You Bring Out the Abalone In Me
(after Sandra Cisneros)
You bring out the abalone in me.
The slick, slippery flesh in me.
The hard-silk iridescent shell.
The bitter tannin.
The acorn meat on the grinding stone
the pounding between stones that goes on for days.
For you, I would give up my white flour,
white sugar, lactose-laden milk addiction.
Eat your gourmet locovore meals,
decolonize my diet.
– uh-huh. Uh-huh.
You bring out the frenzied tail-whipping salmon in me.
The abalone mother of pearl in me.
The Monterey estuary thick with silver backs.
The thrashing homeward past grizzlies gorging with scaly grins.
The strategic wildfire in me.
The trigger of seeds snapping open.
The green flash of life in ashes.
The Big Sur tempest in me.
The rogue wave surge, swallow-tourists-
sweep-them-halfway-to-Hawaii-in-seconds in me.
The dolphin in me.
The legend of rainbow bridge, sinewy people of the sea in me.
The San Francisco quake n’ bake in me.
The fear of drought in me.
Yes, you do. You do.
You bring out the Bear Dance in me.
The Deer Dance of desire in me.
The Swordfish Dance stab in me.
The dove gray cocoon rattles in me.
The elderberry clappersticks in me.
The all night all day all night again Solstice song in me.
The Spanish soldado de cuera cruelty in me.
The priest’s cross decorated with feathers and shells in me.
Deer one. My tulecita,
I am the hunter you will lie down for,
those obsidian knife kisses along your jugular.
Your heart belongs to me,
no amar dios, no neofita, no kidnapped conversion.
I want to bathe in your blood and be cleansed.
I want to strip you naked as only pagans can be.
I want to caste out your demons
in the thick black air of the sweat lodge.
You bring out the abalone in me,
tanoch, and you like it.
You bring out the assassination of priests in me.
The burning-arrows-in-the-Mission-thatched-roofs in me.
The Tears of the Sun Rebellion in me.
The Toypurina guerilla woman leader in me.
The 1802 measles epidemic in me.
The God’s Will fever of smallpox in me.
The bad aguaguardiente home brew in me.
The San Andreas rattlesnake of jealousy.
The inter-generational post-colonial stress syndrome
late-night craving for wine in me. Ay.
I am savage. I am Coyote’s heathen twin.
I am the flooder of continents.
The hard white marble mountain top of creation.
The single footprint of the only survivor. You bring out
the pre-contact Eden in me.
The love-medicine concoction in me.
The U.S. government lie and ‘49er lust in me.
The Fifteen Unratified California Treaties in me.
Green turtle. Quicksilver. Black sand. Gold.
Mugwort. Cedar. White sage. Angelica root.
All you ancestors, saved and unsaved,
I see you.
kaiusen cha’a me. sinne me xawan. sinne me.
kaiusen inlam. ka muisin. ka mec mui’sin exe.
Love the way an abalone woman loves. Let
me ruin you. Love the uncivilized way.
by Deborah A. Miranda
About this poem: Every year in my beginning poetry workshop, I assign one poem as an 'imitation' poem - students write their version of a published poet's work. This year, I assigned everyone the same poem: Sandra Cisneros's "You Bring Out the Mexican In Me." And, for the first time, I started to work on a California Indian version myself. It took about two months of writing just a few lines every day, then one long afternoon of polishing and revising to come up with something I'm happy to share. Thanks, Sandra, for the inspiration!