by Damieka Thomas


My grandmother tells me that

Progress is like a turtle—

Slow as fuck.


She tells me to have patience.

“Things will get better,”

She says.

Her cheekbones sunken in the folds of sagging skin

And the lines around her eyes tell another story.


In less than a year,

She will no longer have her memory,

Drowned at the bottom of a liquor bottle.

When she is diagnosed with early-onset dementia,

She laughs,

Shakes her head in disbelief,

Says she can’t believe she’s become such an Indian stereotype.


Progress is a turtle,

And the Pomo tribe a single square on its back.

Slowly scraping from the sinewy shell,

Bruised and holding on for dear life.


Progress is a turtle—

It’s been killed by colonists,

With their plastic six-pack rings,

With their oil spilling into our homes,

Their sticky-sweet-hands jammed down our throats.

We are left choking on the excess of their exploitation.

The Dakota Access Pipeline running through our veins


We choke.

We bloat.

We explode.

No one looks for us in the recesses of the ocean,

They cannot make it past the shallows without gasping for air.

No one cares about the carcass of a civilization already extinct in their seafoam eyes.

No one looks for us.

The waves swallow us whole.


We choke.

We bloat.

We explode.


Progress is a turtle.

Endangered species,

Soon-to-be extinct,

Like the face of my grandmother floating somewhere in the folds of her skin.

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