(X) is an Indigenous man, a man who was a child of seven nations who felt many days of his Indigenous life as though he didn't really belong to even one.
I went to Geneva.
And while I was there, taken by sadness & rage, he set fire to a dorm building in Portland.
I'd gone to Geneva in the interest of defending and protecting and articulating the rights and experiences of Indigenous peoples, possibly because I realized I'd never be able to protect & defend the heart and mind of this one Native man, or possibly any Native man.
Less than a year later and I was still at it: (X) had just been released from prison, and I had just returned from the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York.
An Indigenous love story. (Y) and I were in love.
We were determined to make it to Geneva, this time together, at any and all costs.
The step-son of a visionary leader, the son of a Ponca man who never fulfilled a promise he quite possibly never even made, and a Red Lake woman who tried to teach (Y) the Ojibwe language, but never fully succeeded in teaching him the language of being in the world.
(Y) wanted to be more windigo-slayer than windigo.
Of course he was both.
But I think at some point he had to choose which one he was more of.
Perhaps we all do.
We never made it to Geneva.
and I have had to go on without him.
I have imagined the capillaries, the cartilage, the very flesh of you. And in doing so, I have felled whole nations, whole worlds, whole universes and imagined them anew.
An intricate execution and autopsy of you.
I have exercised a profound compassion of and for American nationhood, that which bubbles, gleams, heats and his heated in the blood and organs of me.
An insane and gentle act at its essence.
A terrible sublimity in this; Borges, Deloria, Whitman, Freire, Kafka, Ortiz. There are songs of them in this. There is blood of them, marrow of them, in this. There is awful rapture, and sinew, and joy, in this.
There are voices, and voices, and voices, there is voice and voice, and voice, in this.
Vampires are real. But so, too, are angels. Gentle, terrible, all.
Gentle vampires. Terrible angels. I have known and even loved an Indigenous few.
Cancer of the mind, cancer of the bones, recalcitrant; memory; immensity of its bloody, milky, thatched fabrics and nodes.
There is something in this, father. There is something in this, daughter.
Indigenous: the blistering skin, the blossoming light, the lingering hot damp odor of them, of us, the Hanoh, the People. And every requiem is not, cannot, be only sonorous. Blossom, blossom, blossom apart
We: are a going-away-and-coming-back-somehow-thing.
The gentle, holy, benevolent, prodigious thing of not always questioning the virtues of being among the survivors: there is something in this.
Sara Marie Ortiz is an Acoma Pueblo memoirist, poet, performing artist, scholar, documentary filmmaker, and Indigenous peoples advocate. She is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts (BFA, Creative Writing, 2006) and she holds an MFA in Creative Writing, with a concentration in creative nonfiction, from Antioch University Los Angeles (2009). She has formally studied law, film, theater, and journalism. Her most recent publications include works of poetry and prose in Ekleksographia, Drunken Boat, The Kenyon Review, The Yellow Medicine Review, Sentence, The American Indian Graduate, The Florida Review, New Poets of the American West, and Sing: Indigenous Poetry of the Americas. Ms. Ortiz is currently producing a documentary on the life and legacy of her father Simon J. Ortiz. She currently works and lives in Portland, Oregon.