poem index


Sherwin Bitsui

He was there-- before the rising action rose to meet this acre cornered by thirst, before birds swallowed bathwater and exploded in midsentence, before the nameless began sipping the blood of ravens from the sun’s knotted atlas. He was there, sleeping with one eye clamped tighter than the other, he looked, when he shouldn’t have. He said, "You are worth the wait," in the waiting room of the resurrection of another Reservation and continued to dig for water, her hands, a road map, in a bucket of white shells outside the North gate. He threw a blanket over the denouement slithering onto shore and saw Indians, leaning into the beginning, slip out of turtle shells, and slide down bottle necks, aiming for the first pocket of air in the final paragraph. He saw anthropologists hook a land bridge with their curved spines, and raised the hunters a full minute above its tollbooth, saying, "Fire ahead, fire." When they pointed, he leapt into the blue dark on that side of the fence; it was that simple: sap drying in the tear ducts of the cut worm, his ignition switched on-- blue horses grazing northward in the pre-dawn.

Poem from Shapeshift, reprinted with permission of The University of Arizona Press

Sherwin Bitsui

by this poet

I haven’t _________
since smoke dried to salt in the lakebed,
since crude oil dripped from his parting slogan,
the milk’s sky behind it,
birds chirping from its wig.

Strange, how they burrowed into the side of this rock.
Strange . . . to think,
they "belonged"
and stepped through the flowering of a future
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
Point north, north where they walk
in long blankets of curled bark,
dividing a line in the sand,
smelling like cracked shell,
desert wind, river where they left you
calling wolves from the hills,
	a list of names
growling from within the whirlwind.

Woman from the north,
lost sister who clapped at rain clouds.