By Trinie Dalton
The cinderally was one enormous coke-can cock fest, men tearing the sides of the volcano up in their off-road vehicles, skimming the scabby, red-black scree for a trophy and a fuck in a truck bed after the race. It is an antique activity, the cinderally; I met a man nostalgic for it as we gazed at the majestic volcano across the valley from our scenic view pullout in Arizona. It was real, defacing the volcano that the Hopi consider the center of their universe. How amazing—that disparity—two variant lifestyles on the side of that pointy black hill over there that looks like a shadow, a silhouette.
In the past, if a fellow like that would have told me about how he longed for the re-legalization of cinderallies, I would have launched a rocket at his crotch or at least cursed him privately when I got home, made a little voodoo doll and poked its testicles on his behalf. But this time, I took a wider view, the volcano was framed in a panoramic vista and I wanted to be strong like the volcano more than lowly like him, so I borrowed its panorama during that moment of opinion. Cut my judgment and opted for removed annotation: a piecing together of a complex societal puzzle, a man and his loser redneck friends destroying multiple rare crops of my favorite endemic wildflower, the scarlet gilia, plus the Hopi fighting for protection of the site where the first katchina was born. Here I am in the middle, mining the collision in the 21st century. It makes me weepy often enough; it used to make me so sorry for the Hopi that I felt like stabbing my eyeballs out because I am white, part of the colonial race who fucked them over, a member of the race they most despise. But pity is derogatory. I am in my car parked next to this trailer trash, not privy to friendship with a member of the Hopi hummingbird clan. I should be sacrificing myself tothat volcano, throwing myself into its cone—that is how I felt ten years ago.
But this time the volcano’s endurance bolsters me. It is still kicking ass before and after humanity, and that is what brings a tear to my eye this time. The volcano weathered cinderallies, and nevertheless I had just been on its trail, now part of a national park, and had photographed a magnificent crop of scarlet gilia, the brightest crop I’ve ever seen, a wondrous fuschia flower that I had discovered on my way to a powwow as a teenager. That flower blooms only in black lava flow, that flower that grows out of destruction is God, hands down. That is God for me. That wildflower.
We are not in an age where we can afford to tiptoe around, making conceptual art and literature that’s exclusively for white intellectuals because political art is out of style; it has never been out of style and if you thought it was, effete critics, well it’s back in style starting now! I don’t know where these elitists have been hanging out but on the side of this volcano communities ruminate and that is politically demanding of identity art and literature. Both the Cowboys who used to destroy volcanoes on their motorcycles and their Indian enemies are unemployed and missing what they used to have; there is a lot of loss going on. I will take a position, stake it out, and make art about what I love.
Why am I writing and What change do I wish to enact? What is art and What is love? Don’t be shy about it, I tell myself, be direct, act with intention, be a volcanic eruption, a fury. I don’t want to make characters, I want to speak directly to you.
Some critics claim that first person autobiographical voice is not fiction or that it is fiction’s weakest form, but I say that is a tired battle, I say I can use whatever point of view I feel like and call it fiction. Am I emphatic about this because I am a woman? Who cares, everyone I care about is part man part woman, everyone I care about is part queer, everyone I admire cares about love first and foremost, nobody but me knows if the volcano story is true or false and you know what? Who cares? What I care about is the message I am sending out to my people. That this story’s residual symbols square with what I believe. I am tired of people telling me that I need fictional characters in my fiction and that to speak directly to you, reader, from my first person female point of view is inferior. Who are you to tell me I am not inventing the best fictional character right now as I speak? You don’t know me or own my voice. I tell people off, then apologize. I take license to change the approach. That is a fiction, no it’s not, yes it is, who are you to say?
I live for Arizona crash-pad days like that, when stuff explodes and I can watch it crumble. It’s not fun or pretty but it’s real, that cinderally rider was real, he was a nice man, and the Hopi bean dance is real too, I just missed it, the Hopi are still out there, ruling the desert. I love my country, I am a patriot who spends half her life on cross-country road trips, I have crushes on everyone on a daily basis, the men and women who extrude conflict, a little more comprehension everyday, some minute intelligence, it’s what I live for. I am so far from being anti-intellectual it’s not even funny. This is totally fiction and it’s real too. Fake fiction is fiction that’s forgotten fiction and poetry are siblings.
I had another experience on a volcano, Picaya in Guatemala. I hiked it at twilight led by a short, dark-skinned man who went barefoot. He didn’t give me a flashlight until I was sliding down igneous rock in the dark; I couldn’t make out ground from sky, it was so black. But from the top, as six of us watched the sun go down, the sky went William Blake and I bawled then, too, for the terrifying beauty of disorientation. I didn’t know how we’d get down the hill as night fell, the ground around us was puffing and smoking; I anticipated asphyxiating on sulfuric air. Veins of flowing lava around my feet. That volcano was the fixed winner in a boxing match, my flashlight was pathetic shining into lava rivers, their light so powerful, I would have tossed my flashlight in to watch its metal melt. If I made it down, I cried, it will only be because the volcano granted me permission; volcanoes are essentially control freaks. Picaya was why I was able to laugh along with the man’s cinderally memory: I could relate. In one way, yes, one could tear it up all over a volcanic peak and the volcano will obviously reign supreme. Yes, I can see where he got that idea, I chortled as we worshipped the volcano, commemorated our experiences on it, mine with the flowers and his with motorcycles. Then I felt nauseous, for nothing is indestructible, even hardcore forces need a buttress, some talismanic appreciation. The barefoot man on Picaya had it right, walking barefoot on those pebbles, cutting his feet up. He was so bloody by the end of the walk, once he felt the soft rainforest’s floor that night, he was hurting. Years later, I realized that was sacrifice, his pain was Picaya love. My memory of these experiences hurts, my love for writing hurts, I want to share everything with you so much. If it doesn’t hurt, I’m lost.
-I love this story, from ‘The Sad Drag Monologues,’ which appear in Baby Geisha, by Trinie Dalton.