Time to Kill in Gallup


Simon Ortiz

City streets
are barren
fronts for pain
hobbles toward
Rio Puerco wallow hole
              under the bridge.
My eyes are pain,

they were visions.
Sometimes my story
has worked
but this time
              the falling scabs
reveal only a toothless

Gumming back sorrow,
she gags on wine.
One more countless time
              won't matter.

"One more,
my friend."
I know him, standing
by the roadside.
He got lost,
"Didn't wanna go home,"
              and we left him
a ghost to remember.
Only sorrow has no goodbyes.

These Gallup streets
aren't much
for excuses
              to start on at least
one last good time.

"So forgettful,"
it's easy, "you are,"
she said.
              Sweeping her hand,
knocking on cold railroad tie.
She shudders
too often a load
of children bound
to be bound
in rags.

The children
have cried too many times,
would only dig more graves,
lean on church walls.
For warmth,
"Sure, why not."
look for nickels, dimes,
pennies, favors,
              quick cold kisses.
The child whimpers
into gutters.
These streets never
were useful
for anything
except tears.

She rubs her one last eye.
The other is a socket
for a memory
she got ripped,
ripped off
at Liberty Bar,
saving a pint of wine,
thinking she was saving
and would be granted
if she fought
or turned over
              one more time

Sister. Sister. these streets
are empty.
They have only told sighs
which are mean
and clutch with cold evil.

There are no pennies
or favors left, no change.
But might be if we ask for keeps.
There is change.
We must ask for keeps.

              I will come back
              to you for keeps
              after all.
              I will, for your sake,
              for ours.
              The children will rise.

She walks on.
The streets are no longer
The reeking vapors
become the quiet wind.
It rains at last.

You can see
how the Chuska Mountains favor
her dreams
when she walks toward them.
Her arms and legs unlimber.
All her love is returning.

The man she finds
is a roadside plant.

She sings then,
the water in her eyes
is clear as a child,
              of rain.
              It shall.
              It shall.
              It shall.
              It shall
              these gifts
              to return

It will happen again, cleansing.

The People will rise.

From Woven Stone by Simon Ortiz, Vol. 21, in Sun Tracks an American Indian Literary Series, University of Arizona Press
© 1992 Simon Ortiz Buy Now

Books by Simon Ortiz

Woven Stone, Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press. (Hardcover)
Men on the Moon : Collected Short Stories, Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press. (Hardcover)
After and Before the Lightning , Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press. (Hardcover)
Speaking for the Generations : Native Writers on Writing, Simon Ortiz (Editor), Univ. Arizona Press.
From Sand Creek : Rising in This Heart Which Is Our America, Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press.
The People Shall Continue, Simon Ortiz, Children's Book Press. (Library Binding)

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