Reading Poems in Public


Maurice Kenny

I stand on a stage and read poems,
poems of boys broken on the road;
the audience tosses questions.

I tell of old chiefs swindled of their daughters,
young braves robbed of painted shields,
Medicine Man hitting the bottle;
I chant old songs in their language
of the Spirit in wind and water   .   .   .
they ask if Indians shave.

I recite old stories,
calendar epics of victory battles,
and cavalry dawn massacres on wintered plains,
villages where war ponies are tethered to snow   .   .   .
and they want to know
how many Indians commit suicide.

I read into the microphone,
I read into the camera,
I read into the printed page,
I read into the ear   .   .   .
and they say what a pretty ring you wear.
The tape winds, the camera reels,
the newspaper spins
and the headlines read:
Ruffian, the race horse, dies in surgery.

At the end of the reading they thank me;
go for hamburgers at McDonalds
and pick up a six-pack to suck
as they watch the death
of Geronimo on the late show.

I stand on a stage and read poems,
and read poems, and read   .   .   .

© 1988 Maurice Kenny
From Greyhounding This America and reprinted in On Second Thought, University of Oklahoma Press.

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