Cynthia Anderson

A Tale of the Pleiades

On the longest night

they glow in the east,

 

a glittering diamond clasp—

sisters who flee their father

 

who decide to die together,

who escape to the heavens

 

to find a new home,

who shine from there

 

on Coyote. Found out,

they let him prevail,

 

let him ride to the stars

on the back of the youngest

 

who throws him off

when he cannot keep

 

his hands or his penis

to himself—

 

And though he falls

to earth and dies,

 

that does not stop him.

Bird songs tell

 

how the sisters rise

in their diadem of safety

 

while Coyote howls,

incorrigible

 

and immortal.


Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Her award-winning poems have appeared in journals such as Askew, Dark Matter, Apercus Quarterly, Whale Road, Knot Magazine, and Origami Poems Project. She is the author of five collections—”In the Mojave,” “Desert Dweller,” “Mythic Rockscapes,” and “Shared Visions I” and “Shared Visions II.” She frequently collaborates with her husband, photographer Bill Dahl. Cynthia co-edited the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens.

We’re Still Here by Joan Koerper and Marja Anderson

“We’re still here,” announced Paakuma Tawinat, member of the San Manuel Mission Indian Band of the Serrano Nation, to the standing-room-only crowd at the Wrightwood Historical Museum on November 6, 2015. Accompanied only by his gourd rattle, Tawinat opened his presentation in Serrano tradition, singing a melodic song honoring the Big Horn Sheep, sacred to his tribe.

In an entertaining, informative, and interactive demonstration, Tawinat shared the history, culture, and current status of the Serrano Nation whose territory once covered 10,156 square miles of the San Bernardino Mountains, the Banning Pass, and the Cajon Pass. Now, Serrano territory is reduced to 1.5 square miles: the San Manuel Indian Reservation.

When the Spanish arrived in Southern California, 30,000 Serrano called their territory home and spoke the language. Only 200 closely related Serrano remain. Tawinat’s distinguished elder cousin, Ernest Siva, is one of only two remaining Serrano speakers. Determined efforts are being made to recapture the language and teach it to new generations. Classes in the Serrano language are even being offered at Cal State San Bernardino.

Tawinat’s ancestors survived forced conversion, slavery, disease, loss of identity, the “War of Extermination” declared by California’s first Governor, and deployment of Serrano children to Indian Schools dedicated to the motto, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” His godmother was one of the last Serrano to attend the Indian School at St. Boniface in Banning.

The Serrano once flourished on over 300 local abundant foods: plants and animals of the mountains and valleys in large territories they shared with neighboring tribes, such as the Cahuilla. Under Spanish and American rule they died of starvation.

Traditionally, the Serrano made full use of their environmental resources building round dwellings from flexible wood poles, palm fronds, and willows, which they left behind to be absorbed back into the land. Clothing was made from yucca and plant fibers. Established trade routes were used to both augment and sell goods with other nations.

Musical instruments were formed from natural elements. Flutes were carved from hollowed-out wood and reeds, while acorn seeds filled gourd and deer hoof rattles. Drums were not part of the Serrano repertoire. Traditionally, the Serrano also excelled in basket making. The audience was invited to peruse sandals, baskets, musical instruments, and other Serrano wares on display.

Tawinat highlighted how knowledge of the changing seasons was critical to his ancestor’s survival. These lessons were passed along, in part, through Bird Songs, Big Horn Sheep stories, and Flood Stories.

The Serrano had, and have, a rich social and spiritual life believing in a higher power, shamanistic healing, an afterlife, coming of age rituals, and death rituals. Music, gambling, and stories are enjoyed by all ages.

Strict rules covering marriage are in place thus, in the past, most were arranged. Tawinat’s grandmother, Martha Manuel Chacon, was the last Serrano woman to enter into an arranged marriage.

“It is done,” Tawinat concluded in his native language, the traditional closing of a Serrano gathering.

The meeting may have concluded, but the Serrano Nation is, as Tawinat announced, “still here,” succeeding. Serrano ancestors live on in their descendants and in the land itself. Purposefully overturned grinding stones lie under oak trees anticipating the return of the people who used them. Artifacts mark the sites of villages, and clumps of Datura plants still wait for the shamans who once harvested them. And if you listen carefully you can hear the voices of the People, intoning sacred Big Horn Sheep Songs, riding the winds up the Cajon Pass to a strong and healthy future.


Postscript for this post: Marja Anderson joined me in penning this article. Marja has a Masters in Anthropology from UCR and has conducted fieldwork in Hong Kong and Malaysia.

This article was first published in the Mountaineer Progress newspaper on November 12, 2015. Unfortunately, due to editorial oversight, the hardcopy version published that day contained innumerable errors and repetitions. The newspaper admitted to the mistakes in the following weekly edition and made the necessary corrections for the online version of the paper.

Cynthia Anderson

The I-10

Born in 1897, a San Bernardino native son,
my grandfather lived to be 100. Late in life,
when we would take him out for a drive,
he would point to some shopping mall
off the I-10 and say, We used to hunt
rabbits there.

