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.
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.