Saturday Poem

Crazy Horse Speaks

I discovered the evidence
in a vault of the Mormon Church
3,000 skeletons of my cousins
in a silence so great
I built four walls around it
and gave it a name.
I called it Custer
and he came to me
again in a dream.
He forgave all my sins.

Little Big Horn.
Little Big Horn does not belong to me.
I was there
my horse exploded beneath me.
I searched for Long Hair
the man you call Custer
the man I call My Father.
But it wasn't me who killed him
it was _____________
who poked holes in Custer's ears
and left the body for proof.
I dream of him
and search doorways and alleys
for his grave.
General George Armstrong Custer
my heart is beating

I wear the color of my skin
like a brown paper bag
wrapped around a bottle.
Sleeping between
the pages of dictionaries
your language cuts
tears holes in my tongue

until I do not have strength
to use the word “Love”.
What could it mean
in this city where everyone is

There are places I cannot leave.
Rooms without doors or windows
the eternal ribcage.
I sat across the fire
from Sitting Bull
shared smoke and eyes.
We both saw the same thing
our future tight and small
an 8 x 10 dream
called the reservation.
We had no alternatives
but to fight again and again
live our lives on horseback.
After the Civil War
the number of Indian warriors
in the West doubled
tripled the number of soldiers
but Indians never have shared
the exact skin
never the same home.

I am the mirror
practicing masks
and definitions.
I have always wanted to be anonymous
instead of the crazy skin
who rode his horse backward
and laid down alone.
It was never easy
to be frightened
by the sound of a color.
I can still hear white
it is the sound
of glass shattering.

I hear the verdict
in the museum in New York
where five Eskimo were flown in
to be a living exhibit.
Three died within days
lacking natural immunity
their hearts miles
and miles of thin ice.
Three dead Eskimo
were stuffed and mounted
hunched over a fishing hole
next to the two living
who held their thin hands
close to their chests
mortal and sinless.

Whenever it all begins again
I will be waiting.

by Sherman Alexie
from Old Shirts & New Skins