And to think I had just paid a cousin twenty dollars to shovel the walk. He and two of his buddies, still smelling of an all-nighter, arrived at 7 am to begin their work. When I left them a while later I noticed their ungloved hands and winter made me feel selfish and unsure. This ground seems unsure of itself for its own reasons. Real spring is still distant and no one is trying to make themselves believe this might last, this last unreasonable half hour. It is six-thirty in eastern Montana and the cold has finally given way. The time is important not because this has been a long winter or for the fact that it is my first here since childhood, but because there is so much else to be unsure of. At a time like this how is it that when I left only a week ago there were three feet of snow on the ground, and now there are none, not even a single patch holding on in the shadow of the fence-line. We do not gauge enough of our lives by changes in temperature. When I first began to write poems I was laying claim to battle. It began with a death and I have tried to say it was unjust, not because of the actual dying but because of what was left. What time of year was that? I have still not yet learned to write of war. I have friends who speak out--as is necessary--with subtle and unsubtle force. But I am from this place and a great deal has been going wrong for some time now. The two young Indian boys who might have drowned last night in the fast-rising creek near school are casualties enough for me. There have been too many just like them and I have no way to fix these things. A friend from Boston wrote something to me last week about not have the intelligence to take as subject for his poems anything other than his own life. For a while now I have sensed this in my own mood: this poem was never supposed to mention itself, other writers, or me. But I will not regret the boys who made it home, or the cousins who used the money at the bar. Still, something is being lost here and there are no lights on this street; enough mud remains on our feet to carry with us into the house.
Can You Feel the Native American in Me
We pull into dirt driveway in Lara’s blue Celica. The car came from her 18 money last year and it’s got only one dent on the side from a white girl in Wolf Point who slammed the door of her boyfriend’s Ford pick-up into the passenger side of Lara’s then new car. Lara was pissed, got out to kick the girl’s ass but they sped out of the Town Pump’s parking lot too fast. That girl was scared. Lara came back to the car and we laughed at that dent, but most of all we laughed at that fear. Driveway to uncle’s house, we’re bumping Tupac, get out, step into sweat lodge. Got a sick auntie. Take in a towel, leave out hip-hop beat, add in hand drum. Our uncle forgives us this time for being late and we are more sorry for this than we were for quitting the basketball team or for getting pregnant last year.