The Fork-in-the-Road Indian Poetry Store


i saved my energy as i read,
like managing held-breath underwater
so i could extend my survey
and not miss anything great

the fork-in-the-road indian poetry store
on the highway on the northeast side
of wetumka toward weleetka
large open grassy field behind it
county road completing the fork
vanishes in verdant
north oktahutchee bottomland
i am overcome
by the indianness of this town
an unexplainable import of joy
pervades me
even the few current-age vestiges
do not belie
a sense that this town
this people have always been here


the reading today on the lawn is by two elderly sisters
in long gingham dresses who are the last living speakers of yuchi
you can stand still on an aisle inside the store and reach poems
and stories on the shelves in muskoke chikasha chahta and english

all the great indian writers on both sides
of the sweet gum bridge
rich treasure of people
alive and well on this continent
after millennia of continuance
potluck table for reading guests
spread with banaha sofke tanfula
corn soup tobi squash and peppers
brown-skinned teenager
corner easy chair
absorbing the story of an epic
stickball competition
which attracted four hundred contestants
and twenty thousand spectators
while columbus
still navigated in an italian gene pool
a century before his birth


the building
a turn-of-the-twentieth-century gas station
abandoned for that use
before model a’ s and t’ s
disappeared from the road
has weathered wood clapboard siding
and two tapered wood columns
on top of stucco pedestals supporting a roof
which forms a one-car portico

honeysuckle perfumes
summer evening air while
cicadas and tree frogs
serenade well-dressed people
sipping iced tea
long shadows massaging
green grass

a grandfather
plays a wood flute
oddly harmonious
with ratcheting locusts
dark-haired boys and girls
further east
on the lawn revolve
around a foam rubber football
their cries forming another
stratum of sound


what words would I write
if my favorite pen were the only pen left
in the world
and it held only a few drops of ink
i would write this
in the creek talwa
muskokean peace town
corn sings harvest
bluegills broom red sand
with their tail fins
in shallow kingfisher pools
nearby people drumming
a seated grandmother
with a light spot on a brown iris
in a wrinkle-supple face
looks east through the yard
praying thankfully
and sees her grandmother walking
amongst children playing ball
you are welcome here