Writer in Residence ยท 12/13/2010

An Overlooked Tribe in Rural Pennsylvania

STEVEN BREYAK’S ORIGINAL:

AN OVERLOOKED TRIBE IN RURAL PENNSYLVANIA

Walking in the woods behind my childhood home
I came across a tribe of little people. Well,
they were maybe 4-foot-something on average
but definitely small enough to group them in a tribe.
That, and they were wearing strange clothes and pointing
spears at me. They looked native, but one never knows.
Haven’t you heard of the New World? I asked,
Manifest Destiny, all that? They looked at one another
and then all back to me as if to say, No. Then one spoke.
In English (I know, surprised me too) he told me that others
had happened by, but never seemed to notice them and their life
along this property line between the my parents’ and Old Man Weeber’s.
They asked if I would keep quiet and leave them be. They’d gotten by
generations on small game, spring water and a few wild berry bushes,
and they just wanted to be alone together right where they were. Of course,
I said. Why should they bother me now, after so long unseen? No problem.
They lowered their spears and disappeared, and I tried to remember
some appropriate bit of folklore to give the event context.
I was happy with my luck, both in seeing them and still being alive.
I walked about the rest of the afternoon smiling at trees and shooting
fingers at birds. But when I got back to the house something about
the whole event really irked me. Maybe it was having a spear
shoved in my face on my own property, or just all the potentials
that come with freeloaders and the homeless. Before it was too late
I phoned Immigration, but it was too late. I’d have to wait till morning.

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THE REMIX:

THE SHADOW OF THE SOFT BREEZE

Walking in the woods I came across a wandering tribe. Here they were, after so long unseen, eyes aglow & waving spears. Natives. Haven’t you heard of Mother Earth? they asked, The Evening Breeze, all that? With spears and teeth they asked me to be quiet, & leave them be. They’d gotten by for generations on wild berries, birds, fawns, stray homeless, & they just wanted to be alone, together. They spoke in the atonal notes of a violin, mouths slashing the air, eyes lost within the breath of small game fallen, along the shadow of the soft breeze. Then their spears & they, gone into the shadows. I walked about, smiling, trying to know Mother Earth, her hips, her laughter. I walked about, along the eerie glow, the blood hued leaves. While the ghostly violin tune lingered against the night & into the morning.

Remixer’s process: This remix is actually a mashup of “An Overlooked Tribe” and Gaudry’s “Halloween Sestina” from yesterday. My purpose goes no deeper than I liked the idea of mashing up two narrative poems and I had two unremixed poems sitting in front of me (along with a scissors and a pen). I intially did two mashups, applying the language of the second poem to the “plot” of the first poem. Eventually I scraped the less successful Gaudry-plot mashup, but I liked this one, especially how it warped Breyak’s plot.

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posted by Robert Kloss