Scajaquada (Final)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I felt good about where this was going, but I realized I wasn’t really sure what it was about. I told one of my kids, I finally figured it out, and she asked how I could be writing something for 4 years and not know what it’s about. I told her, I write like that all the time if I see/feel/think something worth capturing I write it down. If there’s something there, I usually end up going back to it, often again and again, without having any idea what I’m really looking at. This went through 40+ drafts, and last week it dawned on me. I’m not going to lay it out, because that’s the poem’s job, but after that I was better able to focus on some of the details. For those who read the earlier versions, it still retains a lot, but this time with an actual direction. And I’m officially going to call this done.

Scajaquada_Final

Scajaquada


deyohgwa’, deyohgwa’, deyohgwa’
topping expansion joints
rubber over steel – freeway’s heartbeat

looking out the window – Scajaquada
a word I heard since I could ride in back
more than a Buffalo word that sets us apart – deyohgwa’
more than an expressway that segregates and divides – deyohgwa’
more than a stream that drains and dumps – deyohgwa’
more than a street that doubles as a headstone – deyohgwa’

nearing the bank the smell of sewage and industrial waste is thick
after four miles underground and under a broken boom
that dangles across the 20 foot culvert
entering the cemetery — somehow, it still flows like water
still flowing over 400 million year old dolomite
still carving Serenity Falls — undisturbed only here
not channeled
not tunneled
not until middle age did I visit Forest Lawn

sitting creek side the call of water and wildlife drown out the city
below in Moffett’s Grove, the last parcel to receive the dead
two young sunbathers in appropriately black bikinis
recline safely away from the leer of living men
with only male finches and cicadas within earshot
wrapping ‘round the girls, the creek quietly descends

Only surfaced for a mile, life still manages
two foot carp, watgá’steowe:s
covers in mud sounds so much better than bottom feeder
sparrows, black birds and so      many      geese    
then again diverted under the old Gala Waters
because it’s too polluted for park goers

I pick up the trail beyond the park
past the remaining glory of the Expo
and the decades of reclamation attempts
until I’m under concrete mangroves
and I’m carried back by the call of migrating cars overhead

past piers, girders and deck – deyohgwa’
past the smelting flame of the iron works – deyohgwa’
past the whir, grind, dust of sawmills – deyohgwa’
past the putrid mountain of refuse – deyohgwa’
past those foraging for pickings

we always seem to find the resources to create MORE
poverty
deyohgwa’
past the shipyards and the mighty masts rising like trees – deyohgwa’

I watch the forest settle back into the earth
swaying with the wind, grasses buffer the creek’s edge
it seems calm as it forgets its future
at the mouth in the distance
smoke rises from longhouses
girls schucking and shelling corn
old women weaving baskets in the shade
tanned skins drying by air
Philip Conjockety lives here
creekside with his family

entertaining settlers
pioneers believe him
the oldest living man
retelling tales of nations and explorers
stories of his father, the last of the Kah Kwa
a chief among the Seneca — felled by fire water

the maiden of the mist who warned her people
of the poisonous glacial serpent that drove them from their ancestral lands
that created the Horseshoe Falls and forced the gods to the sky
now they would abandoned their land
abandoning cornfields to brownfields
M2 – General     Industrial      District
benzene, toluene, xylene, lead, cyanide, and PCB’s
as history leaches back into the creek bed
and settles in the flesh of wildlife

I turn back at the sign that warns
“be safe walk with a friend”
a small bronze plaque reads
Commodore Perry named the creek after the noble elder
by his Seneca name ska-dyoh-gwa-deh
 “beyond the multitude”

why am I surprised?
a name, a word can make so much unseen
a people, a waterway, a language, a history — disappeared

above the mangrove piers, rubber and steel echo
timed right it’s a quick route out of the city
fast enough to ignore the creek that languishes below – deyohgwa’
fast enough to forget the appropriation of Seneca land – deyohgwa’
fast enough to excuse the legacy of industrialization – deyohgwa’
fast enough to hide the homeless – deyohgwa’
fast enough to beat the rush

