The New Yorker

It’s closing time. Violence is my boyfriend

With a cross to bear

Hoisted on by the church.

He wears it everywhere.

There are no female deities in the Trinity.

I don’t know how I’m going to get out of here,

Said the flying fish to the tree.

Last call.

We’ve had it with history, we who look for vision here

In the Indian and poetry bar, somewhere

To the left of Hell.

Now I have to find my way, when there’s a river to cross and no

Boat to get me there, when there appears to be no home at all.

My father gone, chased

By the stepfather’s gun. Get out of here.

I’ve found my father at the bar, his ghost at least, some piece

Of him in this sorry place. The boyfriend’s convincing to a crowd.

Right now, he’s the spell of attraction. What tales he tells.

In the fog of thin hope, I wander this sad world

We’ve made with the enemy’s words.

The lights quiver,

Like they do when the power’s dwindling to a dangling string.

It is time to go home. We are herded like stoned cattle, like children for the

bombing drill—

Out the door, into the dark street of this old Indian town

Where there are no Indians anymore.

I was afraid of the dark, because then I could see

Everything. The truth with its eyes staring

Back at me. The mouth of the dark with its shiny moon teeth,

No words, just a hiss and a snap.

I could hear my heart hurting

With my in-the-dark ears.

I thought I could take it. Where was the party?

It’s been a century since we left home with the American soldiers at our backs.

The party had long started up in the parking lot.

He flew through the dark, broke my stride with a punch.

I went down then came up.

I thought I could take being a girl with her heart in her

Arms. I carried it for justice. For the rights of all Indians.

We all had that cross to bear.

Those Old Ones followed me, the quiet girl with the long dark hair,

The daughter of a warrior who wouldn’t give up.

I wasn’t ready yet, to fling free the cross

I ran and I ran through the 2 a.m. streets.

It was my way of breaking free. I was anything but history.

I was the wind.

By Joy Harjo

Next Article