Sunday, November 22, 2015

One Eighth

One Eighth

Most of my people came here to escape 
starvation and oppression, some 
even shipped without their consent, 
their names respelled to suit 
the culture and education of the person 
logging them in at the point of arrival.

My people came here and scattered 
like dandelion seed, seeking their 
own but considering the new start 
a better option to starvation. 
Didn’t matter that their wages 
cost less than keeping slaves. 

They buried us where we fell;
the mine, the levy, the battlefield.
I come from these people, who were white,
and became american. Who had all 
the babies, half of whom lived. I come from people
who say Jaysus, Mary, and Joseph, and it’s not blasphemy.

Except for that one eighth.
The one eight that would make me 
african or asian or native. The one eighth 
granted land by Cromwell, or George III
to come here, bringing civilization.
Bringing genocide.

Those who owned people, their own relatives,
brothers, sisters cousins. Those who kept
the white code and the pedigree 
because that is what the descendants will see. 
Those who edited the stories so it all 
looked idyllic for us who came after.

That one eighth would make me black,
regardless of fair skin and good hair.
That one eighth makes me one of those
who can own humans. This is the part
white people forget about the one eighth rule.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Three Roses

He brings me three roses
in a small yellow vase
and he says, I hear women forgive 
a lot if you bring them flowers.
He says

You are a unique,
you challenge me, and
I’m so glad I found you.
He says I want to spend
the rest of my life with you

and I want to hear that from you
before I invest anymore into this.
I look him in the eye
and the last 5 years fast forward
on the screen between us.

I remember more than he does.
His gaze moves off and 
he says Obviously I'm not going 
to like what you have to say.
I am silent, rubbing my nose

with the unscented longstems.
His alcohol droopy eyes
attempt another focus, his balance 
shift tilts a little too far and 
I try to remember where I left my keys.

I really do not want to do this now, 
I really do not and thankfully, this time, 
he believes my praise of the roses, is hungry
enough to be distracted by dinner, 
and after, passes out in his chair.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


She leans forward in her chair by the window,
studies my face and asks, Who are you?
I remind her, again, I am my mother's daughter.
She just shakes her head, But you are so... old.
I nod. Here in this tiny old house where she was born 
I am forever 8 with crooked teeth and scabby knees.
She looks out the window at her neighborhood,
now just the hood, watching what used to be
spin passed the place that has always been hers. 
I watch it with her until she asks again.

Published 2014 in La Palabra: The Word Is Woman

Thursday, December 18, 2014


She takes her broom to the front door and starts to the left
sweeping every crease, every corner widdershins, out 
with the bad, out out out, all the way ‘round the house till
she arrives back at the front door, willing the stalker Catatonia
out out out with the debris she sweeps to the street. 

She pulls the secateurs from her back pocket, cuts rosemary from
the side the dogs don’t pee on, counting in nines, over and 
over and over till there is an armful. Shakes out the loose and
the lizards before carrying the bundle to the table in the shade of the porch. 
Before going back out to crumble a cigarette under the perennial. 

She she fills the dog water bowl, sets out her sharpened athame (thinks 
bullshit they were not weapons), lights the candle, and from it 
the mountain sage smudge offering the smoke to the seven directions.
Breathe in breathe out breathe in breathe out breathe in breathe out.
Set down the roots. Ancestors and guides hear me, it’s been a while. 

She gathers nine rosemary stems, trims the cut ends even and starts
the red cord wrap with a clinch knot one two three tightened down 
hard, wind nine to the left diagonal, quick one two three at the skinny end,
start back down deosil one two three four five six seven eight nine
and the last doesn’t reach it will need ten so she unwinds and starts over. 

Breathe in breathe out breathe in breathe out breathe in breath out
One two three four five six seven eight nine, tight wrap one two three.
Clinch knot with the tail one two three, wrap from the spool one two three
wrap from the tail one two three and a square knot. So mote it be. She
sets that first aside, begins again. Breathe in breathe out one two three…

Sunday, November 30, 2014


I am certain my daughter and my niece
never worry they will be shot dead
in the face if they have car trouble
and knock on a door for help.

I am certain my daughter and my niece
never worry that their sons will be shot dead 
by police on their way to the check out with a
BB gun they picked up in the WalMart toy department.

I am certain my daughter and my niece
never worry that their sons will be shot dead
by police if they take that BB gun to the park,
even if they plink a few squirrels.

I am certain my daughter and my niece
never worry their sons, armed with Arizona Tea
and Skittles, will be shot dead by a white man
on a rainy night in a gated community.

I am certain my daughter and my niece
never worry their sons will be shot dead
by police for walking down the street in their 
own neighborhood, and left there 4 1/2 hours.

I do not know how to end this
but I am certain it isn’t over
by a long shot.


My name is Cyn McCollum, and I am a white poet who refuses to stay silent while this country murders people who look like Renisha McBride, John Crawford III, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown, and my brown skinned friend. I refuse to remain silent. I have right to be angry.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pale Rats

They said come to a feast, and we did.
There was not enough, 4 pitiful birds,
so our elders said go bring 5 deer, 
and gather what we could. 90 of us, why would 
they plan so poorly? How could they not know?
These people will starve in the cold season.

These people, they are making wampum.
Stripping the waters for food, they now harvest 
the shell bits and trade it back for the belts
that once displayed the wealth of our elders, 
carried on their persons. The food part
is left to rot on the shore. The waste!

They came in like the tide, wave
after wave, ever eroding the land
and pushing the People back farther
into the second growth after the plague
like pale rats, amazing in their numbers.
Timing could not have been worse for us.

We’ve had enough. We began at Detroit and move 
strongly southeast to the place they called Fort Pitt. 
We were strong and they were, once again, starving. 
Their Chief Ecyyer called parley that summer, and offered gifts 
of two blankets and a small cloth to each of our diplomats
as a sign of goodwill. Another plague came.

During Red Cloud’s war, he found a hat.
Or maybe he took it as coup, that truth is lost.
But the one that remains is he refused to give up
our dignity to the pale rats that pushed us
farther and farther back into the desert,
away from our plains, our land, our home.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Five of Swords

The psychic says I am a warrior,
battle ready to a fault.
He says I am a healer, nurturing 
the broken, and the two
parts merge. I go to battle for, and
heal the ones I think deserve me.

Waxing moon magick, 
spell cast oh my goddess
I want and she grants
and as with all love spells,
all the available is given
and all the baggage comes with.

So I arm myself and I lay 
on hands to heal that which
I did not inflict, and wallow in 
the new of strange,
all my fantasies granted.

That which is fatal cannot be
healed, and all the wars without 
relief wear down even the most loyal. 
Drop the sword. Scatter the herbs.
Pause to breathe.
Look out over the battlefield.

Morrigan rises with the waxing moon.
Ravens pick the bones.
Disbelief banished. Truth remains.
Five of swords is not death,
just surrender. Walk away.
This battle is not worth the cost.