Deborah A. Miranda is an enrolled member of the Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation of the Greater Monterey Bay Area, and author of the mixed-genre Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir, two poetry collections (Indian Cartography and The Zen of La Llorona) and co-editor of Sovereign Erotics: An Anthology of Two Spirit Literature. Currently Deborah is Professor of English at Washington and Lee University where she teaches creative writing and literature. Most recently, Deborah has been working on a collection of essays and a collection of poems in the voices of each California mission.
Whose Good Night?
(after viewing the painting, "Jesuit Martyr-Saints of North America")
The Jesuits do not want to go gentle into their good night
even though it's the fastest way to martyrdom and halos;
they hold up crucifixes to show they're in the right.
Those wise men stand firm, let the tomahawk take a bite,
say their prayers at the stake as flames nibble their toes
but they'd rather not go gentle into God's goodnight.
Pierced with Indian arrows still full feathered in flight,
struck dumb by wooden warclub's brutish blows,
the Jesuits hold up crucifixes to show they're still in the right
See, already they ascend into heaven, a glorious sight
treading soft fluffy clouds with their heads all aglow;
already it's worth it, going so gently into good night.
Brave men far from home, faith your only might,
let go, let God, above all let baptismal waters flow!
Hold up your crucifixes of gold to show you're in the right
Attend your Father, your angels, look down from new height
Forgive us, we're savages made simply, from clay.
We refused to go into colonization's good night.
We gave up our bodies, we're martyrs too—right?