a little love affair.

I took the time to sketch, take pictures, and read some poetry. I fell in love with the author, Sherman Alexie. The wikipedia photo isn't flattering, but his gift of language coupled with an honest, funny, and vulnerable sensibility captivates me. It's times like this when I feel I need an artist.

Read this poem, if you've got the time.
(I'd love to read it to you out loud if I could.)


Brown-skinned women
I dreamed of you
long before
any of you decided
to dream about me.
I slept on the top bunk
of my U.S. Army Surplus bed

and pretended one of you was asleep on the bottom bunk
beneath me. Too young to fully understand what that physical
presence would've meant, I still knew it was what I needed. But
like anything believed too hard, those dreams always failed me. I
remember all your names, Indian girls I loved, Dawn, Loretta,
Michelle, Jana, Go-Go, LuLu, all of you Spokane Indian princesses
who never asked me to slow dance

to the music
that always found its way
into the Tribal School
and it wasn't only drums
we heard, you know?
The reservation has a symphony
complicated as any
and we all practiced
the fingering
on the piano, on the pine trees
on the secondhand trumpets

but I was always sat outside the chords, just a little too short
for the melody, and too skinny for the tempo. Oh, I loved it all from a
distance, from inches and miles away, from a generation removed
it seemed. And I loved you all, crazy and brave, in your young
Indian arrogance

and I love you still
when I see any of you
all these years later
often broken
and defeated by this reservation
by alcohol
and your own failed dreams.
I love you

when I see you in the bars, your faces scarred and scared.
Sometimes, I think I love you because your failures validate mine
and because my successes move me beyond the same boundaries
that stop you. I can be as selfish as any white or Indian man.
Sometimes, I think I love you because you all still slow dance with
the next Indian man who might save you. I can hear your bar
voice crack into questions: What tribe are you? Are you married?
How long have you been sober/drunk?
Sometimes, I think I love

because it's always easiest
to love the unloved
to dream
about the dreamless
to watch an Indian woman
just this side
of beautiful
slow dance
to a sad song
and never have to worry
about making her any promises

because this distance I've created is perfect. I can never be hurt.
Don't you see? I am afraid; I am not afraid. Don't you understand?
I know some of you will die in car wrecks. I know some of you
will die of cirrhosis. I know some of you will die of a broken
heart. But more than that, I know some of you will live, will learn
how to breathe this twentieth century oxygen

and learn how
to dance a new dance
with the rhythm
only Indians possess
with the rhythm

and I can hope you'll find your new warriors. Believe me, the
Indian men are rising from the alleys and doorways, rising from self-hatred and self-pity, rising up on horses of their own making.
Believe me, the warriors are coming back
to take their place beside you
beyond the "just surviving"
those new songs
that sound
like the old ones.

I discovered that Sherman Alexie published his first book of poems when he was my age. I yearn to be a writer.


Nathan Evans said...

Thanks for sharing. You've gotta love Sherman Alexi. And thanks for the book last Christmas.

mim said...

So good!

Jennica said...

On days like this, I wish I was you.


Carroll said...

I had the privilege of hearing you read it. I do mean privilege! I have the time. Great post! Thanks!

mustdestroyalltraces said...

i think i enjoy the formatting of the poem more than any other component--in a good way.

laura said...

trace, i have no idea what that means.