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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.

Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World

Sherman Alexie, 1966
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
The first call? I choose my father because

He's astounded by bathroom telephones.
I dial home. My mother answers. "Hey, Ma, 

I say, "Can I talk to Poppa?" She gasps,  
And then I remember that my father 

Has been dead for nearly a year. "Shit, Mom," 
I say. "I forgot he’s dead. I’m sorry—

How did I forget?" "It’s okay," she says.
"I made him a cup of instant coffee 

This morning and left it on the table—
Like I have for, what, twenty-seven years—

And I didn't realize my mistake 
Until this afternoon." My mother laughs

At the angels who wait for us to pause
During the most ordinary of days

And sing our praise to forgetfulness
Before they slap our souls with their cold wings.

Those angels burden and unbalance us.
Those fucking angels ride us piggyback.

Those angels, forever falling, snare us
And haul us, prey and praying, into dust.

From Face by Sherman Alexie. Copyright © 2009 by Sherman Alexie. Used by permission of Hanging Loose Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie

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

by this poet

poem

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

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