for Martín Espada
- Once we could talk like long lost friends.
The very warp of words
and ideas welded us together.
Now, very little of what I say registers,
though you say you understand
when I point the finger of blame
and spin into minor pyrotechnics.
Anymore, most all I do is rework the alphabet
into black banners of retribution.
We are on the couch watching Loni Anderson
promote her kiss-and-tell book about her
pained life with Burt Reynolds.
When you say you never liked Burt, I tell you
that I truly am a holy man of lesser vengeance
They are showing film clips of Burt.
Look at him now on the tube, I say.
The old fool is chaotic, decrepit, destitute.
His goofy-looking wig is askew
and he's acting like the ghost
worms of youth are biting and breeding
beneath his liverspotted skin.
Yes, I did this to him. Honest to God.
Okay, I did use the sacred pipe.
I invoked the Thunder Beings
from the west wind.
I brought forth Skinwalkers
and all the slinking wrath
of the shadows we fear.
I used black tobacco ties.
My altar held the deadly claws of owl.
My smudging fan was made
from the tail of raven.
I shot the arrows of black medicine
into Burt Reynolds' bad actor's heart.
And why? You understand, but
those hairless little hermaphrodites
of the cognitive elite probably don't.
Well, I did it because he claimed to be part
Indian and I never bought that for a minute.
I did it because my education
would never allow me to digest
his good-old-boy celluloid cretinism.
I did it because your memory is fading.
Listen, how Indians really are is . . .
is if we get educated, I mean leave
the reservation and go to a good school,
get a couple of degrees, then come back,
we see how hopeless things really are.
So then we go away to another place
to teach white students about us Indians
and we focus on the positive, the good
old-time culture, and we know
we will never go home,
that home has been educated out of us.
When they cut our hair at the boarding schools
and dressed us in machine-made clothes,
the map to home was lost.
Just ask Jim Thorpe.
But, I digress . . .
I really did it because I loved Loni.
This was long before I met you.
In Cincinnati, on WKRP, she was
my heartland Helen of Troy.
Oh, how I used to dream that one day
she would snake her arm out of the tube
and have her way with me.
Yes, I also did it because I suspected
Burt drained her life force.
Burt was the first American
vampire I ever recognized.
Maybe I did it because with each passing
year I retreat deeper into
the concentric circles of meaning.
With each year, I find
myself farther from truth.
I castigate him but I am a phony too.
I can't even do what I'd truly like --
to enter bookstores and forge signatures
in the books of writers I loathe
and then add vile, shocking tidbits
like : Castrate every American
who pilots a snowmobile!
Yes, I'm as shallow as Burt.
I don't know why some people think
I own some clues to the mystery of life.
Yesterday, listening to country
and western KSDZ in Gordon, Nebraska,
I heard the twangy DJ say his fantasy
was to be locked in the back of a beer truck
for twenty-four hours with Loni.
Now what was that redneck moron thinking?
Wouldn't it be too pud-puckering
cold back there? And even if Loni consented
to doing the deed (which she wouldn't
- YOU KNOW SHE WOULD NOT!)
what would they use for a bed?
Who would want to make love
atop chilled cases of brew?
And would they both guzzle
suds all that time? Jesus, darling
remember how we used to swill?
And how would this bumpkin react
if Loni had to tinkle?
Probably none of this really matters.
Besides, locked in the back of a beer truck,
that DJ would find out it's pitchblack.
He wouldn't even be able to see Loni.
Thus, why Loni at all?
Surely her good looks made her his choice.
In the dark, Loni might as well be Janet Reno,
our manly, florid-faced Attorney General.
Lord, imagine banging the "Butcher of Waco"
in the back of a beer truck!
But please, darling, I'm not saying
it's all the same in the dark.
Just that on earth a billion
or so married men spurt spunk
to the dream dolls of their dim minds.
I suppose this is one of the ways we pray,
and O God, I did it because . . . Well,
I never liked his designer jeans
and cowboy boots and I never did believe
he was a good football player.
He was too much of a pretty boy.
Hard to imagine Burt doing the forearm
shiver or wind sprints and tackling dummies.
And just what THE HOLY HELL was he doing
diddling Dinah Shore just when she should've
beem sliding gracefully into old age?
To wit, I did it because I didn't like his laugh,
his wig, his swagger, his aimless cocksure banter,
That is why I used black medicine.
O see him now! See Burt, poor Burt --
chaotic, destitute, decrepit. And me?
Pretty much like him, but mission accomplished.
My mad middle-aged mission is accomplished
so I switch the channel, appeased.
We watch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
singing Christmas carols
and I sigh as you sing along.
The camera pans the Temple in Salt Lake.
The snow-covered Wasatch Mountains
bulge in the background.
Wasatch is the Ute Indian word for "frozen penis."
You smile cuckoo and giggle.
You smile cuckoo
and tell me to hush.
And I take your hand and do as you ask.
© 1997 Adrian Louis. Ceremonies of the Damned, University of Nevada Press.
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