WRITINGS  

 

Cisneros and Alexie:
Different Fights, Same Moon
(an analytical fiction of sorts)

 

My friend Adrian told me that he introduced Sherman Alexie to his current wife at a pow-wow somewhere up towards Spokane. I can only assume that Mr. and Mrs. Alexie are happily married; funny that it may be the result of boys smuggling alcohol into the pow-wow in their mouths just as Alexie describes in "No Drugs or Alcohol Allowed," one of the poems from his first chapbook: The Business of Fancydancing.

Sandra Cisneros, who wrote Woman Hollering Creek, I think would have liked Alexie. Cisneros, whose bio militantly declares "she is nobody’s mother and nobody’s wife," would probably be shocked to learn of her fictional affair with the Indian poet. Nevertheless, it exists: as passionate and explicit as any boy’s fantasy.

Fictionally speaking, Cisneros’ coquetry is blatant. Her lyrical sentences boarder on poetry, and she refuses to be corralled into any single prosaic form. Her work wants this native son as much as she wants her skin to "get so dark it’s blue where it bends," as she writes in "My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn." Alexie is also formalistically deviant, his poems sometimes bordering on prose, and he is just as guilty of fictional flirtation. "I would steal horses for you," he writes in one of his Indian Boy Love Songs, strangely reminiscent of Chaq’s promise to "love [her] like a revolution, like a religion."

And what about that Chaq?

Chaq represents the native aspect of Cisneros’ heritage. Chaq, the Mayan rain god, the god of love and life, finds himself transformed into a vagrant in Cisneros’ "One Holy Night." This is strangely reminiscent of Alexie’s Crazy Horse, especially in "Giving Blood": "All the Indians left this city last night while I was / sleeping / and forgot to tell me." Cisneros writes of Chaq: "The stars foretell everything, he said. My birth. My son’s. The boy-child who will bring back the grandeur of my people…" Both characters find themselves alone, due to circumstances beyond their control, and are simply trying to revive their race.

Of course Alexie and Cisneros would hit it off. They both have an affinity for inserting into their stories or poems these near-mythical characters, these historical figures who harbor so much symbolism and meaning, but who have to struggle just like all the Indians or all the Chicanos to make sense of the world and survive within it.

They would meet in some theoretical place where the purpose of heritage is not to explain one history to one group of people, but rather to explain all histories to all people. It would be a hypothetical world where reservations meld with barrios, and diverse heritages come together to wash away class and race distinction. Alexie would offer commodities from the HUD and BIA offices, as he does in "Reservation Love Song," and Cisneros would offer tamales and cucumbers.

She could probably help Alexie understand the 3/16 of him that is not Indian, and likewise he could help her make sense of the native portion of her blood. Reservation mathematics could work in the rundown neighborhoods Cisneros brings to life in her stories. Her friend Lucy, the one "who smells like corn," could tell her that. And you can’t tell Alexie that somewhere, on some reservation, there aren’t two mixed blood girls jumping up and down on a pissy mattress. Both could come together to paint the most beautiful slum, and make that dingy neighborhood so touching and inviting that the european and native elements that have combined to simultaneously create and destroy cultural heritage could finally fuse into a whole.

They have both lost something. In "Tepeyac," Abuelito takes to the beyond with him a deeper sense of tradition and history than Cisneros had the opportunity to grasp: "you took with you to your stone bed something irretrievable, without a name." Alexie lost his Grandmother, who always said that "time never mattered," and they gave him her clock to remember her by. But all is not lost. Cisneros writes "it is me who will remember when everything else is forgotten." It could be said of Alexie that what he wants most is help remembering since he is just shy of obsessive about the dangers of forgetting.

Yes, they could have each other, in this theoretical world where fictions live and breathe and interact. Formalistically daring, their courtship would be as fluid and beautiful, as enraged and cerebral, as their individual work. Theirs are stories and concepts that produce a glimmer of order in the otherwise chaotic miasma of human experience. Their fictions could combine, and they would create a new story that is neither history nor herstory, but a culmination of heritage and belief that tells a story of cultures that aren’t as different as they seem and people who are aware of each other.

 

 

 

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