There has been a small fire, burnt
of water tamed the blaze—but somewhere
the cold sky with my witchcraft of longing.
eggs still warm from soft underbellies
Somewhere, a fish is being angled for
like an anonymous threat. I keep changing
As a child
We press on, firing furtive glances
I wake up early
I meet a shadow
The moon is still out.
I run into an old routine.
A poem asks for directions.
Then I meet a future without a past
How can I talk about my presence
The poem keeps staring at me.
Back when I used to be Indian
“Continue” was originally published in Mark Turcotte's Exploding Chippewas (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2002).
To subtract to increase.
Brancusi’s brass bird
On marble heads
Just lips jut out
Each paring, each chip
to express only essence.
Paperboy, cleaner, tourist guide, stock taker, dishwasher, lifeguard, waiter, bartender, teacher, house painter, writer is a thing I have been paid for. Kyke, algebra, wop, drop-stich, jap, bowline, chink, piecrust, nigger, radius, dyke, spelling, faggot, manners, yank, voltage, spic, driving, whore, ice-skating, slut, baseball, cracker, geography, trash, climate, dingo, playboy, French-press, prep, weed, jock, drinking, nerd is a thing I have been taught. Whale, snake, dolphin, dog, chicken, pig, cow, ant, cricket, camel, lamb, bear, buffalo, pigeon, pheasant, duck, lobster, crab, oyster, snail, mussel, roe, tuna, salmon, veal, trout, catfish, piranha, swordfish, cod is a thing I have killed. Paris, London, Tokyo, Doha, Dubai, Christchurch, Seoul, Hanoi, Moncton, Vancouver, Lima, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, LA, NY, Dallas, Beijing, Colombo, Ulan Bator, Gale, Siem Reap, Efate is a place I have slept. Lied, loved, slapped, kicked, cheated, liked, defrauded, slurred, defended, accused, believed, envied, trusted, helped, stole, cared, hit, threw, shamed, lusted, burnt, built, hated is a thing I have done. Ayako, Amanda, Mohammad, Brian, Chris, Jon, Jane, Alex, Hyun Jung, Roanne, Halumi, Ahmed, Glenn, Ayesha, William, Anna, Ozgur, Merv, Alana, Joanne, Soo Nam is a person I have known. I, me, you, we, they, them, those, these, son, rival, brother, student, lover, enemy, friend, foe, colleague, boss, teammate, opponent is a thing I have been. Hate, fear, passion, lust, hunger, joy, compassion, respect, love, horror, history, friendliness, thirst, inspiration, reverence, betrayal is a thing I have felt. Archapilago is how I first said it but my father correcting me by saying archipelago is a thing that taught me shame and pride.
Pirogue and paddles
Fly rod and spinners
Black gnats and cat-gut
This poem is about a swamp where I fly fished into my twenties. A true swamp, it nevertheless had an open feeling. The light coming into the darkness was like shafts of light in European cathedrals. The water was dark, but not muddy. The green trout were really small mouth bass, but the locals called them “green trout.” Moccasins would plop off a limb and aggressively swim toward the pirogue we fished from. I killed many with the paddle. The fly bait was a wet fly (black gnat) we used with a very tiny spinner and trailing a sliver of cat-gut. No fly fisherman ever uses a spinner except in the Southern Louisiana swamps. The most an alligator would let us see were two black nostrils, just above the water line. After we cooked the bass late in the day and ate them, we took small wooden stools down by the water, sat, listened to the silence.