Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Looking For a Name in Sante Fe


That night I headed to the bar--
My jones was for the music, humping out the door.
No stars yet in the ache of the sky.
A rat hung in the mouth of the fat cat.
Everyone was there in each burrow of booth,
Spook and the knot of Indian school brats—
The best artists aren’t always the best dancers.
I’ll drink to that, or anything to make me laugh.
Everyone had a name; I was still looking.
Each name carried a myth, personally.
A heart could harbor the origin story;
we’d know how fire happened.
There was no doubt as to the root of the matter.
Spook got his name on the street, Nez from an ancestor,
Tall with heavy rain. Other names
Could never be spoken so far from home
In a town built at the crossroads of trade. Now we traded
Despair for vision, made art, while boxcars filled
with uranium slid up and down the highway beside the Rio Grande.
All about a Saturday night in the Senate Lounge
Which wasn’t the senate and there was no
Lounging, only drinking, dancing, and a jumpy
Edge. Maybe it was election night. We’d voted
Or skipped the nerve.
I promised Spook I’d never forget him, moved
To the next table of adventurous fools to catch up and dance,
Then she came in, blown from Oklahoma
By an evil wind churned up by burning treaties.
We’d heard the story of her killed lover,
Silkwood: the name; the monster: Kerr-McGhee. By then nearly
Every dance was done and we were all a state
Or two away from madness, from sad.
Everyone was making their moves.
I took her in as everyone took a breather
From the race. Between our bent heads we made a temple.
She told me the story as she checked the door
Sporadically. When the night was done
I offered her refuge; she fled for another town.
We only take what we can carry,
I don’t remember her name, or who won or lost
Or what version of the music compelled me to forget
So drenched that night from tough knowledge
in the vulnerable, pulsing mother field.

c Joy Harjo November 17, 2005

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