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Snow Slip Bar and Café

Behind double barbed wire fences

the bulk of the tribal bison herd

grazes on silence. The rest

gaze west toward the Rockies.

That late-afternoon at Snow Slip

he leaned, left arm behind, back

against the far end of a short bar;

and in Siksika, glass raised,

greeted me friend.

I race horses, thoroughbreds, he said,

I have a master’s degree,

he said. I teach phys-ed in Browning,

he said. I’ve been assimilated, he said,

I’m Catholic. Star School,

but I’m not, he said. I’m Pikuni.

Did you ever take a sweat?

It’s good to take a sweat. My boy

is eight. He cries and I hug him.

The medicine man said

it was the video games.

We all took a sweat.

My boy is stronger now.

Do you still sometimes make

the Crow cry? I asked him.

We win so much they don’t invite

us to their games no more, he said.

But the Flathead over in Kalispell

have all the banners now. I tell the boys

we are the runners, not the Flathead.

Have pride.

It’s summer. My uncle and me

we race horses in the summer.

I don’t drink. I drank yesterday.

I drink today, he said.

My wife called me, he said.

Come home, she said. I miss you,

The boys miss you.

The horses need me too.

I came home, he said

The door was locked.

You know, he said, when we go

to the massacre site to pray,

the farmer charges us to cross his land.


Gerald Wagoner b. Pendleton, OR (1947), graduated HS Cut Bank, MT (1965), BA creative writing U Montana (1970). MFA sculpture, SUNY Albany (1983) then moved to Brooklyn, NY to make sculpture. Taught art & English in NYC D. of Ed. Intrigued by patterns and events, both personal and historic, he writes poems to explore loss, longing, and change. Publications: Right Hand Pointing, Ocotillo Review, Passager Journal, BigCityLit The Lake, What Rough Beast Coronavirus Edition, Coffin Bell.


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