What I Would Do and Say the Next Time

AlexieFrom Sherman Alexie, “On The Amtrak From Boston to New York City:”

The white woman across the aisle from me says ‘Look,
look at all the history, that house
on the hill there is over two hundred years old, ‘
as she points out the window past me

into what she has been taught. I have learned
little more about American history during my few days
back East than what I expected and far less
of what we should all know of the tribal stories Continue reading “What I Would Do and Say the Next Time”

When She Died, We Buried All Those Words With Her

AlexieA poem from Sherman Alexie (thanks to elder Clancy Dunigan for passing this along):

My mother was a dictionary.

She was one of the last fluent speakers of our tribal language.

She knew dozens of words that nobody else knew.

When she died, we buried all of those words with her.

My mother was a dictionary.

She knew words that had been spoken for thousands of years. Continue reading “When She Died, We Buried All Those Words With Her”

Sonnet, Without Salmon

SalmonBy Sherman Alexie, reposted from Orion Magazine
1. The river is empty. 2. Empty of salmon, I mean. 3. But if you were talking to my grandmother, she would say the water doesn’t matter if the salmon are gone. 4. She never said that. I just did. But I’m giving her those words as a gesture of love. 5. She’s been gone for thirty-one years. 6. The water doesn’t matter if my grandmother is gone. 7. She swam wearing all of her clothes, even her shoes. 8. I don’t know if that was a tribal thing to do, or if she was just eccentric. 9. Has anybody ever said that dam building is an act of war against Indians? 10. And, yet, we need the electricity, too. 11. My mother said the reservation needs a new electrical grid because of all the brown- and blackouts. 12. “Why so many power outages?” I ask her. 13. “All the computers,” she says. 14. Today, in Seattle, I watched a cute couple at the next table whispering to their cell phones instead of to each other. But, chivalrous, he walked to the self-service coffee bar to get her a cup. Lovely, I thought. She was busy on her phone while he was ten feet away. When he sat back down, she said, “Oh, I was texting you to get me sugar and cream.”