From Nature Poem

Tommy “Teebs” Nico

from Nature Poem
By Tommy Pico

Let’s say I want to get a nose piercing.

Let’s say I’m 30 years old.

Let’s say nothing big and bull-like, nothing too attractive, nothing chandeliering
from septum to lobe. Just a simple, little stud nothing more.

Is it normal to get a nose ring at 30?

Normal is defined not by what it is, but what surrounds it. Meaning it could literally be
anything, and is nothing.

Is it normal to get a nose ring at 30?

No, it’s not.

Am I just afraid of death?

Yes, probably.

Is there nothing more normal than fearing death?

It is very natural to fear death.

Should I get a nose ring?

It would look very cute on you

November is National Native American Heritage Month. It’s a time to recognize the many sacrifices, contributions, and achievements of Native American people, as well as celebrate their rich and vibrant cultures. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Although the name eventually changed, it started an annual tradition upheld in communities across the United States.

The US holds in trust 56.2 million acres of land for various Native American tribes and individuals, according to the US Department of Indian Affairs. There are approximately 326 reservations. These reservations are not tourist attractions. Many are the remnants of native tribes’ lands, while others were created by the federal government for Native Americans who were forcibly removed from their lands. They are homes for tribes and communities; it’s where many live, work, and raise their families.

The Thanksgiving story of pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a friendly meal will be reenacted and celebrated across the country on November 26, and Friday, November 27 is Native American Heritage Day. However, many Native Americans actually consider Thanksgiving a “Day of Mourning,” pointing out the story overlooks how the introduction of European settlers spelled tragedy for indigenous communities. For this reason, some Native American groups and their allies are calling on Americans to “decolonize” their Thanksgiving celebrations. Some ways of doing this include putting away Native American decorations and tropes, introducing native dishes to the dinner table, and engaging in conversations about Native American history with dinner guests.

I usually post a poem about Thanksgiving, but this year, I thought I would honor Native Americans by posting a poem by a gay Native American. The poem above is by Tommy “Teebs” Pico. Many of Pico’s poems are centered on a character called Teebs, a queer Native American poet born on a reservation who left his home for school, much like the author himself. “I wasn’t raised in a world that necessarily uplifts queer indigenous perspectives,” Pico said. “So in order to get people to pay attention, I knew that I was going to have to be very loud and very funny or sharp or something.”

He is the author of many books published in the last few years, all of which are sort of a mix between poetry, novel-in-verse, and very slutty Tumblr posts. He is an indigenous American poet from the Kumeyaay Nation. The Kumeyaay, also known as Tipai-Ipai, are a tribe of Indigenous peoples of the Americas who live at the northern border of Baja California in Mexico and the southern border of California. Pico grew up on the Viejas reservation located in San Diego County, California, where he got his start writing comics at age 5, and as a teenager created zines and wrote poetry. Pico originally left the Viejas Indian reservation to study pre-med at Sarah Lawrence, hoping to return to the reservation to address some of the health problems he grew up surrounded by. Instead, he spent his twenties pioneering the artist collective Birdsong, making zines, publishing his poetry on Tumblr, and honing his performance skills through “exposure therapy.”

His poems are irreverent queer anthems, and in 2018, he received the $50,000 Whiting Award prize (just one of many things his work has won) for a book-length poem that contained content about Grindr, rimjobs, and Beyoncé. As you can tell from the excerpt from his second book of poems, Nature Poem, he has an interesting style. Nature Poem was the winner of a 2018 American Book Award and a finalist for the 2018 Lambda Literary Award. As you might have guessed, as an Indigenous American, his relationship with Thanksgiving is not too sweet. In 2015, Pico wrote an essay/poem for Literary Hub titled, “How to Pass the Time on a Holiday Commemorating the Destruction of Your Ancestors,” which is definitely worth reading.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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