Scajaquada


Scajaquada (skuh-JA-qua-duh)
deyohgwa’ (day-yoh-gwah!)
watgá’steowe:s (waw-tgawh!-stay-oh-ways)



© 2017-2021 Brian Brown-Cashdollar

Scajaquada_Draft

I started thinking/writing about Scajaquada after a lunchtime trip to Forest Lawn in 2017. For decades, I’ve driven past and around it, admiring the ornate stone work, the rolling hills and immaculately kept grounds without ever visiting it. I was immediately drawn to the creek. I was surprised its water and fauna drowned out the surrounding city. Initially, I thought about the nostalgia of an imagined Olmstead’s Buffalo. As I learned more about the creek, it’s altered hydrology I focused on disregard of this small watershed as a metaphor for “our” land use policies. None of this seemed to capture what this formerly meandering creek sparked in me, so I next look at the water, it’s defilement through the metaphor of baptism. Another dead end. I thought about the creek’s name and how the expressway made it metaphorically invisible. That led me to the Seneca and the son of the Seneca chief, who some say the creek is named after (some say it was named after his father) and the attempted erasure of the people who lived along its shores by coopting and disassociating its names. And that’s the path I’m on now with this creek and its 29 square mile watershed. Forty plus revisions later, at the very least it’s a study in tenacity. However, I’m still not completely comfortable talking about the creek through a language and culture that’s not my own. I’m also uncomfortable with the mechanics of the piece, where it calls for a performance and visual pieces. Never-mind though, I’ll follow it anyway. Time will tell, where it goes.

Scajaquada


deyohgwa’, deyohgwa’, deyohgwa’
topping expansion joints
rubber over steel – freeway’s heartbeat

looking out the window – Scajaquada
a word I knew since I could ride in back
more than a Buffalo word that sets us apart – deyohgwa’
more than an expressway that segregates and divides – deyohgwa’
more than a stream that drains and dumps – deyohgwa’
more than a street that doubles as a headstone – deyohgwa’

nearing the bank the smell of sewage and industrial waste is thick
the streamflow unimpeded by the broken boom at the mouth of the giant culvert

four miles underground — burying a century of misdeeds
entering the cemetery — it still flows like water
still flowing over 400 million year old dolomite
still carving Serenity Falls — undisturbed only here
not channeled
not tunneled
not until middle age did I visit Forest Lawn

sitting creek side the call of water and wildlife
drown out the city
below in Moffett’s Grove, the last parcel to receive the dead
two young sunbathers in appropriately black bikinis
recline safely away from the leer of living men
with only male finches and cicadas within earshot
wrapping ‘round the girls, the creek quietly descends

Only surfaced for a mile, life still manages
grass carp, watgá’steowe:s
covers in mud sounds so much better than bottom feeder
sparrows, black birds and so      many      geese.    then
again diverted under the old Gala Waters
because it’s too polluted for park goers

I pick up the trail beyond the park
past the remaining glory of the Expo
and the decades of reclamation attempts
until I’m under concrete mangroves
and I’m carried back by the call of migrating cars overhead

past piers, girders and deck – deyohgwa’
past the smelting flame of the iron works –deyohgwa’
past the whir, grind, dust of sawmills – deyohgwa’
past the putrid mountain of refuse – deyohgwa’
past those foraging for pickings

we always seem to find the resources to create MORE
poverty
deyohgwa’
past the shipyards and the mighty masts rising like trees – deyohgwa’

