Back to Paula Gunn Allen Online Memorial


(or The Trick Is Going Home)

For Paula Gunn Allen

I am the real Hollywood Indian,
born there on Sunset & Vermont in the heyday long before
Wounded Knee and Alcatraz and the movement
back when we were just “colored”,
and we tried on the Mestizo accent
of East Los,
and the signifying trait of Esu at the towers,
but later that voice became red and we spoke the language
of the colonizers
and we began to sing the songs of our own tongues cut out
by force from our mouths and red lines drawn in the blood
shell color of our ancestors
and I was that ancestor
on Sunset and Vermont.

I am the real Hollywood Indian,
with my squash blossoms turning to silver butterflies in the breeze
in the old Los Angeles haze
and eagle vision spirit eye of the mountains at night,
the sparkle of city lights over a
haze of heat and desert air that causes me to breathe,
and I am flying
at night in the stars where I can see
through the eyes of the eagle,
Wahaliatka, Eagle Woman.

I am the real Hollywood Indian,
not some Miss Thang turned California golden child,
sniffing the remnants of some china cup and saucer
thrown to the night wolves along Sunset and Gower –
their studio is my front yard-
and I act out desires on flesh and blood,
red lines on paper, tea and scones at sundown,
boy of the moment no longer and I am more real than you will ever

I am the real Hollywood Indian,
a blessing and burden of myth,
a howl on a night wind, vision and virgin light from the dead stars above,
down through the canyons loping with a bay moon of time and
space and all that is between
and I am still here,
Watching creation spin on its axis and spitting out the stars

I am the real Hollywood Indian,
the one who left and remained the same,
who emerged from dark desert canyons and minds of frightened girls,
who lived to tell the tale and keeps telling,
shouting out blood to all who will listen,
spitting red on a page to all who will hear
and I am still here.

I am the real Hollywood Indian,
a ceremony in the making.
On Sunset and Vermont running on all fours,
a hat of black velvet covering my youth, my blessed age,
my being and continuing that is the song of my mother,
and I will not tell you again,
my words have been spoken.

I am the real Hollywood Indian,
speechless and serene in my rage
and I will scream at the top of my voice
until I can no longer force it back up,
birthing stars and dreaming the Sun,
new visions and new ceremonies
and I will call you home.

I am the real Hollywood Indian,
the trickster who birthed herself,
Wahalitka, Eagle Woman,
sharp-eyed, fierce-lipped,
denied everything, given nothing
save for the hawk at my back,
the thorn in my side,
silver butterflies visioning heaven,
caustic vision and ancestral memory in the eye of the eagle,
and I will see you reborn.

© 2001 Carolyn Dunn 

reprinted with permission




shawl poem
for paula

you wove yourself a shawl of words
wrapped it tight about you
lifted your chin
and high-stepped in
to kick off the grand entry

you wove yourself a shawl of names
tsechenako kochinnenako hwame
porivo koshkalaka pocahontas

you wove yourself a shawl of thoughts
gynocratic theosophic cosmic
profane sacred fearsome funny

you pierced the edges with your awl,
your sharp eyesight, your anger,
your fierce love for the thoughtworlds
destroyers could not claim

you leapt right in, a riot of fringe,
a fractal trail of pollen,
a spiral of stars,
your laugh a revolt against drought and boredom

we all fell in behind you

some of us looked both ways first
some of us kept an ancient rhythm
some of us tripped along in shiny black heels
and some sulked backwards in muddy boots
too proud to call you auntie

we are cree sioux cherokee osage breed pinoy
dykes and white girls who just love a drum
we are women who wear the shawl of words
you wove against oblivion



(c) joanna brooks
reprinted with permission





May 18, 2008


My friend is dying

not my friend


my mother





the unknown




that carried me


so many worlds



Where to place my foot

is clear


she gave me keys

to locks


or the car

I often can't remember


but her voice



from a book

deep in a stack

office floor strewn




those words

carry me

forward now

to where I

wanted to be



(c) Leslie Kay

reprinted with permission  





First Language

for PGA


Tectonic plates crush words together,

syllables pulse in Earth’s crust, pressure

rises in rifts of memory and dream,  

held in Earth’s mind, smoothed by wind, rain.

Burst of language, Her torn skin,

rock-fired words, micaceous glisten,

clay hardening around sound and sense

but hollowed, porous like Earth Herself.

An urn of stardust we emerge,

our voice—Her mind, Her breath, Her image.


