Pioneer Day Riots, 1987
I took Pioneer Day out back and shot it in the head.
-CSU Chico President Robin Wilson
At the center of Fifth and Ivy, a carnival
of youth, liquor-slick and ready
to be set alight. The order to disperse
crackles, newspaper blackens in a trash can's
flames. From the choir of jeers a bottle
is hurled and deflected, batons are raised.
Riot shields in phalanx like Roman constabulary
quelling the Dionysian cult. As if
Bacchus and his piping satyrs
were among those who heeded Playboy's crude map
tracing Highway-99 up the Sacramento Valley straight
to America's Number One Party School.
Channel 24 loops the tape of overturned
police cars, their chassis gas-drenched,
spewing braids of smoke
while all the boys, Southern California-born, blue eyes
dancing with reflected fire, wipe sweat from the crowns
of their heads and watch West Chico burn
again. A hundred years before
these blocks were Chinese homes,
restaurants and laundries turned to char
by the Supreme Order of the Caucasians. Pioneer sons
protecting their white citadel.
While the rubble was swept from the streets
and the council passed its decrees
I slept inside my mother, her blood
I was born to a season of wildfires.
On the highest floor my mother cradled me
before hospital windows where
through plumes of ash
we beheld the cauterized plain.
by Isaac Ginsberg Miller
Isaac Ginsberg Miller is a Writer-in-Residence with InsideOut Literary Arts Project and an Artist in Residence with Detroit Future Schools. He has also taught with Youth Speaks and the James and Grace Lee Boggs School. Originally from California, Isaac graduated from UC Berkeley with degrees in Ethnic Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies and received the Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate Prize. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Collagist, Midwestern Gothic, English Journal, and the anthology Uncommon Core: Contemporary Poems for Learning and Living.