Tonight I draw a raven’s wing inside a circle measured a half second before it expands into a hand. I wrap its worn grip over our feet as we thrash against pine needles inside the earthen pot. He sings an elegy for handcuffs, whispers its moment of silence at the crunch of rush-hour traffic, and speaks the dialect of a forklift, lifting like cedar smoke over the mesas acred to the furthest block. Two headlights flare from blue dusk --the eyes of ravens peer at Coyote biting his tail in the forklift, shaped like another reservation-- another cancelled check. One finger pointed at him, that one--dishwasher, he dies like this with emergency lights blinking though the creases of his ribbon shirt. A light buzzed loud and snapped above the kitchen sink. I didn’t notice the sting of the warning: Coyote scattering headlights instead of stars; howling dogs silenced by the thought of the moon; constellations rattling from the atmosphere of the quivering gourd. How many Indians have stepped onto train tracks, hearing the hoofbeats of horses in the bend above the river rushing at them like a cluster of veins scrawled into words on the unmade bed? In the cave on the backside of a lie soldiers eye the birth of a new atlas, one more mile, they say, one more mile.
The city’s neon embers
stripe the asphalt’s blank page
where this story pens itself nightly;
where ghosts weave their oily hair
into his belt of ice,
dress him in pleated shadows
and lay him fetal
on the icy concrete—
the afterbirth of sirens glistening over him.
We drain our headlights
on his scraped forehead
and watch the December moon
two-step across his waxen eyes;
his mouth’s shallow pond—
a reflecting pool
where his sobs leak into my collar.
One more, just one more, he whispers,
as he thaws back into the shape of nihitstilí
bruised knees thorning against his chest.
We steal away,
our wheels moan
through sleet and ash.
Death places second, third,
and fourth behind us.
At home on the Reservation:
Father sifts dried cedar leaves
over glowing embers,
above cellphone light, awaits:
never went out,
watched a movie instead.
my speech has knives
that quiver at the ellipses
of neon Budweiser signs
blinking through the fogged windshield,
and I text:
I’ve only rescued a sliver of him,
he’s only twenty-five
and he smells like blood and piss,
his turquoise bracelet snatched for pawn,
by the same ghost who traded his jacket
for a robe of snow and ice,
before inviting him
back into the Caravan
for one more, just one more.