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Friday, December 7, 2012

The Second Snow



These flakes seem much more resiliant
able to stand the cool breath
this day breathes
upon the Black Hills
until time sends them
dripping through the canyon rapids

Certainly I know the words
Paha Sapa
but raised in the white bread house
those words were rarely uttered
unlike the homes
on the reservation
or the northside of my town
Rapid City
Hay Camp
and who knows
what the Lakota
called this gap and the grass
that filled two sides of it
It's hard to imagine
them coming into this area
in search of tatanka
buffalo
another word most learned
from a movie filmed
east south and north of here

My father double scheduled Lakota
people in his office for eye exams
and gave out watches
in the early days
because he said
“Lakota have no word for time”

how lovely
no word for time
no moviestar many moons
no measured distance
from here until tomorrow
just alive and surviving
the system that locked them
into the spaces where
we could tolerate them
separated from us

we who felt so superior
handing out five dollar bills
when the troubled family
struggled up the hill to our house
baby wife man
on a snowy day
much like this
no sense of time
except the empty bellies
that gnawed at their dignity
so much so they came
to my father for a handout

my father
telling me to stay inside
when I watched from his den
in our comfortable home
fearful that something might
happen to him
when all this family wanted
was food a place to get away
from the cold
this measured cold
that pulls the hunger
from a conquered people

I would barely know

and feel the shame
of my superiority
the day I shook hands
with Russell Means
in the downtown deli
near the piano store
where in “times” before I sold
sitting at my desk to watch him
when “times were slow”
and his friends
across the street
take AIM
at a thoughtless world
from the second floor
to shoot a message to the world
about dignity truth worth

about the people
who really own the land
where this house sits
where I watch the snow
and worry
where I'll get five dollars
to feed myself
after I'm forced to leave this place
by the system that forced
them
off their land
into servitude
to strange customs
of ownership
the destruction of families
the system of time
no snowflake
is white enough
to stand up to
the same system
that forces me to finish
this poem with these ugly words:

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry G. Wick All rights reserved


((((Writer' Note:  A friend points out that there are many Lakota words for the passage of time.  Of course there are.  This is a poem about misunderstandings, misconceptions, lack of understanding, cross- cultural differences and stereotypes.  I understand stereotypes very well as a gay man because stereotypes have always been a part of gay life....sometimes we even acted them out becaus of our own ignorance....Ignorance spreads like wildfire until it often becomes hatred of others and self-hatred....which is just so stupid.   The greatest lesson we can learn is to take each person one at a time.  What was passed to my father was ignorant....and it was a story he repeated often...and to a few knowledgeable people....he looked very bad in some respects....but they said nothing to him as he was a man who genuinely wanted to help people see....and a large number of Lakota people had very bad eyes.  I am genuinely a man who has to communicate in order to stay sane which psychiatrists will probably inform me has no place in modern psychiatric discussion as "sane" is probably not a true definition or diagnosis of why I need to write.  While it's not OCD...it just might be close to it.   Instead of compulsive hand washing, perhaps it's my way of cleaning out the words and feelings in my brain so I can feel clean.  Oh no, the more I write the more my foot becomes either locked in my mouth or my head.  And as we all know, a foot in the head is worth two on the ends of your legs.)))

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