I Am Not a Witness

byDeborah Miranda
I found Coyote, Eagle, and Momoy
in a book, but cannot read
the Chumash words. I found
photographs of bedrock slabs pocked by
hundreds of acorn-grinding holes,
but the holes are empty, the stone
pestles that would curve to my grip
lie dead behind museum glass.
Mountains and rivers and oaks rise
in Spanish accents: San Gabriel,
Santa Ynez, Robles.
These are not real names.

Some of our bones rest in 4000 graves
out back behind the Mission.
Some of our bones are mixed into mud
to strengthen cool thick walls
where smallpox and measles came and stayed.
Some of our bones washed down the river
whose name I do not know
past islands I cannot name
to the sea where
I have never sailed.

Mixed-blood, I lay claim by the arch
of my eyebrows, short nose, dark hands.
1 am not a witness. I am left behind, child
of children who were locked in the Mission
and raped. I did not see this:
I was not there--but I am here.
Where is the place that knows me?

From Indian Cartography, Greenfield Review Press, 1998.
© 1998 Deborah Miranda

Return to the Deborah Miranda website