Red Sand, Melanie Fey, 2014

My home is an abode that I would much prefer not to think about

But it does not care in the slightest about my wishes.

Actually, it much prefers to show up unannounced

like some sort of unwanted parasitic house guest.

It has many faces and wears a different one every time it graces me with its presence.

 

When I open my front door, its wooly pine trees arrange their crisp branches into mustached smiles.

Before I have time to greet, its desert sands pour in, crash onto the couch, makes itself comfortable.

Before I have time to object, half-burnt mountains in the kitchen cooking breakfast, cacti and yucca lining up for the lavatory and using up all the toilet paper, prairie dogs belligerently fighting over the TV clicker.

 

Riled up I scream,

 

“No, no, no, no! You must all leave the same way you came in!” but I just end up tripping over my first pothead boyfriend who is sleeping on the floor. Before I have time to properly scold him, I am distracted by countless mud hogans popping up on my ceiling, paint chips sprinkling down on me.

 

“Wait!” I scream as I flick little, black crickets off my arms, all chirping in an uproar. “This is an invitation-only household!” What follows next is not a mutual understanding but a sudden, bottomless quiet. Even the crickets stop.

 

At my feet, on the living room floor, unnoticeable only moments before, lay my drunken mother, stinking of booze, a long tattered skirt groping her waist, bloodied vomit in her hair. I do all the heavy breathing for her because I cannot tell if she is alive. I hear my father’s truck in the driveway, waiting patiently to take her to the hospital.

 

Quickly, I scramble to my feet, shoulder-chuck an angry doe, and head for the front door. If I cannot kick them out, then I will run instead.

It has always worked before but

my mother screams at me from the recliner, stops me cold.

“Hey!”

 

A black, fringed leather jacket holds onto her tiny shoulders; long, brown hair splintered at the ends.

Her nose and lips are busted, eyes swollen from crying and she demands that I play music, that I play my guitar, demands that I quit being so damned timid.

 

Eyes close tightly; I feel the pine trees gather around me, their branches speaking in hushed tones, their touch itchy and cruel. I hear the town train coming through, sounding its horn, heavy iron pumping, Santa Fe splashed across its sides like war paint, its cars the color of rust. I open my eyes only to see a trail of red ants and pieces of bloodied friends being left in its wake.

 

Two grasshoppers, the color of bark, hold onto me as I sink to the floor; they stroke my hair as I bury my face in my hands. My chest constricts.

 

All the lies slowly seep out of the puncture wounds of my carefully crafted disguise created here in a faraway land. Home always bleeds truth.

 

Defeated, I wrap my arms around myself, but then I hear a most peculiar voice.

 

“Shiyazhi.”

 

All the mountains and pine trees and cacti have disappeared.

In their stead, I see

Red cliffs, sage brush, red sand, endless blue sky.

My mother sits before me

She is lucid, sober, long skirt rippling in a springtime breeze

And I am 15 again and accept her invitation nervously.

 

Our conversation is muted because no matter how hard I try, I cannot recall what was said.

At 15, already I tower over her but she does not seem to mind. There is no one else around and she giggles and smiles, showing off her perfect teeth. I think she is just as nervous as me. But she actually wants to spend time with me, something I am unaccustomed to, awkward about even. But it is lovely, us and the red, red sands of the reservation, the family hogan like a mountain in the background. We drink from the family spring now running through my new abode, delicious underground water.

 

I am content and I believe, maybe so is she.

 

 

An Ode to Frybread, Melanie Fey, 2014

Oh Frybread of my heart, how do I describe thee?

Beautiful, flying saucer of golden hue filled with reservoirs of grease

and hot, simmering bubbles.

Almost like a pancake, close to funnel-cake,

maybe even tortilla-similar.

And in your uneven surface, you hold many faces:

some of my past, some of my ancestors, some of my dreams, some of my defeats.

I look to you,

my comfort food.

 

Frybread of my youth.

I picture brown, tired hands, slightly ashy, belonging to all 7 of my aunts,

broken dreams scattered across their faces, putting their blood, sweat and tears into the bread of their people,

time and energy into feeding us younglings running around with rez dirt in our shoes, scabs on our knees, and fresh rez air in our lungs.

Frybread made by an aunty is some of the best kind.

 

Frybread of my assimilation.

I can feel you draped around my shoulders like a heavy shawl,

reminding me that on most days, I am destitute of my culture.

I long for the camaraderie that bread making brings.

But as a half-breed I never learned how to properly knead bread.

Deep down, my heart weeps that it may be made of nothing more than bleached flour.

I picture myself being the Frybread making queen,

holding a piece of freshly blistered, hulking mass above my head like a crown,

pronouncing my indigenousness to a crowd.

But in my assimilation, I have never perfected the subtle art.

Am I a Native American if I can’t make Frybread?

The Frybread of my heart,

I can feel your history running through me.

Envisioned are the long and sullen expressions of my ancestors

trudging their way to

Bosque Redondo.

Deep in my soul, deep in my bones,

I can feel their hardships, isolation, sickness and death.

I can feel their exile from the land they loved.

But although you began as a bread of affliction,

you’ve come to represent a greater community.

In your hot, sweaty, and slightly crunchy surface,

I can see your resiliency, endurance, and courage.

You were born out of oppression

but have been transformed to represent a persistent survival.

 

The Frybread of my internment, Frybread of my cultural longing,

you are my edible dichotomy, unhealthy yet nurturing, destroying yet giving.

A true comfort to my Frybread soul,

a true comfort to a Native American struggling between two worlds.