foundational


Alabaster, Porcelain, Ivoire,
Light Porcelain, Light Ivory,
Light Ecru, Fawn, Classic
Ivory, Soft Ivory, Ivory
Beige, Warm, Fair, Fair
Medium, Toast,

Olive, Tan, Natural,
Natural Beige, Natural
Buff, Pure Beige,
Warm Ivory, Nude,
Fresh Beige, Buff
Beige, Shell Beige,

Creamy Natural,
Light Delicate Beige,
Medium Peach, Medium
Sand, Medium Almond,
Buff Medium, Sand Beige,
Suntan, Sun Beige, Perfect

Beige, True Beige, Honey
Beige, Golden Beige,
Classic Beige, Soft Sable,
Suede, Medium Walnut, Tan
Bronze, Tan Café Latte,
Classic Tan, Cappuccino,

Mahogany, Nut Brown,
Cocoa, Dark Beige, Mocha,
Coffee, Cognac, Caramel,
Caramel Beige, Crème
Café, Deep Warm, Deep
Golden, Deep Cocoa, Deep
Cool, Deep Dark Ebony.


determination of racial affinity

Often times, a skeleton exhibits characteristics of more than one racial group and does not fit neatly into the three-race model.


A shapely nasal spline, rounded maxilla
and that flick of a scalloped incisor, 

this one is Asian (in all likelihood). We can’t be certain
when only bone remains, but compare

ulnar length, mandibular jut, these caveats of
origin. Mongoloid, Caucasoid, alternate morphs
for sun-soak, overcast, sweet tilt of the sockets

the way Draw Girls Around The World explained
ethnic realism. Make her lips large and full,
give her beautiful hips and tiny shoulders

define her muscle thus. They don’t say
it starts in the skeleton, in fragments of fragments
and the .002 gram that could be user error

or could mean your ancestors sent you down the river
in a basket, nothing mentions variability
and how every time you look at that skull of hers

it changes, how you can’t pull off your own skin
and ask your body questions.


nuomenons

 

I’m supposed to talk about something I’ve
learned from airports, the infrastructure
of a war, some wisdom from our approximate
distance,

        but I’m distracted by the woman
in the red dress (again). You took me zooming
over South Houston when time permitted
talking cosmic scenery and God, and nuomenons,

that which is the media of all things. The rods
on which the abacus measures. Tectonic plates
and human increments, science and myth and the
backyard fence. Houston always peeled us

like mandarins, you sun-bleached, and I
highly pigmented, flecked and sweating.
You made me crave the letters others had written you.
I tried to dip my fat neck into nothingness.

I sold front row seats for plane tickets, I’ve done a bad thing
more than once or twice, yeah, so can we get back to God
and can you drive me to the departures wing, at least,
or something? I’m at that time of my life.
I just want to do this already. 


Interview

Who are your favorite poets, and how has their imagery and sentence-structure and style inspired your voice?

I really love Stephen Dunn, Dorianne Laux, Rachel McKibbens, Roberta Hill, and Carrie Fountain. I think those choices probably also reflect a love of narrative, of beautiful cadences and quiet revelation. Of spaces for what one might not normally expect in a poem, or making the language do just what it needs to do to evoke every emotion from each of us. I love the fully realized worlds in these pieces, I love the way they make me weep or ache, and I marvel at their vulnerability.

I’m also diving back into a heavy reading period again, discovering new favorites – Aziza Barnes, Vievee Francis, Frannie Choi, Sam Sax, Tim Seibles – other such riches. I want to keep discovering new variations on what’s possible in a poem.

What has your experience as a Native American woman been as a poet who is very vocal and activist on the internet? How does your heritage impact your writing?


It’s pretty similar to being Oneida and thus part of multiple communities. There’s a very active community online for Native folks, and also for poets and writers, and then there’s also so much overlap between these, particularly because of shared affinity for the arts. There are some challenges, like how to go about navigating many worlds in my work and still arrive at some kind of consistency when you head toward a book-length manuscript. But connecting to others in this way and spending time commenting on articles or in various communities has helped me refine the way I think and talk about things, has given me new language and shown spaces to continue developing the way I speak about cultural appropriation, representation & rhetoric, land-based disenfranchisement, and colonial nostalgia. It’s helped me articulate better the things I’m passionate about, and exposed me to many new voices. And the stake I have in each of those communities has also leant an urgency to all my work, the creative, the editorial, and the academic. I’m turtle clan, so I consider the telling of stories to be part of my legacy. Maybe that’s where the love of narrative, and incorporating other genres and arts, comes in.

What advice do you have for beginning poets?

You don’t need to be in a rush to publish, you don’t need to be in a rush to define and stick to one voice right away – you can take some time to be playful.

Sometimes it’s easy to feel discouraged, and that feeling will keep rolling around again and again, but life’s a long while. If you wanted to take five years off of writing and then pick it up again, you could, so why not put off calling it quits ‘til tomorrow?

Forge connections where you can—I’ve learned so much from the people around me over time, it’s sometimes felt like an extra MFA’s worth of education just from being active in writing groups and reading the newest publications of friends, as well as criticism and reviews.

Other than that, well, carry a notebook. Something about it seems to change the brain, to turn on another kind of observational awareness, and with practice, another level of composition as you mark down your thoughts and findings. And when you’re totally freaked out by the blank page, switch to lists. It’s a low-stakes way to get started and there are so many interesting exercises and juxtapositions one can make from them.


Kenzie recently finished a Zell Postgraduate Fellowship in Poetry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program (MFA ‘14). Originally from West Texas, she now lives in Norway and on her tribe’s reservation in Oneida, Wisconsin. She is at work on her first manuscript in poetry, an ethnographic multimodal chapbook of Texas road poems, and a memoir about blood quantum, as well as several opera projects. Her poems have appeared in Sonora Review, The Iowa Review, Day One, and Word Riot, and other venues and anthologies.

Kenzie loves cacti and the two-step. By day she works as a graphic and ui/ux designer and by night she tries to contact Norman Dubie through her dreams. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology (with Robert Sussman, Tab Rassmussen and field work with John Kelly) and continues to develop work in applied anthropology, ethnopoetics and ethnographic studies as a Student Representative for the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology. She loves to travel.

"Foundational" and "Determination of Racial Affinity" were originally published in Apogee, Issue IV, and "Nuomenons" was originally published Rust + Moth August 2014.