Michael Wasson Two Poems

Notes from One [Indigenous] Boy to America

  1. Forgive me for I have something to say
  2. Everything is in the language we use. – Layli Long Soldier [This means the world to me]
  3. 13:34, it’s raining again
  4. First of all, I’m quite shy [so I’ll try my best]
  5. I mark the white page & erase what dark I’ve made
  6. Let me begin again
  7. I watch my people arrested at night
  8. What I saw: their wrists gleaming with moonlight
  9. ’anoqónma, my uncle says / meaning, indigenous
  10. Question: are there enough metaphors to sink the world? Or to keep it moving?
  11. Sometimes, standing in the rain makes me feel more alive—why is that?
  12. My cousin has two long braids that reach down his body—& for that, I’m so happy
  13. See your mouth—our lips want nothing but to be this red
  14. The whole world was water once / don’t you remember?
  15. 21:07, I want my mother / to know I love her
  16. Bones speak / bones, speak
  17. Stop & listen to the silence between us
  18. What might that mean?
  19. Some of us are more afraid than others
  20. Note to self: every word I’ve ever spoken was & is laced with water, a burning water
  21. Question: have you stared at your fingerprints in the window?
  22. Immediate thought: the only proof of your humanity / sometimes / that you were here
  23. How might we prove we’re really alive? / Too deep? Too soon? Maybe.
  24. Let them say: the dead coded you like this: hidden in your fingertips
  25. Touch me / I promise I’m only a body with a heart beating
  26. With enough loss / of light / you see yourself / in the glass
  27. Note to self: every ghost in your bones moves you
  28. That’s life / sometimes
  29. My student / who wrote notes in Sharpie to himself on his arms / died of thirst in a field
  30. Internet comment duly noted: we won the war so shut the hell up
  31. You were made flesh from so many
  32. (-continued-) rifle blows
  33. Another internet comment: let the dogs eat them DAMN DOG EATERS
  34. Have you looked in the mirror & said: you are a graveyard
  35. I have
  36. I warp the mirror only by standing there / only by thinking of you, America
  37. Touch yourself in the dark (any way necessary) because you are
  38. (-continued-) a pleasure to be alive
  39. Question: have you heard voices when looking at a puddle of rain?
  40. It rained yesterday too
  41. Imagine: the rain leaping up from the field / like locusts
  42. I made my yáaca’ cry from an ocean away / from laughing
  43. Because memories of joy between us keep our blood in motion
  44. I wanted to know the body / was all we had
  45. Trying to remember how my skin felt after someone said: fucking Indians
  46. By the way: here you are / my god / Gentle Reader / because I’m praying & you’re listening
  47. Thank you / qe’ciyéw’yew’
  48. The loneliest word is the one you have inside you but haven’t spoken yet
  49. To learn to make love in another language / I cried that night
  50. All that was left—bodies remembering—breath, now gone, still wetting the mouth
  51. No, the body is built to bear the dead
  52. My grandfather’s tap water is the best in the world / I swear
  53. It’s good for your blood, says my uncle [who sees better in his one eye than I can with both]
  54. I was made because it was dark—& somebody was missing
  55. Undress & stare at yourself / smile / that is you
  56. Put your hand to your chest & say something like: a house with everyone inside
  57. I’m part monster, part animal, part water, part story, part song, part trickster, always blood meeting water & sprinkled on the earth
  58. You breathe / my heart can’t help / but react
  59. gather the senses, but I say, gather your hands, dearly beloved
  60. In my mother’s tiny red Honda hatchback, the radio plays: dearly beloved, we are gathered here today
  61. (-continued-) to get through this thing called life. & I’ve loved Prince ever since.
  62. You are passing through your life, like [a. a season, b. a child playing in limbo, c. a clock, d. all of the above]
  63. In the field, at the massacre site, I wept & wept while my classmates watched
  64. Question: do you dream of me?
  65. After the rain finishes, I will ask: will you remember me this way?
  66. First frost of the year means: yes, even breath touches earth & stays
  67. Question: how to clear the air if the air is all your loss?
  68. I gave you America what it wanted but I kept something
  69. On my mother’s Facebook post, I write: to be in this skin is a resistance
  70. On my friend’s Facebook post, I write: indigenous existence = oxymoron
  71. One headphone shorts &—suddenly—the same song is something I’ve never heard before
  72. The sparrows broke across the rice field / leaving behind a naked tree
  73. I love you all / I swear
  74. Or in other words: ’óykaloo, ’eetx heetiwíse
  75. Please: look in my eyes—that’s all I ask

Bones Where People Once Stood

are the bones left still / talking through the night / as if nobody had moved / at all & once / all I wanted was for my mouth / to fill with rainwater / to know the stars / yes, the stars / were draining enough of our paradise / our dead left walking c’ewc’éewnim / ’ískit we say / when the road was made / by ghosts dragged along / & leaving only the white smoke of their lives / behind me & my one acre- / shaped body separated / into how many / opened graves like a lifetime of forgotten nights / we breathe / & always see how / America tastes / when dripping / on exiled tongues / the water touching skin / so like blood / is the same water that once entered / the marrow / & stayed & let / our hushed ghosts / move / once more.