing and a serious adherence to demanding schedules.

To make an internship a success for both farmer and intern, both sides need to be clear on expectations and responsibilities. . . it is a good time to ask them to draw up a learning contract, outlining what skills they especially want to acquire.


time-study experts will tell you that the most efficient harvesting system gets the most vegetables cut, washed, and packed in the shortest amount of time by the smallest number of people... however, you might want to consider other values, such as community, education, and participation. If you rank these higher than efficiency, and you are sociable by nature, you may decide to involve your sharers in the harvest.

Many hands make light work and create an unavoidable feeling of accomplishment. “if your project does plan to have volunteer or mandatory help with the farm work, make member participation as easy as possible. At an orientation meeting or in the newsletter, list all the jobs that need to be done. Indicate the days of the week and hours of harvesting, critical times in the season for weeding, setting out transplants, and the like.” at GVOCSA, we sign members up for “special vegetable action teams (SVAT)” for jobs like planting onions, putting up the pea fence, and harvesting winter squash or garlic.

After signing up, each sharer receives a copy of the work schedule for the entire season. Anyone who wants to change work dates is responsible for trading with someone else and reporting to the schedule coordinator for that day of the week... we plan carefully for each farm workday, aiming to keep everybody busy at a relaxed pace... usually, we spend two to three hours picking, washing, and packing the food for that day's shares. With few exceptions, totally unskilled people can learn how to make bunches of greens, dig carrots, and pick beans, peas, corn, peppers, tomatoes, or berries.... we've agreed with our insurance company that we will not use chemical pesticides on the farm, and that only the farmers will use machines or ladders.

New CSAers, who have never been on a farm before, or even gardened, are often nervous that they will make a mistake or step in the wrong place. We try to reassure them by explaining as we go along where things are and why we have planted the way we have. Most of the tasks are so simple and clear that people quickly realize they will do all right.

Dennis stenson says-

there is just a rhythm to the dance, rather than a frenzy, and the working members share that dance with us and our interns. Supervision and planning play key roles in maximizing the blessing of those helping hands; they are working with us rather than for us. Time must be spent with each new task and with each new worker to show how, where, and when, rather than to tell. Constant follow-up is also essential, because anything taken for granted will be a mistake.

We encouraged families with small children to sign up for designated workdays for which we scheduled an extra adult to do childcare.


agricultural lease agreements are usually made for conventional production systems where the farmer plows the ground, plants it, puts down his herbicides, and then comes back a few months later for harvest. CSA production involves daily attention and potentially large groups of people coming and going to the farm. A landowner who approached me about land he wanted to rent suddenly switched his tone from friendly to chilly when he learned I have two hundred helpers.

The best arrangement is a clearly written lease for a term of three to five years, giving the CSA the option of first refusal and applying the rent toward the eventual purchase of the land. The lease should also include considerations of any improvements the CSA makes on its property.

According to american farmland trust, 4.3 million acres of prime and unique farmland were lost to development and suburban sprawl between 1982 and 1992, nearly 50 acres every hour.

The most radical (or perhaps the most conservative) aspect of rose valley farm was our total avoidance of borrowing. If we had the money to buy something, we paid in cash; if not, we waited. The need to make mortgage or other debt payments can add an unbearable level of pressure to running a farm and have a profound effect on all management decisions. Avoid it if you can.

Community land trusts are largely urban, and are devoted to providing the essential benefits of ownership to low-income people who have been excluded from the real estate market. A few, such as the pioneer valley community land trust in massachusetts, have farm holdings. Community land trusts usually retain title to the land, which they lease to residents. . . the leases are often for 99 years and inheritable.

According to chuck matthei, the “difference between the individual holding title and the land trust doing so may seem significant, but in fact, it may not be.” more important are the details of the legal agreement, whether lease or easement... defining the terms of the easement on a farm and the oversight this will require from the trust may entail a long process of mutual education.

Stephen decater says this:::

when we contemplated private ownership, we had two areas of concern. One was that to acquire complete private ownership would entail placing ourselves in a major debt for an extended period, even if we could find a lender. We were opposed to the concept of entering into debt, and did not have a credit history, having always operated on a cash basis. The other concern was that we saw one's relationship to the land as having moral dimensions. We saw land ownership not as acquiring strictly a commodity only to be treated as we please, but also as an office bearing certain inherent responsibilities requiring wise (just) usage and stewardship. We saw land as a resource that also belonged to future generations, a resource, which we had no personal right to appropriate or damage regardless of whether such a treatment was legal by current law or not.