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About this poet

Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, was born on October 7, 1966, on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. He received his BA in American studies from Washington State University in Pullman.

His books of poetry include Face (Hanging Loose, 2009), One Stick Song (2000), The Man Who Loves Salmon (1998), The Summer of Black Widows (1996), Water Flowing Home (1995), Old Shirts & New Skins (1993), First Indian on the Moon (1993), I Would Steal Horses (1992), and The Business of Fancydancing (1992).

He is also the author of several novels and collections of short fiction, including a young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007), which won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature; Flight (Grove Press, 2007); Ten Little Indians (2003); The Toughest Indian in the World (2000); Indian Killer (1996); Reservation Blues (1994), which won the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award; and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993), which received a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award.

Among his other honors and awards are poetry fellowships from the Washington State Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts and a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award. He has also received the Stranger Genius Award, a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, a Pushcart Prize, the PEN/Malamud Award, and a citation as "One of 20 Best American Novelists Under the Age of 40" from Granta magazine.

Alexie and Chris Eyre wrote the screenplay for the movie Smoke Signals, which was based on Alexie's short story "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona." The movie won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival in 1998 and was released internationally by Miramax Films. He is also a three-time world heavyweight poetry slam champion. Alexie lives with his wife and son in Seattle, Washington.

Good Hair

Sherman Alexie, 1966

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
Do you grieve their loss? Have you thought twice about your braids?

With that long, black hair, you looked overtly Indian.
If vanity equals vice, then does vice equal braids?

Are you warrior-pretend? Are you horseback-never?
Was your drum-less, drum-less life disguised by your braids?

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
You have school-age kids, so did head lice invade your braids?

Were the scissors impulsive or inevitable?
Did you arrive home and say, "Surprise, I cut my braids"?

Do you miss the strange women who loved to touch your hair?
Do you miss being eroticized because of your braids?

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
Did you weep or laugh when you said goodbye to your braids?

Did you donate your hair for somebody's chemo wig?
Is there a cancer kid who thrives because of your braids?

Did you, peace chief, give your hair to an orphaned sparrow?
Is there a bald eagle that flies because of your braids?

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
Was it worth it? Did you profit? What's the price of braids?

Did you cut your hair after your sister's funeral?
Was it self-flagellation? Did you chastise your braids?

Has your tribe and clan cut-hair-mourned since their creation?
Did you, ceremony-dumb, improvise with your braids?

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
Was it a violent act? Did you despise your braids?

Did you cut your hair after booze murdered your father?
When he was buried, did you baptize him with your braids?

Did you weave your hair with your siblings' and mother's hair,
And pray that your father grave-awakes and climbs your braids?

Copyright © 2011 by Sherman Alexie. Used with permission of the author.

Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, was born in 1966 on the

by this poet

poem
I wanted to walk outside and praise the stars,
But David, my baby son, coughed and coughed.
His comfort was more important than the stars

So I comforted and kissed him in his dark
Bedroom, but my comfort was not enough.
His mother was more important than the stars

So he cried for her breast and milk. It's hard
poem
The morning air is all awash with angels . . .
                                            - Richard Wilbur


The eyes open to a blue telephone
In the bathroom of this five-star hotel.
	
I wonder whom I should call? A plumber, 
Proctologist, urologist, or priest?

Who is most among us and most deserves