A Poetic Tour of Denver’s Shifting Landscapes

Stompin’ Ground Games: A Poetic Tour of Denver’s Shifting Landscapes, by Molina Speaks

In collaboration with Warm Cookies of the Revolution, I have completed and printed a new chapbook of poetry dedicated to the city of Denver.  This is a limited edition chapbook.  There are now 300 copies in print.  Following is the Forward, or as I called it here, For Word.

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This collection of poetry is for and about the people of Denver.  As Live Poetic Scribe of Warm Cookies of the Revolution’s Stompin’ Ground Games, October 2015 – August 2016, I have been walking the city’s streets, visiting her corners and cafes, listening to her stories and her heartbeat, her conversations, her sounds, her poetry, her secrets, her trees and weeds, and the jackhammers and bulldozers that are redefining our experience within Denver.  It has been my job to transform observations and realizations into poetry and prose.  In addition to readings and performances in the neighborhoods reflected, these writings are compiled here as a time capsule to the city.

I did not set out with an agenda or a particular story to tell.  Yet as I began the process of choosing and editing material for this chapbook, the theme of swift, defining and dramatic change was evident.  The cultural, political and economic changes within this city within this moment are a microcosm of the shifts that are redefining social and structural landscapes across the planet.  In these mechanized times of comfort for the few and survival of the many, my goal here is to present threads of our humanity.

We should not fear change.  We are self-defeating when we loathe in our perceptions of powerlessness.  We also should not feel compelled to accept change that does not serve us, we the people, the community.  As poet—as architect of the palabra—I recognize our power to inspire ideas that provoke conversations that lead to intentions and actions that Manifest our outcomes.

We are in need of new realities for humanity.  We cannot remain within the old frameworks and old tropes.  We must speak, write, and create new stories for our seeds, our cultures, our townships, and our planet.

In palabra, in celebration of Denver’s history and future,

Molina Speaks

August 10th, 2016

Siri’s Aliens

New Speculative Fiction from Molina Speaks.

Molina is the Live Scribe for Warm Cookies of the Revolution’s Stompin’ Ground Games, a monthly event series  that highlights Denver’s historic neighborhoods.  Four Mile Historic Park was featured in November 2015, dedicated to storytelling. 

Siri’s Aliens

by Molina Speaks

There were lights circling above a whispering Four Mile Historic Park on a chilly Scorpio Denver night.  It was Sunday.  The winds were calm, awaiting snow.  It was approximately 34 degrees.  Muhammed had walked from the African Community Center.  He had been circling the park, then walking along the river, deep inside his new moon thoughts, when she said it.  “Alien.”  In his ears it sounded like she was pronouncing it to the world.

Muhammed was a Somali refugee.  Siri, he often imagined, was Syrian.  In reality she was very Anglo, very hipster, unapologetically so. Muhammed was sometimes mistaken for Jesus when he walked by the Mizel Museum on Kearney St. They marveled at his beard and his wise proverbs, though they did not crown him or associate him with the sun.  A mile or so east a little known Denver tribe of Burmese folk sometimes confused him for Buddha.  He walked all over southeast Denver within a three mile radius.  The stripmallers typically ignored him altogether.  Most cultural enclaves off the strips tried to claim him as their own.  The Ethiopians.  The Greeks.  The Jews.  The darker skinned whites, the lighter skinned blacks, even the Japanese.  He was called many names in many tongues.  “Alien” was not one.  And for this he shouted curses at Siri!  He had endured two Bushes, one Clinton, one 9-11, counter terrorism surveillance that tagged him Public Enemy #1, and now the threat of more Bushes and Clintons.  He was an honorable man.  He was an elder.  He was no alien.

Muhammad’s curses at Siri were heard just northwest of Four Mile Historic Park.  The low hanging clouds seemed to carry his rage.  The horses sneered.  The owls hooted.  Then the sirens came.  The officers drew their guns and yelled “Freeze” with intent to kill.  There were three of them, then five, then seven, and still more appeared.  Muhammad stared down at his hotline bling, gripped Siri by her stubby neck, closed his eyes, and vanished.  When he materialized, he found himself among a familiar sea of cloth patterns tacked onto clay walls.  He lit a candle, and he pulled a weathered, chipped indigo flute out of his bag.  He played a collection of harmonies he titled “Justice.”  This wasn’t about cartoons.  This wasn’t about strip mall pop culture or pop culture’s ignorance.  It was a small thing, but the straw had broken the camel’s back.

