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FISSURE: A Life Between Cultures


In the early 1980s I was homeless. I didn't think of it that way because to me, at the time, being homeless meant living on the street, which I never did. I was a lost soul, living for days or weeks in other people's homes. At one point I spent three weeks on the UC Berkeley campus, participating in a nutrition study, which gave me room and board and a stipend. From there I moved into an SRO, a Single Room Occupancy, also known as a "residence hotel." I worked at the desk there for my room and board and created an editing and typing business for spare change. I operated a switchboard that had survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and met women who had been shoved out of mental institutions by the Reagan policy. I got to know women from China who were studying for a six-week stint at the Van Ness Business College. I talked every day to a woman who had made the hotel her home since 1936. There was a chiropractor who had lived there for fifteen years. There were transients––tourists from Germany, Ireland and Jamaica, a young lesbian couple coming to the Promised Land from South Dakota, staying in the hotel while they sought jobs and someplace permanent.


In October of that year, I decided to return to New Mexico and the larger Southwest. I could hardly wait. One night, shortly before leaving, I wrote a poem I called "nightsong" about my joy to be coming home. Yet, I would still be homeless for many more months. It was New Mexico that was home and the Navajo Nation that was Home-Not-Home. I was going back to both.


While I was packing to leave New Mexico for Iowa, which I will do a week from now, I found that poem. I didn't know I still had it. So, although I'm leaving my New Mexico home now, it seems fitting to share the poem that tells of my deep connection here.




rain tonight in san francisco

past midnight     on the narrow bed

in the dark           

hear water slapping cement

drainpipes  chuggalugg


missing you

hours    talking    eating        laughing

in our kitchens

playing cards til 4am

hearing willie nelson        on the road again


i am coming home     i am coming

        blue sky

        red rocks

        green chiles

        mutton stew

        lazy brown mud houses

        brown skins

i am coming home


the red earth    wild animals howl at harvest moon

dry corn cracks on Canyon floor

i am coming

my     self wild wide deep   and    voluptuous as

      The Canyon

i am coming home


       golden yellow aspens

       smokey blue mountain ravines

       dust clouds down the road


       i   am   coming   home




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