I Would Steal Horses

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Poet Bio: Sherman Alexie

Sample Poems
Poverty of Mirrors
What the Orphan Inherits
I Would Steal Horses
Little Big Man
I Would Steal Horses, by Sherman Alexie



I Would Steal Horses
© 1992 by Sherman Alexie

Poet Bio
Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie is an enrolled Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian from Wellpinit, Washington, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. His first book, The Business of Fancydancing, was published by Hanging Loose Press. His poems and stories have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Beloit Poetry Journal, Black Bear Review, Caliban, New York Quarterly, Red Dirt, Slipstream, Zyzzyva, and others. "Native American writing is about survival," Alexie says. "We recently went over one million in population, estimated as 75-90 percent less than the population when whites first arrived in America. With that kind of genocidal philosophy prevalent, it is our strongest tradtion, our longest dance, to remain alive, to survive."


Poverty of Mirrors

You wake these mornings alone and nothing
can be forgiven; you drink the last
swallow of warm beer from the can
beside the bed, tell the stranger sleeping
on the floor to go home. It's too easy

to be no one with nothing to do, only
slightly worried about the light bill
more concerned with how dark day gets.

You walk alone on moist pavement wondering
what color rain is in the country.
Does the world out there revolve around rooms
without doors or windows? Centering the mirror
you found in the trash, walls seem closer
and you can never find the right way

out, so you open the fridge again
for a beer, find only rancid milk and drink it
whole. This all tastes too familar.

Copyright ©1992 Sherman Alexie

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What the Orphan Inherits


I dreamed I was digging your grave
with my bare heands. I touched your face
and skin fell in thin strips to the ground

until only your tongue remained whole.
I hung it to smoke with the deer
for seven days. It tasted thick and greasy

sinew gripped my tongue tight. I rose
to walk naked through the fire. I spoke
English. I was not consumed.


I do not have an Indian name.
The wind never spoke to my mother
when I was born. My heart was hidden

beneath the shells of walnuts switched
back and forth. I have to cheat to feel
the beating of drums in my chest.


"For bringing us the horse
we could almost forgive you
for bringing us whisky."


We measure time leaning
out car windows shattering
beer bottles off road signs.


Indian boys
sinewy and doe-eyed
frozen in headlights.
Copyright ©1992 Sherman Alexie

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I Would Steal Horses
For Kari

for you, if there were any left,
give a dozen of the best
to your father, the auto mechanic
in the small town where you were born

and where he will die sometime by dark.
I am afraid of his hands, which have
rebuilt more of the small parts
of this world than I ever will.

I would sign treaties for you, take
every promise as the last lie, the last
point after which we both refuse the exact.

I would wrap us both in old blankets
hold every disease tight against our skin.

Copyright ©1992 Sherman Alexie

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Little Big Man

I got eyes, Jack, that can see
an ant moving along the horizon
can pull four bottles shattering
down from the sky and recognize
the eyes of a blind man

who told me once, The future is yours
and I believed him until he left me
without a campfire, without an axe
to chop down a tree and build myself
a chair, house, cold drink.

Jack, how much pain is thre
in the world? I think there's only one kind
and we all keep moving around it in circles
like clumsy pioneers, over the same ground
until the landscape becomes so familiar
we settle down and call it home.

Seems like everybody wants to be an Indian.
Why should you be any different, Jack?
Still, when you rub the red dirt off your pale nose
your little insanities vanish.
Listen: the proof is glass.
When an Indian looks through a window
it's like a mirror. When the Indian looks
into a mirror, it's like a window.

I know you have dreams, Jack. We all want
an acre of land, love, and a full stomach.
Without that, we couldn't listen to the wind
without anger. But I've been sitting in a cold room
watching stars through a hole in the roof.
That bright star to the north doesn't have a name
I know. Like everything else, it will break my heart.

Copyright ©1992 Sherman Alexie

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