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Retta (Reindeer) Mckenzie

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Indian Summer
by Retta (Reindeer) Mckenzie
Friday, April 07, 2006
Not rated by the Author.
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Recent poems by Retta (Reindeer) Mckenzie
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Written for a challenge at Fireside Poetry for the 16 word Challenge. Sadly, this experience was not uncommon among Native American Children. I lived it.

The Words:

envy, church, licensed, diary
crystal, butterfly, pry, flower,
evening, book, numb, reunite,
calendar, date, crimson, summer

Indian Summer

I use to envy those girls,
With blond hair and blue eyes,
Their diary filled with butterfly kisses,
A Pretty little flower with a heart shape face,

Their calendar circled with the homecoming date,
My book was always empty,
I could not write what I needed to say,
Someone may pry,
Look inside…

Can’t have that…

Every secret exposed,
How do I explain these scrimshaw hands?
Those crimson scars are hard to hide,
Damn Cat.

Damn Cat indeed.

The church was the only one,
with a license for redemption.
And every summer they sent us there,
Hoping to save our souls…

It didn’t work.

We had more faith in our elders,
Than those black-robed nuns,
So eager to beat our hands with rulers,
making them numb,
Or make fun of our names.

Johnny Two-Step broke Sister Ann’s crystal vase,
She beat him black and blue.
The rest of us stood silently by,
Indian Children don’t cry…

But that night,
The evening sky was afire,
With such beauty,
We stood silently then too,

And none of us cried.

And in the summer when we reunite,
Celebrating our passage through life,
We remember that night,
And smile.

Johnny Two-step has such a lovely smile.


Fireside Poetry

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Reviewed by David Young 5/8/2006
I enjoyed this very much.
Reviewed by Robert Blackwell 4/22/2006
Very nicely done, Reindeer.
Reviewed by Connie Hinnen Cook 4/13/2006
A taste of Norwegian Wood, isn't it good.
Do I have it right that Johnny Two-step burned down the nunnery!?
This is so deep, and yet heart-breaking. How can anyone think they're teaching God's love by creating "cat scars"?
Or beating someone for breaking a vase!
Excellent poetry!
Reviewed by Phyllis Jean Green 4/12/2006
With you from word one !! This is absolutely wonderful.
Not only did you meet the challenge, you broke the rope
first, then ran around and won again. . .and again!!
ROSES !!! 'Pea' <3
Reviewed by Dale Clark 4/11/2006
Very good Retta! Excellent write!
Reviewed by Sandie Angel 4/11/2006
Excellent write! You hae met the challenge and beyond.

Sandie May Angel a.k.a. Sandie Angel :o)
Reviewed by Nordette Adams 4/10/2006
First, you are one helluva poet. :-) Attempting to force a religion on a group of people is a type of blasphemy in my opinion. To me such tactics only turn people against the very belief system that's foisted upon them, especially when those people observe clearly the hypocrisy of it all. And so many people, even some of those classified as white have been plagued by the myth of blonde-blue-eyed perfection. But I do believe the scar runs deeper for people of color who've also had to live with oppression by the dominant culture. I'm sorry that you experienced this during your childhood, Retta, but I rejoice in the poetry that flows out you because your experiences have made you you. This is a touching write, and gives us something to think about. Exceptional work! ~~Nordette
Reviewed by A PAX 4/10/2006
you met the challenge well

and what a terrible experience for children to go thru!!!!!

you are a survivor and a beautiful person Retta...........
pax A

Reviewed by Cynth'ya 4/10/2006
blessin's Sis Retta,
Reviewed by Peter Paton 4/10/2006
Some of the biggest demons in our society are masquerading as men and women of the cloth...
Your God brought you through these trials and tribulations...:)
That beautiful picture compliments the poem perfectly !
Love and Blessings
Reviewed by Kate Burnside 4/10/2006
Makes me weep... the grace and beauty that befits an honourable people. My heart bleeds for all who are oppressed by whatever form of "ruling class"... whose marks you bear, Retta. A soul seared with dignity and blessing and a mind whose wisdom speaks a higher road. Bless you and thank you. Kate xx
Reviewed by Ian Thorpe 4/10/2006
Not just native American kids Retta, or the dark skinned people of Africa and Asia. Many people tell of similar experiences in the "faith" schools of Britain and Ireland. My wife's bother was beaten by priests simply for having too much to say for himself.
If "the faith" is so wonderful I can't understand why it is so often necessary to beat it into people.
Excellent poem.
Reviewed by Dawn Richerson 4/9/2006
excellent poem, Reindeer, though sad you have known any of it firsthand. you've got the right touch in making people like Johnny Two-Step rise from the page and plant themselves in our hearts. Dawn
Reviewed by jude forese 4/9/2006
excellent poem! met the challenage effectively ...
Reviewed by Susan de Vegter 4/8/2006
I had diary until one of my four brothers made it an invitational before supper one night. Never again. I kept it all inside of me aftter that and my dad told me of the indians and how that which is dearest stays in th heart.

