By guest writer, Patricia St. Onge
What am I doing here? Yesterday, I was sitting on my mama’s lap. Her heart was beating fast… it’s been happening more and more as we’ve been on this magical adventure. Moving every day, walking on different paths, finding new foods to eat. The roots taste different, the flowers have different smells. Every night as the sun goes to bed, the sky shines with different colors; reds and oranges when we were still near home. The night before last, the last time we were under open sky, rich purples and pink.
All the way, I had mama’s warm, familiar skin next to mine. Sweet smell of her milk, earth under her fingernails, and the sweat. It’s different from the ‘work-hard’ sweat smell I remember from home. This water dripping in her eyes, also seeps out from her skin—everywhere. As the days passed, I noticed the smell of it changing. Some day, too soon, I’ll understand it as the smell of fear that covers an anger too dangerous to express. For now, it’s a new smell that makes me want to pinch my nose shut!
On the Migrant Trail, 2008
Last night, we settled in the woods. Late in the night, I was asleep wrapped into her, the most comfortable place in the world I know. Bright lights were suddenly glaring in my eyes. Everyone waking, shaking the sleep off like a bug that’s landed on your arm. Running, screaming, the light crashing in on all of us. Time stopped being time, and turned into some kind of monster.
We ran through the woods, breath leaving us like warmth on the first cold morning of winter. Racing heartbeat pounding so hard, I can feel it in my whole body. Mine joining without knowing why. The heartbeat slows, hardly noticeable at first, and still in harmony. We turned into a little clearing and were once again assaulted by light. Giant headlights from a row of trucks came on all at once, turning night into day with a kind of violence that the real day would not approve.
I can still hear mama screaming, feel the big white hands pulling me away from the deepest sense of home I know. I wake up this morning after crying myself to sleep in this cage. What am I doing here?
Guest bio: Grandmother, mother, partner, friend. Patricia St. Onge (Haudenosaunee, Quebecoise, adopted Lakota) is all that and a writer who teaches, coaches and offers consulting at Seven Generations Consulting. She lives in a growing community in East Oakland called Nafsi ya Jamii (The Soul Community).
Louise’s afterword: Our writing group saw the new film on Toni Morrison then tried a prompt Morrison gave in her writing classes — “Write about someone or something you don’t know.” None of us had personal connections with what is going on now at our southern borders but it obviously weighs on our hearts and touches our deep humanity because this is what poured out spontaneously in fifteen minutes onto the pages of Patricia’s notebook. The photographs are mine, from an earlier period in border militarization, ten years ago, when I took Undoing the Silence to Tucson and was able to go with the local Samaritans to leave bottled water along the migrant trails and visit Nogales with the educational organization Borderlinks. From what I’ve learned since about our history, the word “border” should be used in quotation marks. Fences and walls were the hallmarks of colonization. This beautiful land with the peoples who lived on it should never have been divided in that way. Even when I was there, the situation was heartbreaking. Patricia’s work brings the new, even harsher realities home.