Sherman Joseph Alexie, Jr. (born October 7, 1966) is a poet, writer, filmmaker, and occasional comedian.
Much of his writing draws on his experiences as a Native American growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation.
Among his honors and awards are poetry fellowships from the Washington State Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts and a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award. He has also received the Stranger Genius Award, a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, a National Book Award, a Pushcart Prize, the PEN/Malamud Award, and a citation as “One of 20 Best American Novelists Under the Age of 40” from Granta magazine.
I wanted to walk outside and praise the stars,
But David, my baby son, coughed and coughed.
His comfort was more important than the stars
So I comforted and kissed him in his dark
Bedroom, but my comfort was not enough.
His mother was more important than the stars
So he cried for her breast and milk. It’s hard
For fathers to compete with mothers’ love.
In the dark, mothers illuminate like the stars!
Dull and jealous, I was the smallest part
Of the whole. I know this is stupid stuff
But I felt less important than the farthest star
As my wife fed my son in the hungry dark.
How can a father resent his son and his son’s love?
Was my comfort more important than the stars?
A selfish father, I wanted to pull apart
My comfortable wife and son. Forgive me, Rough
God, because I walked outside and praised the stars,
And thought I was more important than the stars.
GRIEF CALLS US TO THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD
The eyes open to a blue telephone
In the bathroom of this five-star hotel.
I wonder whom I should call? A plumber,
Proctologist, urologist, or priest?
Who is most among us and most deserves
The first call? I choose my father because
He’s astounded by bathroom telephones.
I dial home. My mother answers. “Hey, Ma,
I say, “Can I talk to Poppa?” She gasps,
And then I remember that my father
Has been dead for nearly a year. “Shit, Mom,”
I say. “I forgot he’s dead. I’m sorry—
How did I forget?” “It’s okay,” she says.
“I made him a cup of instant coffee
This morning and left it on the table—
Like I have for, what, twenty-seven years—
And I didn’t realize my mistake
Until this afternoon.” My mother laughs
At the angels who wait for us to pause
During the most ordinary of days
And sing our praise to forgetfulness
Before they slap our souls with their cold wings.
Those angels burden and unbalance us.
Those fucking angels ride us piggyback.
Those angels, forever falling, snare us
And haul us, prey and praying, into dust.
THE POWWOW AT THE END OF THE WORLD
I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam
and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam
downriver from the Grand Coulee. I am told by many of you
that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find
their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific
and causes all of it to rise. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon
waiting in the Pacific. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the Columbia
and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and abandoned reactors
of Hanford. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after that salmon swims through the mouth of the Spokane River
as it meets the Columbia, then upstream, until it arrives
in the shallows of a secret bay on the reservation where I wait alone.
I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after
that salmon leaps into the night air above the water, throws
a lightning bolt at the brush near my feet, and starts the fire
which will lead all of the lost Indians home. I am told
by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after we Indians have gathered around the fire with that salmon
who has three stories it must tell before sunrise: one story will teach us
how to pray; another story will make us laugh for hours;
the third story will give us reason to dance. I am told by many
of you that I must forgive and so I shall when I am dancing
with my tribe during the powwow at the end of the world.