I love this warm poem and JOHNNY TWO-STEP.
Reviewed by Aberjhani 4/8/2006
A challenge very well met and, for this reader, surpassed.
Reviewed by Andre Bendavi ben-YEHU 4/8/2006
Wise way to show signs of the Pogrom of the Greek-Roman empire against Nations in the land, ~ which they named INDIAN LAND, (New World).

I hope that readers will hear the sounding of justice sung between the lines of this poetic magnificence.

I salute You, Poet!

Justice, Wisdom and Courage.

Andre Emmanuel Bendavi ben-YEHU
Reviewed by Mr. Ed 4/8/2006
A truly horrendous part of our nation's history, Reindeer - and you tell it painfully well. And it was not only our religious figures who committed these atrocities, it was also our government figures. And I truly hope we've learned a lesson here.
Reviewed by Trish - The Trickster 4/8/2006
Truly wonderful write Retta...Enjoyed this very much

Hugs, Trish
Reviewed by Lisa Hilbers 4/8/2006
There is evil in all races, and the most evil is those that deflate children's self-confidence. I ached not only for Johnny, but for all the Indian children that were there, having to withstand such bitter abuse.
Those nuns will be held accountable, and they of all should know that. Those robes don't give them free judgements, it just gives them a covering for their earthly bodies, they will stand naked before God, in every aspect of the word.
You've moved past and through the anger and bewilderment of mankind, and show a beautiful and gentle spirit.


Reviewed by Tinka Boukes 4/8/2006
Great offering..thanks for sharing!!

Love Tinka
Reviewed by F William Broome 4/8/2006
Thank you, Sweet Lady, for taking us to truth. We need constant reminders that what we were dealt as children, was not too different, and notworse than most others. Story book lives, are only that,"Story Book" tales of hope by writers who lived much as you did, but in other places, being mistreated by other adults in a mix of cruelty and ignorance. One of your best works appeas on this page, and I salute you for it. Blessings from all gods in all ways!
- Bill
Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner 4/8/2006

So many emotions I felt while reading these words; jealousy, anger, but mostly, overwhelming sadness.

Damn cat...nuns with rulers. It wasn't just the Indians who felt the taste of those rulers: left handed children (like me) did too. We were told we were evil, of the devil, and forced to write right-handed...I did at catechism, but as soon as I was out of class, I did what came naturally. Weird, though...I only use my left hand for writing and eating; everything else, right.

Indian children don't cry...yes, they do. Boys were told to be a man, don't show emotion...I've only seen my brother cry once. That was when Mom like to have killed me.

The memories you raised with this powerful, painful write--I'm sorry you lived it. I did, excellent write.

(((HUGS))) and love, Karla. *tears*
Reviewed by Regis Auffray 4/7/2006
Indian summer is me. I so get "beyond here" when Indian Summer comes. Love this, Retta. and I have a daughter named "Crystal" so I think I have some credibility here. Thank you. Love and peace,

Reviewed by Kate Clifford 4/7/2006
Thank you for this sharing of truth.
Reviewed by Sherry Heim 4/7/2006
There were Indian Schools here, Reindeer and they were horrible places where children were abused and never really taught the skills that would carry them into the world. Treated as though they were ignorant and told that their traditions had no place in the world today, many became ashamed of who they were and at that point, failed to prosper and thrive. The only ones they could stil relate to were those who went through the same things with them, making it difficult for them to take their place in the world outside their Tribal Nation. I still see many of our Native Americans struggling to find their balance between their traditional life and the white man's world. I am glad that you found the strength to rise above the evil and short-sighted people who you had to deal with.
Take care,
Reviewed by E T Waldron 4/7/2006
These are the memories that both elate and deflate, that old duality Reindeer! So sorry you had to meet up with such sorry excuses for God's work! He will give them their due! Glad you were able to overcome it. Love and nature are our inspiration when others fail us!Superb poem!

Reviewed by Ron (sketchman) Axelson 4/7/2006
Excellent write Retta...
Reviewed by Felix Perry 4/7/2006
As always Retta you take us to the scene and let us join your memory of what is truth and what needs to be said and understood. Not too many people can do that. Great work here.

Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 4/7/2006
Great write, Reindeer; very well done! Love the picture!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :(
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