A Queer Indigenous Poet Reflects on the Hypocrisy of Thanksgiving

teebs

If you don’t know Tommy “Teebs” Pico by now, you should. Pico is the author of many books published in the last few years, all of which are kinda like a mix between poetry, novel-in-verse, and very slutty Tumblr posts. He is an indigenous American poet hailing from the Kumeyaay nation on the Viejas reservation, where he got his start writing and making zines.

His poems are irreverent queer anthems and this year, 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, eating ass, and Beyoncé. Now that’s what we call poetic justice. As you might have guessed, as an Indigenous American, his relationship with the colonialist holiday of Thanksgiving is not too sweet. We asked if we could excerpt this piece from his most recent work, Junk, which was first published in the new anthology New Poets of Native Nations. Enjoy (or don’t, he doesn’t care).

Picture it: Sicily, 1923 Whoops I mean Thanksgiving dinner w/
family in town from the rez at a midtown resto, blackberries

in the whipped cream while the Washington Redskins blaze on
TV behind us Or last month when police clashed with water

protectors Tore down encampments and elders and children
On the same day milk-toned Oregonian militiamen r acquitted

after armed occupation of land On the same day the Cleveland
Indians r in the World Series during American Indian heritage

month Before, in the past, this world discovered war Berlin
Afghanistan Terracotta Slob War War War in the front of every

newspaper In the back of every noggin Sludgy nympho gummy
bear humps the Haribo package—Body monuments and light

cigarettes Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper and a bag of Hot Cheetos
Cholera epidemic in Haiti where there is no immunity because

Cholera was like the only thing that never befell Hispaniola
Rasp is sassy but Junk is punk Static in its intention Static in

its emotional release Static in the city Buzz of disbelief White-
house domes every convo We are a part of the rhythm nation I

get this teaching gig and being an authority figure, let me tell u
is such an emperor has no clothes situation Like being onstage

Very, “I’m more afraid of you than you are of me” Sharon Jones
glides on about being an injured prison guard on Riker’s Island

Terry Gross asks, “How were you able to convince the prisoners
that you were strong enough and focused enough to do the job

and keep them inline?” Sharon says “It’s the look in my eyes…
You could not show fear, and that’s one thing I didn’t show” Try

it on Saying “pilfer is a fun word” enough times makes it true,
like petticoat coffee cakes and the invention of blue raspberry

Dummy stay on message I never intended to be a professional
NDN but this time of year every1 wants to know do I celebrate

Thanksgiving? Janet is still with us, despite the retreat of  
common sense, the retreat of fall, the retreat of Sharon Jones

and David Bowie and Prince and Vanity and Leonard Cohen
Phife Dawg and George Michael Do you remember what it was

like to feel warmth from the sun? It’s odd, right? For light to
only be light and not also heat The sun conceals things too, in

its glare It makes sense that it took me the whole year before I cd
entertain talking to u again Back in our crystalline season I was

right 2 suspect worth in yr grace You aren’t evil for not loving me
Maybe it’s a retrograde situation Look into the sky, yearning to be

someplace else When you gobble gobble so fast it’s like dinner
never happened & even now conjuring you feels like a diversion

but yr the reason I started writing this in the first place Michelle
Tea says when you write about someone, you have to be able to

look them in the face Your faces are many Your shoulders are
different colors Sometimes yr EXTREMELY tall and sometimes only

very tall Sometimes yr face is golden smooth and cut like a English
garden Sometimes yr face is lunar, bright chalk white n cratered

Sometimes we were together for six weeks Sometimes eight
months Sometimes I don’t know yet We sit still in our gurgle sacks

waiting for each other to change Waiting for our stomachs to glow
pink again in the gallery night But we dimmed Each time we dim

we dimmed differently but we dimmed we did The Metro Link
Light Rail SEPTA MTBA Amtrak Bolt Bus Megabus the Peter Pan

the MAX Metro North Marc Train Charm City Circulator The
opposite of escape A firming in the firmament The couch An

airbed Yoga mat and sometimes just the floor Man punches
woman at bar Man screams at woman in diner Man yells at

woman in a hijab in Queens “Man, man, menace” is like a weird
game of “duck, duck, goose” The hollow taste on the inside of yr

mouth when u haven’t eaten all day Make out with boys named
Patrick n Gerald n Martin n David and suck on his finger at the bar

with the empty blue fish tank and random lotto ball cage Drink
Shiners in his backyard Threesomes are awkward af mostly bc

everyone is wasted so it feels like heavy turbulence on the twin
bed in this liver I mean sliver of apartment Last Resort Lagunitas

Goose Island The shot special Two more packages of Reece’s Old
Fashioned Narragansett and Jameson on the rocks Whatever

insulates you from the calving face of this gd world When has
sympathy for the oppressor ever worked for us? The poem and

reading the poem become each other Echolocation The sound of
a shape The news leaps through me like a talking dog—unreal,

no? I don’t know where the feeling is or what to do with it n
spent most of the day w/ my eyes squeezed shut but then I

went for a run to force feed myself some endorphins Wrote a
few couplets and texted all my friends and went to the rally

and marched bc it felt restorative to blast night with my voice
box and stomp the sidewalks and the streets with friends for

twenty blocks in all directions Whole blocks of avenues in all
directions swell w/peeps shouting MUSLIM RIGHTS ARE

HUMAN RIGHTS and MY BODY MY CHOICE and BLACK LIVES
MATTER and WATER IS LIFE and TRANS LIVES MATTER Then we

got a drink and for a couple hours it seemed like we’d just been
in some horrible dream As if the fog lifted and we could hear

through the static Feel the sun again But it’s only growing colder
This is just the beginning And yeah maybe the path back from

complacency is lion mane but I was afraid a long time b4 these days

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