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By Wendy Rose

making promises they can’t keep.

For you, Grandmother, I said I would pull

each invading burr and thistle from your skin,

cut out the dizzy brittle eucalypt,

take from the ground the dark oily poison–

all to restore you happy and proud,

the whole of you transformed

and bursting into tomorrow.

           But where do I cut first?

Where should I begin to pull?

Should it be the Russian thistle

down the hill where backhoes

have bitten? Or African senecio

or tumbleweed bouncing

above the wind? Or the middle finger

of my right hand? Or my left eye

or the other one? Or a slice

from the small of my back, a slab of fat

from my thigh? I am broken

as much as any native ground,

my roots tap a thousand migrations.

My daughters were never born, I am

as much the invader as the native,

as much the last day of life as the first.

I presumed you to be as bitter as me,

to tremble and rage against alien weight.

Who should blossom? Who should receive pollen?

Who should be rooted, who pruned,

who watered, who picked?

Should I feed the white-faced cattle

who wait for the death train to come

or comb the wild seeds from their tails?

Who should return across the sea

or the Bering Strait or the world before this one

or the Mother Ground? Who should go screaming

to some other planet, burn up or melt

in a distant sun? Who should be healed

and who hurt? Who should dry

under summer’s white sky, who should shrivel

at the first sign of drought? Who should be remembered?

Who should be the sterile chimera of earth and of another place,

alien with a native face,

native with an alien face?


Wendy Rose, “Woman Like Me” from Itch Like Crazy. Copyright © 2002 by Wendy Rose. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: Itch Like Crazy (University of Arizona Press, 2002)

Poet Bio

Wendy Rose, born Bronwen Elizabeth Edwards in Oakland, California, is of Hopi, Miwok, and European descent. The daughter of a Hopi father, Rose grew up feeling distanced from both Hopi and white society. She spent a troubled adolescence before attending college and eventually earning her PhD in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. As a Native American, she has claimed to have often felt like a spy in the field of anthropology. Her poetry is influenced by ethnography, her personal experience of identity, and both her political and feminist stances; her subjects include alienation and ecology. She has written of aboriginal cultures outside of the United States, including a persona poem on the Tasmanian woman Truganniny. In addition to poetry, Rose writes nonfiction, often addressing issues of appropriation of Native American culture, including “whiteshamanism,” the misuse of the shaman identity by white writers.

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