In Honor of Diane Burns

The news this morning:

"Diane Burns, Poet and Artist, passed on into the spirit world late on
December 22 after a short illness.

Funeral plans are pending.

Diane Burns was born in 1957. Burns 's father is a Chemehuevi and her
mother is an Anishinabe. Her poetry is known for its humor and honesty.

Books by Diane Burns: Riding the One-eyed Ford. Fantastic First Work,
Diane Burns' first published set of poems had, at that time, firmly
established her as one of the up and coming young Native American female
poets of her generation.

“Sure You Can Ask Me A Personal Question?”
Diane Burns (Lac Courte Oreilles- Cheemehuevi)

How do you do?
No, I am not Chinese.
No, not Spanish.
No, I am American Indi—uh, Native American.

No, not from India.
No, not Apache
No, not Navajo.
No, not Sioux.
No, we are not extinct.
Yes, Indian.

So that’s where you got those high cheekbones.
Your great grandmother, huh?
An Indian Princess, huh?
Hair down to there?
Let me guess. Cherokee?

Oh, so you’ve had an Indian friend?
That close?

Oh, so you’ve had an Indian lover?
That tight?

Oh, so you’ve had an Indian servant?
That much?

Yeah, it was awful what you guys did to us.
It’s real decent of you to apologize.
No, I don’t know where you can get peyote.
No, I don’t know where you can get Navajo rugs real cheap.
No, I didn’t make this. I bought it at Bloomingdales.

Thank you. I like your hair too.
I don’t know if anyone knows whether or not Cher is really Indian.
No, I didn’t make it rain tonight.

Yeah. Uh-huh. Spirituality.
Uh-huh. Yeah. Spirituality. Uh-huh. Mother
Earth. Yeah. Uh’huh. Uh-huh. Spirituality.

No, I didn’t major in archery.
Yeah, a lot of us drink too much.
Some of us can’t drink enough.

This ain’t no stoic look.
This is my face.

From:IndigenousNewsNetwork@topica.com digest, issue 864

My poem/song, the Real Revolution is Love features Diane, from a visit we made together to Nicaragua in the mid eighties. I'll never forget flying down to Nicaragua to take part in the Ruben Dario Poetry Festival. Poets came in from all over the Americas. We were ushered through customs, taken to our rooms, then to the coffeehouse where the festivities had started with readings to celebrate this huge gathering on behalf of poetry and a revolution of truth, of love. I'll never forget how excited I was as we approached the coffeehouse, to see that poetry here is beloved and revered art, and I will never forget my surprise as the door opened and there was Diane Burns, far from New York City or Wisconsin, letting us in. I said something about the surprise of seeing her there as the gatekeeper (it was witty) and we laughed.

It was at that conference that she and _______ were married by Ernesto Cardinale, even though both were already married to other people. I missed that part. Had to leave early.

I may have seen her once more, in Oklahoma for the huge poetry gathering in 1992. I remember being concerned. I've always looked for more poetry from her. Her voice was honest, funny and her poetry made echoes throughout the native literary community.

We will miss her.


May your spirit fly free from hurt, from pain.


Monica said...

Hi Joy. I love the Nicaragua poem. Diane's voice will be missed, but she left a lot of beauty with us in her books. These are two of my blogs.

This one is my articles.


This one is new. It contains my poetry, stories, and scenes from plays.


Please take a look when you have time.


Joy said...

Good to hear from you Monica. I've checked out your first site. Some excellent blogs, especially on Anna Mae. I've always admired your gifts of writing and insight.

Ray said...


This is Diane's brother and she had nothing but good things to say about you and your vision and spirit. Thank you for sharing and I'd like to share this with my family as we send Diane on her journey.

This world is a little less bright and exciting... but the next world has gained a new voice.

t said...

am from the outside world (just across the Atlantic:-) but still though, I found this poem really really nice - I enjoyed it a lot... (hop & your blog is bookmarked...:-)

Great discoveries... if you would like to describe the Indian world thru an article in my blog (with of course a link to yours) http://blog.localingo.com - I would feel more than honoured.


Lorna Dee Cervantes said...

For Poet Diane Burns

Sleep now, Sweet Sister. Your light always burned sheer through the fog and grime; the grit and glitter of our youth, some kind of measure. Your black booted steps, your silver and shave; the times the blade of the tongue entered and swayed. You were always a knife and a glade, a silent opening, a threshold. You were mind and will over beauty. You were a spit-on finger in the split socket of truth. I remember you. I will always remember you: your light ever-bright as a Manhattan skyline, riding that one-eyed poetry home.

~ Lorna Dee Cervantes, 2/22/07

Odilia said...

Hi Joy,

Sorry for it to be something like this to put us in touch again...

Diane will be missed but never forgotten.

I have been living in Cuba for many years, now in Mexico. Married again...Hawk is 21 now!

I remember your biscuits and great smile...hope you and yours are well sister.

Ashe and blessings!



Frankie said...

I just found out about Diane Burns death today and It makes me ANGRY that so many people are talking like they miss her and Love her and Where were all of you when she was alive? I know that Diane loved to have a place to close the door behind her and call home and why didn't anyone help her to get away from the bottle, Friends? I don't think so. Just people who relieve their guilt by having a memorial to honor her life after she dies. Where were you people?and If i was only aware of Diane being in harms way I would have done something about it! Sure she was her own Woman but she had a listening heart and would have taken it to heart if someone, anyone showed her they cared, so for all you people who want to ease your guilt by NOT giving Diane a home to live while she was sick but alive I say hell with you and feel good about someone anyone but Diane because she did NOT believe in Bullshit but believed in TRUE FRIENDS.
Her ex-husband,
Frankie Barrett

Joy said...

Frankie, I can understand your anger. Anger is easier to cry than grief. Where were any of us? Where were you? Who can save us from ourselves? In some ways we lost Diane a long time ago. Still, there is much to honor here. She was brilliant, she shone bright, she inspired us even as we were afraid for her.