I watch the forest settle back into the earth
swaying with the wind, grasses buffer the creek’s edge
it seems calm as it forgets its future
at the mouth in the distance
smoke rises from longhouses
girls schucking and shelling corn
old women weaving baskets in the shade
tanned skins drying by air
and as the white man sees it
like his father’s father, Philip Conjockety
lives creekside with his family

entertaining settlers
pioneers believe him
the oldest living man
retelling tales of nations and explorers
weaving stories of his father the last of the Kah Kwa
a chief among the Seneca — felled by fire water

the maiden of the mist who warned her people
of the poisonous glacial serpent that drove them from their ancestral lands
that created the Horseshoe Falls and forced the gods to the sky
now he would abandoned his family lands
abandoning cornfields to brownfields
M2 – General     Industrial      District
benzene, toluene, xylene, lead, cyanide, and PCB’s
as history leaches back into the creek bed
and settles in the flesh of wildlife

I turn back at the sign that warns
“be safe walk with a friend”
a small bronze plaque reads
Commodore Perry named the creek after the noble elder
by his Seneca name ska-dyoh-gwa-deh
 “beyond the multitude”

above the mangrove piers rubber and steel echo
timed right it’s a quick route out of the city
fast enough to ignore the creek that languishes below – deyohgwa’
fast enough to forget the appropriation of Seneca land – deyohgwa’
fast enough to excuse the legacy of industrialization – deyohgwa’
fast enough to hide the homeless – deyohgwa’
fast enough to beat the rush

Scajaquada


Scajaquada (skuh-JA-qua-duh)
deyohgwa’ (day-yoh-gwah!)
watgá’steowe:s (waw-tgawh!-stay-oh-ways)



© 2017-2021 Brian Brown-Cashdollar

Lackawanna Poems

I’ve written several plus poems that have something to do with Lackawanna (NY). Some are done. Some are perpetually in progress. Here are three:

Map to Gramma’s Grave

Salvador said
come see
come help
clean, maintain
the common cemetery
somos muy comunitarios
together, we care for our own

la comunidad Clavijo Abajo
a scattering of huts
loosely drawn to a dirt highway
at the base of the foothills
of the Cordillera Central

sweeping dust, pulling weeds
straightening head stones
without us
our dead
would disappear

back home
it’s a solitary ritual
it’s now my turn
to tend the graves
soy muy familiero

pry the markers
pour 3 inches of sand
then gravel
reset them,
level!

more than three decades
since I visited their plots
Uncle Clayton
was too old to say
where

eventually
I found them
buried under
a lifetime of memory

near Lackawanna’s center
in the shadow of the Basilica
in Glorious Mysteries
of the Rosary Shrine
Holy
Cross
Cemetery

from the NW corner sign
37 paces towards
the center obelisk
turn left and follow
diagonally laid stones
many receding
subsumed by gravity
and the loss of family

seven and a half paces
and there
gramma, grampa
      and Aunt Wawie
because she had nowhere else to go

© 2006-2019 Brian Brown-Cashdollar

Sugar Straw

On Saturdays
the mall is still mobbed
crawling with security
protecting shoppers
from changing
demographics , and
teens, being teens
black, brown, and white
strategically stationed
throughout the concourses

near an exit
4 Lackawanna girls
once Irish, then Italian
now Yemeni
squeeze together
waiting for their ride
black and floral satin hijabs
lean in excitedly
for the latest

then the youngest
throws back her head
trying to get every last grain
from a sugar straw

© 2018-2019 Brian Brown-Cashdollar

Diesel

by ship they came
Italy to Lovejoy
breathe in
the fuel of work

rounding the corner
William to Bailey,
the sweet heavy cloud
of hauling

wheel spins center
Iron Island to Route 62
clutch, shift, release,
accelerate

motors rumble like grampa
South Buffalo to Lackawanna
before the steel mill
heart attack took him

moving product to market
reminded of the open road
carrying me and once exotic fruit
to port and home

© 2012-2019 Brian Brown-Cashdollar

Reboot

I’ve written for nearly 40 years without really finishing much of anything. With some life changes and maturity things, I can actually say I’m finally finishing pieces. All of what I’ve posted over the last 8 years has been removed and I’m starting fresh. I’ll add some old stuff back in once it’s actually done.

-Brian