When he retired from title insurance,
he had a farm in Cherry Valley,
fruit trees and eggs. Then, in Yucaipa,
he looked after my grandmother
who hung on 22 years after a crippling
stroke, with a will to live she learned
as an only child in Randsburg,
where her father worked for the mines.

Time and again, I would drive down the coast,
pick up the I-10 in Santa Monica,
take it straight through the polluted heart
of L.A. to the hinterlands, find my way
to the Yucaipa house by memory,
never using a map, never thinking
about how much the freeway
had changed the land in its short life.

My grandfather spent his last days
in a convalescent hospital in Riverside.
He remembered when the palm trees
along on Magnolia Drive were planted,
recalled Sunday drives before the first
world war. He and my grandmother are buried
in Desert Lawn, hardly a resting place,
the I-10 a noisy witness to the end
of their lives and the world they knew.


Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Her award-winning poems have appeared in journals such as Askew, Dark Matter, Apercus Quarterly, Whale Road, Knot Magazine, and Origami Poems Project. She is the author of five collections—”In the Mojave,” “Desert Dweller,” “Mythic Rockscapes,” and “Shared Visions I” and “Shared Visions II.” She frequently collaborates with her husband, photographer Bill Dahl. Cynthia co-edited the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens.

Cynthia Anderson

Blackbush

Whatever I look at stays with me
long after the looking is over.

Lying in bed, I close my eyes
and see the blackbush I pulled
from the ground this morning.

They came up easily,
brittle wood breaking in my hands,
the pieces added to a growing pile.

The drought has done them in.
They could feed a wildfire,
send flames twenty feet high—
so it’s a matter of clearing.

The way those gray sticks rise
beneath my eyelids, it’s as though
they want to be remembered—

Like ancestors who hold on
because they cannot do otherwise.


Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Her award-winning poems have appeared in journals such as Askew, Dark Matter, Apercus Quarterly, Whale Road, Knot Magazine, and Origami Poems Project. She is the author of five collections—”In the Mojave,” “Desert Dweller,” “Mythic Rockscapes,” and “Shared Visions I” and “Shared Visions II.” She frequently collaborates with her husband, photographer Bill Dahl. Cynthia co-edited the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens.

Cynthia Anderson

Shadow of a Hawk

The flank of the mountain
is filled with lupine—
unexpected, the largest stand yet.
Bright afternoon sun
lights the purple slope,
where the hawk’s shadow
glides like a dark window
between this world and the next.
Some will not make it
through this day, shattering
at the sharp fall of the predator.
The survivors will flee, hide,
then emerge despite
the nature of chance.
Every sliver of life glitters
against that black background.


Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Her award-winning poems have appeared in journals such as Askew, Dark Matter, Apercus Quarterly, Whale Road, Knot Magazine, and Origami Poems Project. She is the author of five collections—”In the Mojave,” “Desert Dweller,” “Mythic Rockscapes,” and “Shared Visions I” and “Shared Visions II.” She frequently collaborates with her husband, photographer Bill Dahl. Cynthia co-edited the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens.

Contributor Biographies

Cynthia Anderson is a writer and editor living in Yucca Valley, CA. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, and she has received poetry awards from the Santa Barbara Arts Council and the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Her collaborations with photographer Bill Dahl are published in the book, Shared Visions.

Lee Balan was the first editor and art director for Beyond Baroque Magazine in Venice, CA.  His poems and stories have been featured in several magazines including Phantom Seed, Sun-Runner, and Storylandia. He was the facilitator for the Tenderloin Writer’s Workshop in San Francisco. His background in mental health has been a major influence on his work. Lee has been the featured poet at several events and venues including the Palm Springs Art Museum.  Recently, Lee self published his first novel Alien Journal.

Nancy Scott Campbell has been a desert hiker and resident for more than twenty years.  She has been a mediator, has taught English as a second Language, is a physical therapist,  and is delighted with the workshops of the Inlandia Institute.

With their girls grown and independent, Marcyn Del Clements and her husband, Richard, have more time to pursue their favorite activities: birding, butterfly and dragonfly watching, and fly-fishing. Marcy is published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Appalachia, Eureka Literary Magazine, Flyway, frogpond, Hollins Critic, Literary Review, Lyric, Sijo West, Snowy Egret, Wind, and others.

Mike Cluff is a fulltime English and Creative Writing instructor at Norco College. He has lived steadily in the Highland and Redlands area since 1998. His eighth book of poetry “Casino Evil was published in June 2009 by Petroglyph Books.

Rachelle Cruz is from the Bay Area but currently lives and writes in Riverside, CA.  She has taught creative writing, poetry, and performance to young people in New York City, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Riverside. She hosts “The Blood-Jet Writing Hour” Radio Show on Blog Talk Radio. She is an Emerging Voices Fellow and a Kundiman Fellow, she is working towards her first collection of poems.