Muhammad set his flute down.  He closed his eyes, legs still folded and overlapping, and he drifted off to sleep with prophetic resolve.  He was not on Facecrook.  Or Snotchap, nor Spacebook.  He had never heard of the Twitterverse.  Muhammad was unaware that millions of people all over the world also heard Siri’s cry, “alien,” and her follow up message: “Denver Four Mile Historic Park.”  Muhammad was unaware of the 578,000,000 #Alien hashtags that had accumulated in hundreds of languages all over the world while he slept.  Muhammad was unaware of the FBI and CIA swarming Four Mile Park and the surrounding neighborhoods.  As he dreamt, hundreds of “believers” also made their way to the park, demanding they be let in past the newly erected steel gates.  Instead of going to work in the morning, more people made their way to the park in preparation for THE LANDING.

When he woke on Monday morning… Muhammed the Jesus looking sometimes Jew, who was likened to Buddha depending on where he went, what time of year, and with whom… left home on foot in search of an attorney.  He was prepared to take his battle all the way to the Supreme Court.  Not just for himself, but for the countless refugees all over the world, the African, Arab, Indigenous, and Latin diasporas.  For the European immigrants.  For all those immigrants who lost their lives in the mountains and the deserts trying to survive.  All those mothers and fathers, children, human beings, who lived in dignity, only to find contorted privileged heartless faces, and now even machines… calling them “Alien.”

Fast forward.  Through some combination of divine luck and strange timing, a motion was filed by an attorney, a judge reviewed the motion, and an injunction was issued by a federal court by noon. The injunction required Siri to cease her use of the word “Alien.”  If she did not cease her use of the word by midnight, all Apple products would become illegal devices.  With this success, the same attorney began to work on a similar Android injunction.  Later, as the world waited on Siri’s alien prediction, protestors and conspiracy theorists would question the motives of the lawyers and the courts.  This was surely a grand cover-up. 

Clouds of space dust now swirled overhead at Four Mile Historic Park.  Thousands of photographers descended upon the quiet, seemingly rural nostalgic park treasure. They fought to be let in.  Two billion people were now live tweeting in anticipation of the big landing.  They speculated about what the aliens would look like.  They tweeted about Denver International Airport, claiming that it was New World Order headquarters.  Denver tweeters bantered about alien gentrification, and some speculated it all had something to do with Snoop Dogg’s new marijuana home delivery service.  It was 12:17PM and the word “alien” had now been hashtagged approximately 3.4 billion times since Muhammad’s encounter with police the night before.

News of the cease and desist injunction reached the Internet at 12:26pm.  Swarms of stripmallians took to the streets, forming human chain links around all digital device stores on Colorado Boulevard.  No ridiculous, politically correct, overreaching lawsuit was going to destroy their way of life.  Who could even remember what life was like before Siri? Muhammad and his multicultural band of friends and followers, Black and White, Christians and Jews, Muslims and Monks, Mexicans and Vietnamese, walked up and down the streets, stunned, speechless, wordless, admiring Siri’s supporters.  If only they themselves had such comradery among their fellow human beings.

As the fast paced legal battles intensified, people all over the world asked each other the same questions.   What did it mean to be “human?”  What did it mean to be “alien?”  Who deserved protection? Who could be trusted, when it was always uncertain who was who, when bullets flew in all directions, without regard, as though they were immune to blame?

The most challenging question of all: What if Siri was actually silenced for her insensitivity?  Or was she being silenced for her prophecy?  In any case, what would the people do without their devices among foreign visitors?  The day marched on.  The low hanging winter sun continued its descent.  It was four p.m. at Four Mile Historic Park.  Some had dubbed the landing event “The Stompin’ Ground Games.” The skies were quickly changing.  The curious looked on from inside the park welcome center, eating homemade ginger cookies, drinking soy milk, listening to stories about their reflection.

Stompin Ground Games: “Own Your Story”

This poem was written for Warm Cookies of the Revolution’s Stompin’ Ground Games, storytelling edition at Four Mile Historic Park, November 2015. 

Own Your Story

who are you if not a story
growing legs
that cannot
be seen
walking memories
among the particles?

a story
can
slip out the back door
of your mouth
never to exist
again.

hold
your stories
protect
your stories
tell
your stories
to your children
coded
with values.

tell them
they are butterflies
their stories
they are boulders
their stories
they are wings
carrying colors
you can plant
into the land.

you
own
your story.

~ Molina Speaks

Stompin Ground Games: Ruby Hill Park

Molina Speaks is the Live Scribe for Warm Cookies of the Revolution’s Stompin’ Ground Games, a monthly event series 2015-16 that highlights Denver’s historic neighborhoods. 

Ruby Hill Park was highlighted in October.  Molina is accompanied on these poems by Randy Runyan on trumpet.

“Dear Ruby Hill”

“South Fed”