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  • Writer's pictureNajah Amatullah

Spiritual and Relational Themes in Native/Latinx Poems

When I attended Oklahoma City University, I was a creative writing major. OCU brings (or at least used to bring) a lot of big name authors to campus every year. We, creative writing students, were given additional access to those authors in class and in social settings. The year Jimmy Santiago Baca came, he sat in with my fiction writing class and did a very gracious, candid Q&A.

Here is some of his work.

I definitely resonate with the imperfect father who's absence "made [me] grow up quick and romantic." These words are a good beginning of processing my feelings about it all: "that is how he made [me]: he offered [me] to the wind, to the

mountains, to the skies of autumn of spring."

It has been very necessary to understand how he and I both are "half made of shadow and half of light." This is a concept I'm very familiar with these days, but in 2007 or 2008, when I met Baca, I had no idea what this meant. And of course it feels very appropriate that this father poem is titled "Ancestor." I've been meditating on what it means to have him as an ancestor when I never really had him as family.

He also signed that copy of Rita and Julia for me.

Then, I took a trip down memory lane with a Native poet and ex-lover I used to regularly share the stage with. I don't know if I really treated him well. I wish I could say hi to him now. He wrote these gems for me. I won't say his name in case that's no longer what he wants to be known for.

I really love every word in "...of the Stage": I want to always see myself the way he saw me while writing this.

"Her lips fell upon the congregation/ With profane baptism/And a Hail Mary kiss"

"Within her hands were the romance scrolls/ Of the City" - I wonder if I can call this energy back? My gods.

"she burned pages/ One by one/ Condemning silence with her fist and tongue"

"The guardian of dreams and prophecies" - Dear gods, lead me back to this energy.

He was calling me out of my destructive religion and into something more freeing at least 10 years before I was ready.

He and I had another Native friend who read poems with us at that venue. I wonder if they were the ones who planted the seeds so long ago. Or perhaps it has to do with the land, this land that is theirs, where we were all born, that is infused with their spirits. The commonalities between Native spiritualities and African ones are numerous.

This was a very personal post. They won't all be this way.

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