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About this poet

Michael Wasson’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Dialogist, Prairie Schooner, and Waxwing. He is Nimíipuu from the Nez Perce Reservation in Lenore, Idaho, and currently lives in Japan. 

The Exile

Chilocco Indian School, Oklahoma, 1922: A disciplinarian says, There is no foolishness, do everything just so… such as keep your room clean, keep yourself clean, and no speaking of your Native language.

For now I can
             just whisper 
kál’a sáw

                  the ’óx̣ox̣ox̣ 
      of your hím’ k’up’íp

wrecked at the base
                         of a century that burns

through my slow blood

/

                                 kiké’t caught

in the blink                                       silúupe

so draw the eyelids
       shut & forget the fire 
tangled among the branches

of your spine
             start where the skin meets

half an autumn
       rusting the edge of winter that is

knifing                        between me & ’iin

you & ’iim ’ee

/

boy     have you forgotten us
                                                is not what they are saying

or are they        asks another century

        how are we remembered
in our choreography
of bones?

/

mouth your birthplace          boy
without mouthing off           tim’néepe    is at the heart

or the heart of the monster
                                         or the grass blood-soaked

from the fresh kill that finally isn’t
                                                             your father

& pray héwlekce when your body is given away       says the
     orphan boy

with lashes licked into his shoulders

forget ’im’íic   because they can         tear every lip from every
     memory

                                     of your mother

/

because you are
torn & because you are
what song fills
your throat
with the color
of carved out tongue

peewsnúut & hi’lakáa’awksa
              is what is voiced in the dark
& so what does it mean
                           asks the boy

/

as the moon
glows mouth open
to the unbearable
taste of ash
blown among the stars

that the boy learned
the ghost’s trail

that milky way
is lit by the dying
brightly echoed

/

c’ewc’éewnim ’ískit
so there had to be breathing

there had to be.

 

 

 

Translations:
kál’a sáw—just in sudden silence
'óx̣ox̣ox̣ —sound of bones and flesh tearing
hím’ k’up’íp—sound of a mouth breaking
kiké’t—blood
silúupe—at or in the eye
’iin—I
’iim ’ee—you (with emphasis)
tim’néepe—at or in the heart, where the mind and felt emotions are housed. Also, the name
of the Nez Perce creation site, Heart of the Monster, located in Kamiah, Idaho.
héwlekce—I disappear
’im’íic—your mom [more intimate] (as opposed to your mother)
peewsnúut—without tongue, or cut tongue, or removed of one’s tongue
hi’lakáa’awksa—he, she, or it is lit all through the night
c’ewc’éewnim ’ískit—the ghost’s trail / the Milky Way

Michael Wasson

Michael Wasson

Michael Wasson’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Dialogist, Prairie Schooner, and Waxwing. He is Nimíipuu from the Nez Perce Reservation in Lenore, Idaho, and currently lives in Japan.