Your Holiday Reading: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is a book that you will never forget. Bury My Heart coverThe prose are terse and clear, the images startling, the narrative impossible to digest. It must be read.

“Father, your young men have devastated my country and killed my animals, the elk, the deer, the antelope, my buffalo. They do not kill them to eat them; they leave them to rot where they fall. Fathers, if I went into your country to kill your animals, what would you say? Should I not be wrong, and would you not make war on me?” (Red Cloud, Oglala leader)Red-Cloud“It is cold and we have no blankets.The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are -perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” (Chief Joseph, Nex Perce Chief) chief joesph portrait“We tried to run, but they shot us like we were a buffalo. I know they are some good white people, but the soldiers must be mean to shoot children and women. Indian soldiers would not do that to white children.” (Louise Weasel Bear, Sioux)

Wounded Knee Massacre, 1890

Wounded Knee Massacre, 1890

If we are to have a chance of becoming anything, we must remind ourselves of who we are and where we have come from. Dee Brown’s book does exactly that.

Do Not Delete; Recycle Instead

I don’t mind editing. Once I get into it, I can even like it. It’s a sorting that helps words make sense, a cleaning with clarity.Screenshot (429)That said, I don’t like to get rid of words, even the individual letters, and just dump them in the garbage.

Rather than delete, I prefer to keep the word, the letter, the little virtual mark, where it is, alive, doing its job. I mean, why kill the ‘s’ in rest when it can used in past? Screenshot (427)Why annihilate a ‘b’ if it’s only to be created again, a stroke later?

The conservation of these virtual marks is easier, as it honors their existence, instead of just discarding for a newer version. Even if the work, in the end, is left unread.20141012_090626

Stylish and Angry On the Subway

“What you lookin’ at? Who said you could look at me like that, sir?” He was young, maybe 25, with a stylish felt hat and two bright gold studs. “Who do you think you are? You know what would happen if you did that in the hood? I’ll tell you what would happen. First I’d get up in your face…”

Like everyone on the subway, Micaela and I hoped the stylish young man would stop yelling at the 60-year-old on the bench opposite.IMAG3655

“And then I’d fuck your daughter, man–”

That was too much. “Okay, that’s enough.”

He flashed his eyes at me, trying to mock. “Let me make my point, man! I’m making my point!”

“You’re yelling profanities on the subway.”

He smirked, pulling one of his earplugs half out. “If we was in the hood, me and my goons would fuck you up.”

“Just listen to your music and leave everyone alone.”

“In the fuckin’ hood–”

“Enough of that.” Another man stepped in, and the stylish young man quieted down, only chuckling to himself.

An uneasy silence fell over the car. I told Micaela about being spied on at the conference and tried to make it funny.IMAG3297

“I’m trying to make a point, man!” The stylish young man suddenly stood and glared at me with crazy eyes. “Let me tell you about the fucking hood, man.”

“People just want to go home after working.” It seemed I was stuck with him now. “They don’t want to be yelled at.”

“I don’t want to be paid by you, man! I don’t want your money.”

“You’re yelling profanities on the subway.”

“You don’t pay me, man! I don’t want your money!”

First one voice and then another spoke out. “Stop it! Nobody wants to hear you!”

“In the hood, I’d get my goons–”

“Nobody cares!” A distant voice snapped.

“I’m trying to make a point. I don’t need you people ganging up on me. I don’t need that. In the hood–”

The subway doors open behind me, and the stylish young man came past. He didn’t even look at me, at anybody, and instead to yelling on the platform. “I’m trying to make a point, man. You can’t fuckin’ look at me like that, man!”IMAG3354

Under Suspicion For Taking Notes

I attended a “round table” conference today and, as I had a lot to learn on the topic, took meticulous and constant notes on my laptop. IMAG2369After 20 minutes, one of the presenters came around behind me and stood. I gave a half turn and saw her mime a typing motion to her colleague, oddly whispering, “He’s taking notes.” (How could I not hear?) Indeed I had come under suspicion for being off task, that I was perhaps sending emails or posting to my blog.
Screenshot (419)I was suddenly transformed, after this misguided investigation, from miscreant to star pupil. (“Maybe you could share your notes with everybody on a google doc?”) What did I do about this? Why, I went off task, of course, and wrote this blog.

Watching Beckett One-Acts on Leafs Opening Night

Not I:  What? . . the buzzing? . . yes . . . all the time the buzzing . . . dull roar . . . in the skull . . . and the beam . . . ferreting around . . . painless . . . so far . . . ha! . . so far . . . then thinking . . . oh long after . . . sudden flash Screenshot (406)Footfalls: Not enough, what can you possibly mean, May, not enough? May: I mean, Mother, that I must hear the feet, however faint they fall. Screenshot (409)RockabySo in the end/close of a long day/in the end went and sat/went back in and sat.Screenshot (413)

Excellent Orwellian Advice

George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language concludes with advice* for the writer:

1. Never use a scientific word or jargon where an everyday equivalent will do.

2. Never use a metaphor or simile you have heard or seen many times before.

3. Never use a long word where a short one will do

4. If it is possible to cut a word out, do it.

*I have taken the liberty of restructuring and editing Orwell’s list