national poetry month, day 26.

I prefer Sherman Alexie’s fiction to his poetry, but am always struck dumb by this four part cycle.

Indian Boy Love Song (#1)

Everyone I have lost
in the closing of a door
the click of the lock

is not forgotten, they
do not die but remain
within the soft edges
of the earth, the ash

of house fires and cancer
in sin and forgiveness
huddled under old blankets

dreaming their way into
my hands, my heart
closing tight like fists.

Indian Boy Love Song (#2)

I never spoke
the language
of the old women

visiting my mother
in winters so cold
they could freeze
the tongue whole.

I never held my head
to their thin chests
believing in the heart.

Indian women, forgive me.
I grew up distant
and always afraid.

Indian Boy Love Song (#3)

I remember when I told
my cousin
she was more beautiful

than any white girl
I had ever seen.
She kissed me then
with both lips, a tongue

that tasted clean and un-
clean at the same time
like the river which divides

the heart of my heart, all
the beautiful white girls on one side,
my beautiful cousin on the other.

Indian Boy Love Song (#4)

I remember when my father would leave,
drinking,
for weeks. My mother would tell me

the dream he needed
most
was the dream that frightened him
more

than any stranger ever could.
I
would wait by my window, dreaming

bottles
familiar in my hands, not my father’s, always
empty.

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