Sheela Sitaram Free (“Doc Free”) was born in Mumbai, India and has spent equal halves of her life in India and in the United States. Her BA in English Literature and Language, MA in English and American Literature and Language, MA in Hindi, PhD in the Contemporary American Novel-novels of John Updike-and her twenty four years of teaching all across the United States in Universities, colleges, and community colleges reveal her lifelong passion for the power of words, especially in the context of world literature and writing. Her collection of poetry entitled “Of Fractured Clocks, Bones and Windshields was published in February 2009 and nominated for the Association of Asian American Studies as well as the Asian American Workshop awards in 2010. She has been writing for over 20 years, but it was the Inland Empire that inspired and motivated her to publish; she has simply loved being a part of it for 9 years now. It is home to her and she draws a great deal of material from it in her poetry.

Karen Greenbaum-Maya is a clinical psychologist in Claremont, California. She has been writing since she was nine. In another life, she was a German Literature major and read poetry for credit. She has placed poems and photographs in many publications, including Off the Coast, Umbrella, Abyss & Apex, qarrtsiluni, Poemeleon, Lilliput Review, In Posse Review, and Sow’s Ear Poetry Review. She was nominated for the 2010 Pushcart Prize. Her first chapbook, Eggs Satori, received an Honorable Mention in Pudding House Publications’ 2010 competition, and will be published in 2011.

Valerie Henderson is an MFA Fiction student at CSUSB. More of her work can be found in The Sand Canyon Review.

Edward Jones is a graduate of UC Riverside’s MFA program and has been published in Faultline, Crate, Mosaic, and Inlandia: A Literary Journey.

Judy Kronenfeld is the author of four poetry collections including “Ghost Nurseries,” a Finishing Line chapbook (2005) and “Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths”, winner of the Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize (2008). Her poems, as well as the occasional short story and personal essay have appeared in many print and online journals including Calyx, Cimarron Review, The American Poetry Journal, Fox Chase Review, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, Natural Bridge, The Hiram Poetry Review, Passager, Poetry International, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Stirring, The Women’s Review of Books, and The Pedestal, as well as in a dozen and a half anthologies or text books, including Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California (Greenhouse Review Press/Alcatraz Editions, 2008), Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease (Kent State University Press, 2009), and Love over 60: An Anthology of Women’s Poems (Mayapple Press, 2010). She is a lecturer Emerita—after twenty-five years of teaching in the Creative Writing Department at UC Riverside. Her new poetry collection, “Shimmer,” has just been accepted by WordTech Editions.

Associate Fiction Editor Ruth Nolan, a former wildland firefighter and native of San Bernardino and the Mojave Desert, teaches Creative Writing and Literature at College of the Desert in Palm Desert. She is a poet and prose writer with works forthcoming in New California Writing, 2011 (Heyday, 2011) and in Sierra Club Magazine. She is editor of No Place for a Puritan: The Literature of California’s Deserts (Heyday, 2009) and a contributor to Inlandia: A Literary Journey (Heyday, 2006) She has collaborated on two film projects, “Escape to Reality: 24 hrs @ 24 fps” with the UCR-California Museum of Photography (2008), is a writer for a film in progress, Solar Gold: the Killing of Kokopelli (2011), and represents our region’s deserts in the “Nature Dreaming: Rediscovering California’s Landscapes” public radio series sponsored by Santa Clara University and the California Council for the Humanities (2011) She lives in Palm Desert.

Cindy Rinne has lived in the Inland Empire for 29 years. She is an artist and poet. Her poetry includes nature inspiration, parts of overheard conversations, observations on walks, life events, and her response to her own artwork and the works of others.

Except for a short-lived adventure to Long Beach, CA, Heather Rinne has lived in the Inland Empire her entire life. She grew up in San Bernardino and attended college at Cal Poly Pomona where she received a BFA in 2008. She  loved and still loves exploring the art community in the downtown Arts Colony. A fire took her parents’ home, the home where her childhood memories lived, in the fall of 2003. Even with the unexpected chance to move, her parents decided to rebuild on the same lot. Back in the place where she grew up, she makes new memories. She currently works as a Graphic Designer and Photographer out of her home office and dances at a studio in Redlands. She enjoys Redlands because it has a lot of history and is only a short trip to the desert, the city, the mountains, and the ocean.

Ash Russell is an MFA candidate at CSUSB. She has been telling stories since she learned how to speak and writing since she learned to string the alphabet together. She relearns regularly that the magnitude of space is emotionally devastating.

Mae Wagner is firmly rooted in the Inland Empire area and sees Inlandia stories everywhere just waiting to be told. She says, “writing has always been a passion, but was largely relegated to the back burner while she focused on raising a family, earning a living, and going to school.” Over the years, as a longtime Inland Empire resident, she has written for a public relations firm, the Riverside Chamber of Commerce, The Chino Champion newspaper, and had several columns published in the Op-Ed page of the Press-Enterprise when it was locally owned, including a noted investigate journalism series focused on a landmark environmental case involving the Stringfellow Acid Pits in Glen Avon, just west of Riverside. She currently writes a column for her home town paper in Hettinger, North Dakota and is enjoying being a member of the Inlandia Creative Writing Workshops, which she has attended since its opening session in the summer of 2008.

As a child, Rayme Waters spent some time each year at her grandmother’s house in Rancho Mirage and watched the desert cities grow up around it. Rayme’s stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Dzanc Best of the Web and have been published most recently in The Meadowland Review and The Summerset Review.