The Chickasaw poet and novelist Hogan (Power, 1998) offers a personal and family memoir that is neither poem nor novel, but more like a series of journal entries.
The snippets, as it were, of Hogan’s life are extraordinarily revealing, telling of a relationship with an older man that began—with her parents’ acceptance—when she was only 12, of her years of drunkenness, of the tragic failure to heal the deep psychic scars of her two adopted daughters (love “isn’t always enough,” she notes), of the debilitating pain and sleeplessness caused by her own fibromylagia, of amnesia caused by a fall from a horse. Her story is interwoven with stories of the pain, despair, and anger of Native Americans, and tales of heroes like Ohiyesa (a doctor at Wounded Knee) and Lozen (an Apache woman warrior and healer). And into the tapestry also go threads of reflections on the power of water (“perhaps the best place to find ourselves”), from the Atlantic Ocean to an Alaskan glacier; on spirits in the tribal pantheons, including the Mexican guardian of the title; and on the importance of the bones of the dead. One of the most intriguing thoughts is touched on in the last chapter, a discussion of the phenomenon of phantom pain spun into thoughts on phantom lands and phantom memory. Interspersed also are moving sketches of animal encounters, highlighted by the stillbirth of a wild mustang foal. Nature—and the sad loss of the relationship between humans and the land as well as its destruction—is an undercurrent throughout. Hogan calls on both western legend and Native American myth to make many of her points.
A hopscotch of scenes, unsatisfying in part because so many powerful story ideas go undeveloped.