The fifteenth Moon Prize* goes to Heather Steinmann's extraordinary and timely poem "Fetish: For Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind" —backdating to the full moon of November 3, 2017. This poem has already moved so many people; it has been read out loud in church and other public places. We cannot bring Savanna back, but we can keep her memory alive for her family and especially for her daughter who lives.
Fetish: For Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind
by Heather Steinmann
“What was the address where the body was found?” a reporter said.
The sheriff (laughs, says):
“that thing hasn’t had an address for years…
a side note, that’s where I hunt my deer” (reporters laugh).
The internet is an enormous radio
where you can find
how many units an apartment building has,
an ultrasound picture,
how to induce or remove.
A fetish is an object inhabited by spirit, fixated on or worshipped by a lesser being.
Also it can be a small, carved bead or ornament.
8 months pregnant.
22 years old.
Member of the Spirit Lake Tribe.
They said that when she was a child
Savanna made a friend by crossing the street and asking
“do you want to go for a walk?”
They said that she loved everybody.
They said that one out of three indigenous women go missing in their lifetime
but this case might be different.
They said we’re looking into whether the fetus
was induced or removed
and that happens
but this case might be different.
They said “womb raiders” follow a pattern.
This one seemed no different.
We seldom see what lies under water until a part of it surfaces.
They said she went upstairs to help a neighbor sew a dress.
When she got there it was different.
They said the apartment complex has 7 units, 3 stories.
Her boyfriend said they’d been together for 7 years.
They said the neighbor
had 7 children scattered
none that she wanted but this one.
16 or 24 steps a headline said she walked up the stairs and people were mad they said which is it 16 or 24 they said we need to know but what they really wanted to know was how many of what inside
In the newspaper they said fetal abduction is rare but
there have been 18 in 43 years in the US
and just two mothers lived.
Women don’t get killed by women all that often
only these cases are different.
In the newspaper they don’t always say the victim’s names.
Another neighbor heard a banging in the bathtub for 15 or 20 minutes,
and then the shower came on around 1:30 or 2:00.
7 children scattered but those weren’t the one
“That’s the one. That’s the baby I want.”
A year before Savanna the neighbor
accosted a woman in a restaurant
a white woman but a white woman
with a brown child.
7 children scattered but she said “That’s the one. That’s the baby I want.”
American Indian women are murdered more than ten times the national average.
9 days until her body was found
just 2 until her baby was found with the neighbor.
He said the one with 7 children scattered said to him
“this is our baby, this is our family.”
7 children scattered but this one would have light brown skin
smooth and takeable.
Induced or removed.
This kind of evil makes us search the faces of the people we know.
A fetish can be a small bead, a carving of a being believed to have power.
8 months along,
her body nothing but someone else's personal calendar
then a stopwatch
what was the sound it made when it was done in 15 or 20 minutes?
A countdown, tearing off each little paper on a chain.
Her 16-year-old brother heard he thought a sewing machine.
God keep his mind in a place he can find it.
They said she met her death by walking
16 or 24 steps
then 15 or 20 minutes
to help with a sewing project.
Our mothers taught us
if you don’t get what you want you’re not supposed to
take it from someone
you don’t craft a story
sew it up
to make the pieces of it fit.
A woman’s work is never done.
Her mother who said right away she was missing.
Her father who knocked on the door.
Her brother who knocked on the door.
The mothers who came to search.
What a mother is
would hold the 22-year-old 8-months along child
and tell her that she can have anything in the world that she wants.
“Is it normal to have an extremely hard time breathing…
I’m 35 weeks and miserable.”
When they found her body
surfaced on a river log
the baby’s father said
“I can’t breathe.”
To carve out a plot is to lay waste to the whole story.
The mother of a culture discarded,
the taking of a trinket.
It happens all the time.
Over 50% of assaults on American Indian women are committed by non-natives.
This one was no different.
15 or 20 minutes,
the enormous radio can’t capture
how quietly one came and one went.
27 miles away from my childhood home is a lake,
it grows closer by the day,
taking land and sometimes lives.
The Spirit Lake.
As a child I wondered at a picture on a cafe wall
of a lake monster, serpentine and mostly submerged.
The kayakers that found her,
they might have checked for a chance of rain but really
how many of us can say
we go down to the river
without a fraction of our hearts
scanning the undercurrent for
the sad story of someone rising?
or a love affair.
* * * * *
* The Moon Prize ($91) is awarded once a month on the full moon for a story or poem posted in Writing In A Woman's Voice during the moon cycle period preceding that full moon. I don't want this to be competition. I simply want to share your voices. And then I want to pick one voice during a moon cycle for the prize. I fund this with 10% of my personal modest income. I wish I could pay for each and every poem or story, but I am not that rich. (Yet.) For the time being I still run a month behind with this prize—I expect to catch up to the current month soon.
Why 91? 91 is a mystical number for me. It is 7 times 13. 13 is my favorite number. (7 isn't half bad either.) There are 13 moons in a year. I call 13 my feminist number, reasoning that anything that was declared unlucky in a patriarchal world has to be mystically excellent. Then there are 4 times 91 days in a year (plus one day, or two days in leap years), so approximately 91 days each season. In some Mayan temples there are or were 91 steps on each of four sides. Anyway, that's where the number 91 comes from, not to mention that it's in the approximate neighborhood of 100.