Friday, March 28, 2008

Eric Gansworth's poem, "Loving That Land O'Lakes Girl"

I met Eric Gansworth earlier this month at the Returning the Gift meeting at Michigan State University. He is an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation. While at MSU, I bought two of his books. One is about Big Foot. Titled Breathing the Monster Alive, the art throughout the book is Gansworth's. If you work with teens who are into graphic novels, you should take a look at Breathing the Monster Alive. I've only begun reading it, and I remember--as does Eric--watching "The Legend of Boggy Creek" when I was a kid, and being... afraid.

As I write this post, I'm at the Native American Literature Symposium, being held this year at the Mystic Lake Casino in Minneapolis. Eric is tonight's keynote speaker. At Michigan State, he read the poem I share with you today (below). It is from his book A Half-Life of Cardio-Pulmonary Function.

Some of you will love this poem; others will not. Some of you will think it does not belong in the arena we call children's literature, and for little ones, it certainly does not. Critically-thinking high school students, however, will love it--assuming they've developed a critical eye with regard to representation of American Indians.

Loving That Land O'Lakes Maiden

She is the first lesson
in love for many Indian
boys, all tanned hide
and feathers, features straight
out of Hollywood, but she lights
the spark for those red boys
and probably for some
black and white and brown
ones as well, for anyone
who learns her
tricks, really, and they're
not that hard
to master.

She stares out at all from a burst
of sunrise and lush flora kneeling,
hands suspended before her,
framing her bossom with infinitely
smaller versions of herself.

First release her from the cardboard
landscape she inhabits, then
carefully remove the product
placement in front of her,
and just below, fold her spine
back, and back again without
regard to the vertebrae
you snap along the way.

Carefully position her
and her magical side emerges
transforming those round knees
into ample breasts, ditching her
old franchise for Hooters, as she
flashes you with a smile and so much more.

She is by all accounts
"like buddah," all slick
skinned, sweet and soft,
lightly salted,
and when you touch her
you leave an impression
that stays until the next
hot thing comes along.

Is it any wonder Indian women
have grown tough and strong
with competition like that?

1 comment:

jpm said...

Oh, Gansworth's poem brought back a memory of when a couple of guys I knew showed me the Land O' Lakes packaging "secret". That was almost 30 years ago. They weren't Native, but clearly they were intrigued by the way they could make the image become something else. Thinking about it now feels kind of creepy, but Gansworth sees some humor....