Returning a child to the Rez   2 comments


we drive under a dreamer’s sky

the whitest of clouds plumped

and placed in a precise hue of prairie blue

in what might be entry into a sweet town

where men in overalls stand with hands

in pockets     talk of rain and when the wheat

will be ready to cut

 

instead it’s Whiteclay, Nebraska

the 2nd of the month

checks have come in

bodies are strewn like discarded bottles

of beer    broken    leaking    some face down on the street

some braced in doorways

“they’d get it somewhere and if they had to walk further

there’d be more dead on the roads”

say the wealthy sellers of beer in Whiteclay

 

population 14

2 miles from the dry reservation

4 establishments sell beer   just 4   just beer

3 to 4 million cans a year

10 to 13,000 a day

sold to the 28,000 Native Americans

from Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota

 

skinny little Angie Kills-in-Water wakes

to meet my eyes in the rear-view mirror

“Wanna stop for a coke?”

“No” I say

“Scared?”

“No. We can stop”

“Never mind” she says

 

sorrow seems to steam from the streets

rising like heat

my vision feels wavy the way mirages

appear on oiled country roads in July

what country is this?

 

Angie leans over the seat to whisper

“I’m almost home!”

miles away from the white house

white fenced foster home

of cut lawns and leashed dogs

back to cars that take 4 Hail Mary’s to start

where sunlight  wind  and snow comes in around

door frames and windows

where Auntie Sue will gather all their blankets

and coats to wrap the two grandpas

and two children and herself

not just a popcorn cozy warm

but so they will not freeze

so they will not die

 

and be dead like Angie’s father

hit by a car on his way home from Whiteclay

Angie’s one memory of mother is her yellow death skin

or Auntie Sue’s babies 1 and 2 and 3

dead like other cousins in car wrecks

or her sister who hanged herself after the 3rd rape

from white men who come to the rez

to get away with it

 

Auntie Sue brings me

inside her dirt-floored house

bare wood walls      one page from a coloring book

hangs near the door

the child beside her withered in some way

holding her returning cousin’s arm

as if never to let go

two old men watch a small TV

there are no rooms

just quilts covering places to sleep

and two hard-backed chairs

 

I sit in one and explain paperwork

to Auntie Sue who wants to speak aloud

the names of those gone

to tell the agony of a family tree

made of dead branches

Sue says, “it’s the funerals     all those funerals

made me give up beer long ago”

 

gracious Auntie Sue sees me to the door

does she know her life expectancy is 52

outside under that perfect hue of prairie blue

we say goodbye         I step into my car

 

a 2002 Honda Accord

seats with no holes

the engine starts on first try

my sleek black traveling mug

fits in the cup holder

I’ll drive to my small stucco house

where my two dogs wait in a big grassy yard

with  cactus  wildflowers

and garden tomatoes

 

I can’t shake the feel and stink

of wealth from   my skin or gut

an exit out of my country

into my country

how can I have so much

Mary Strong Jackson

 

 

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Posted September 12, 2016 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

2 responses to “Returning a child to the Rez

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  1. The beauty, heart, and poignancy of your work continues to astonish me.

    Like

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