Grandma’s Zydeco Stomp Dance: A Patchwork Poem*

Tony Tiger (Sac & Fox / Muscogee), Intertribal / Courtesy of the artist (facebook.com/tony.tiger.5268)
Tony Tiger (Sac & Fox / Muscogee),
Intertribal / Courtesy of the artist
(facebook.com/tony.tiger.5268)

I

Mix cultures of home
West Africa West Indies 
disrupted along slave trade
French and Spanish traveling tributaries.
Mississippi red,
blood arteries
have long varied stories:
colonization and conquest.
Choctaw, Creek, Cherokee, Natchez, Caddo, and 
Métis, Cree, Miq’maq come down
River Women –
by virtue of French exploitation and
expulsion of our ancestors
from Nova Scotia to Manitoba

 

II

Three cultures
Choctaw-Biloxi, Louisiana Creole, and Creek
woven into my Grandfather –
his mother, my Great Grands. 
Three is a sacred number for us:
three sisters, three worlds. 
Three. 
The number of strands it takes to weave. 
Three.
The waters of Louisiana:
seawater
fresh water 
brackish water.

 

III

Memory 
lives in body
stomach, heart,
throat, head.
Granma’s holding court with family, 
Grampa fiddle at chin 
in the middle of bayou.
Place my grandmother and grandfather 
emerged.
Where their Ancestors 
emerged. 
Our history along swath of okhina oka.

 

IV

We are women who shorn 
our hair in 
grief – 
spit bone shard arrow anger
at complacent parish priests. 
Our souls’ burnt edges 
from prayers form an
incendiary roux:
cedar, 
blood &
cottonmouth venom.
Carry our Grandma’s stories
on wide hips laughing 
through split lips & 
shuffle shake zydeco rhythms.

Rain Prud’homme-Cranford (Goméz) is a “FAT-tastic IndigeNerd” who won the First Book Award Poetry from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas for Smoked Mullet Cornbread Crawdad Memory (MEP 2012). She is an assistant professor of Indigenous literature in the Department of English and affiliated faculty in the International Indigenous Studies Program at the University of Calgary. 

Carolyn M. Dunn is an associate vice provost of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and associate professor of English at Central Michigan University, co-editor of The Journal of Louisiana Creole Studies, and part of the NAMMY award-winning all-women’s drum group The Mankillers. Her poetry books include Outfoxing Coyote (2002), Echolocation: Poems Indian Country, LA (2014), and Stains of Burden and Dumb Luck (forthcoming). She is also the author of the much lauded play, The Frybread Queen

* Patchwork poem—i.e., found poem. This poem pieces together writing by Dunn and Prud’homme-Cranford to form a new poetic conversation in call and response.