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Poem: "What's It Like on the Reservation?" 

“What’s It Like on the Reservation?”

About the reservation, I have nothing to say.
Nothing to say about what it seems to lack.

The kids’ clothes are colors-conscious,
and may have been shot at, too,
through a car window when there was nothing better to do.

The Indian girls want to punch other girls;
the Indian boys want to give the Indian girls Indian babies,
because no one will want to fight over who those babies belong to.

My suffering is middle-class:
having been told by educated, intelligent men
“I love you,”
only to be found unnecessary,
like ill-fitting underpants.

Their suffering is simile-less and lower-class:
parents tell them “I love you”
in a text message, from Canada, while drunk.

From a distance, the world is green and blue and
home all over;
from a distance, the reservation looks like a desert.
There are no humans there.

Things are as they once were not.
But of the way things should have become,
no one has the memory

except for the drunk who has lost his way to McDonald’s,
and I am too afraid to ask him why.

“Who did this?” echoes “Who did this?”
echoes back, “That is the wrong question.”

I have nothing to say about why you feel abandoned,
like Mary when the motel was full and the airport floor too cold.

Fear holds this reservation back from saying anything,
until you sit down in her,
and relax, and relax,
and loosen the grip of what has been lost,
in time and suffering-long silence.

  • Reader-submitted poetry, curated by poetry editor Phillip Levine.

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