(c) Mary Churchill

reprinted with permission





            Home Calling
        (for Paula Gunn Allen)
Lately New Mexico calls to me.
Maybe it's the friends, maybe mesas or
some purity of light that never left
my heart when I waved Vaya con Dios
to Taos.  I still see that young woman
blaze like dawn along canyon walls,
believing warmth will soften any
hardness.  She comes as a stranger now,
her face in mirrors rock, no sun
touching the shadow places
with holy fire.
Here in the East I've grown too sad,
eyes clouded with falling towers
on a stolen island –
here, after you died in the night, Paula,
I recalled winter's conversation,
you lilting Lately New Mexico calls to me
in 1940's gin & cigarette voice, lung cancer
and chemo further roughening the mix. 
Certainly we spoke about mixings,
two mixed bloods, breeds, yearning
for home, some steady earth balancing
our feet.  And I'll carry forever
understandings you gifted to me
from north California beach –
Many mixed bloods, especially
women, feel chronic fatigue.
The "bloods" war against each other
inside our bodies.  My Scots-Laguna
mother taught me that.  We half-
laughed about others failing to notice
our terrible tiredness.  You joked Yeah,
they think we're normal, never suspect
we're about to faint, or worse, we're poets.
Lately friends urge me to write happy poems
and odes of joy call to me as New Mexico calls –


then, Paula, I remember your death song,
Despite the cancer, despite my house
burning to the ground, I won't give up.
I'll grow stronger.  I'll dance again
at Laguna Pueblo.
New Mexico called you all the way, Paula.
In my grief I dance with you, your beloved
trumpet vines in bloom, hummingbirds whirring
deep into orange flowerings of happiness, you
a pain-free girl blossomed with bird energy.
Sparkly eyed daughter of dawn, I hear you –
laughter of last stars, dreams of turquoise,
sage-fragrant limbs flying, shining.
Paula, it's over, the split life, the wars inside
and out, the human cruelties, stupidities.
Sister to so many of us, welcome home. 
© Susan Deer Cloud

Reprinted with permission




My mother’s name was Shimanna
Which mean ‘raincloud’ in our language.
It was a name bestowed upon her
By a wise old elder
Steeped in secret lore.
It was a ceremonial token
Of her entrance to his sacred lodge
The secret gathering place of the tribe.
But it was not an indian name.
The tradition was not Laguna.
The tradition was not Sioux.
The one who named her was gay
And the token he gave bespoke,
Years ahead of its time,
Her admittance to that tribe.


(c) Suleiman Allen







in your house
amongst the
pretty laced
china cup,
silk scarves
and books lining the shelves,
I take comfort
in you having
slept here,
thought new worlds
breathed fire here,
made your enemies
drink their own blood,
watched the sun rise,
the sound of water
slowly spreading
its fingers in loving
Your beautiful
linens, wallpapered
borders hand-drawn,
woven in color and content,
all in one.

I’m not long for
this world,
you said in
a dream
of another time,
space, life, lace,
feathered light and air,
yet there you sat, telling
me it was time.
Then you were gone.

Five hundred miles later,
through old haze,
children crying,
gnarled trunks
and congested airways,
I lay here, looking for you.
A last song of days
looms sweetly
amongst the tangled web
you so carefully spun from
your body,
fingers dancing, spinning,
until time stood still.
I lay here, dreaming your voice,
watching light and air
fall from spinarets and
thousand faceted eyes
of sky blown clouds.

Last night,
frogs sang, calling rain home.
The sky opened up,
dreaming the dark rimmed
edge of night along
a rain basted sky,
clouds seamless,
the only thing missing
was you.

© 2008 Carolyn Dunn




Long-Distance Gifts

For Paula Gunn Allen

Look into the palms of these hands
my hands were so young and inexperienced,
she took them gently, my teacher, my auntie
professor, my grandmother
the whole way from California
she took my hands into her hands
so she could look into the lines and
marks of my birth, my dreams, my
failures and joys. Into the depths of
what I brought with me through my
mother, what my ancestors, Natives
of the East and Jews from the Mediterranean
wrote on my hands, she read their messages.

All the way from California, Professor Auntie Paula
looked into my hands that she had taken
into her hands the month before, and declared
“Ah, you’re a traditional.”
“You better shake them up, girlfriend!”
“Jewish Indian women are dangerous, you know!”
Across the phone lines our voices travelled, from
sea to shining sea: half laughter and half Indian talk.
Across purple mountains’ majesty: Laughing and culture
women’s mixed blood laughter together with
women’s mixed blood culture together with
women’s mixed blood education together with
women’s love. Mother and daughter. Teacher and student.
Grandmother of Ancient Wit and Tricks, and Granddaughter
learning the Women’s Traditions written in eternity, caught among
college culture, blood politics, phone wires, and the last time we hugged.

Now I am standing under the white pine who has
cradled twenty-foot canes of pink rose blossoms
in my front yard. December’s tornado pushed over
every oak in its path, but she still rises. My hands
are turned to the sky. It is June and
I am weeping at the loss of my treasured teacher
covered in fallen petals and honeysuckle perfume
in the dark I pray for her.

On Friday, with my hands still open I light
Sabbath candles and set a place for Auntie Paula
at our dinner meal. In a vase there are peony blossoms.
To the empty chair, to her spirit,
I tell jokes, then sit on the porch with my drum and sing.

Stephanie A. Sellers




If you have a poem written for or about Paula, email it to info at paulagunnallen dot net.