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Sherman Alexie

 Sonnet, with Elevation

1. We live on a street with a 45-degree slope. 2. We live in a tall house with a
twenty-seven-step staircase that changes direction twice as it rises toward
our front door. 3. Therefore, we don’t get trick-or-treaters. 4. Every year, we
set out a big bowl of candy. But nobody ever touches it. We could use the
same candy for a decade. It would be the archaeology of candy.   5. It only
snows once or twice a year in our city, and freezes maybe ten times, but
when it does, our street becomes the north face of a dormant volcano. 6. My
wife and I pop popcorn, sit in our picture window, and watch cars slalom and
careen down our hill. Again and again, we yell, “Don’t hit your brakes!” 7.
They always hit their brakes. 8. We once helped push a Prius out of our snow
drifted front yard. The driver, a woman in a tiny black dress, was lost on her
way to a party. 9. Twenty years ago, before we moved onto the block, a driver
sped down the hill and killed a little girl. 10. Every day, somebody drives
dangerously fast down our street. 11. Last week, a car roared up our hill. 12.
My neighbor and I, talking in his driveway, both yelled, “Slow down!” The
white driver braked hard, furiously leapt out of his car, looking to fight, but
stopped short when he saw that my neighbor and I are large, brown-skinned
men. We smiled as the white man stepped back into his car and drove away.
13. A few days earlier, three blocks to the south, a black man had punched
and killed a white man during a traffic dispute. 14. An eighty-foot pine,
growing at an acute angle in our steep backyard, leaned like a lover toward
our house. But we cut it down on the advice of our friend, the arborologist,
who said, “Every tree, no matter where you put it, is going to fall eventually.”

 

Sonnet, with Vengeance

1. I’m a poet who spends a lot of time in Hollywood. 2. I write screenplays for movies that will never get made. 3. Through the screenwriter’s guild, I’ve earned a pension that will pay me nearly $3,000 a month when I retire from writing screenplays.  4.  If my writing career goes to shit, I can certainly live well on my reservation for $3,000 a month. 5. Why does an Indian work in Hollywood? Who has done Indians more harm than white filmmakers? 6. For instance: during the making of a western, the Italian director looked at a group of Indians, pointed at one paler Sioux, and said, “Get him out there. He’s not Indian enough.” 7. For instance: Dances  With  Wolves. 8. I rarely write screenplays about Indians. I have written screenplays about superheroes, smoke jumpers, pediatric surgeons, all-girl football teams, and gay soldiers. 9.   I often dream of writing a B-movie about an Indian vigilante. 10.  No, not a vigilante. That would be too logical. Who needs more logical violence? Who needs yet another just war? 11.      Though I haven’t written a word of my B-movie screenplay, I have designed the movie poster: an Indian man, strong and impossibly handsome, glares at us, his audience. He’s bare-chested and holds a sledgehammer in one hand and a pistol in the other. The name of the movie: Johnny Fire. The tagline: “He’s just pissed.” 12. No logic. It will be the simple story of an Indian man who wakes one morning and decides to destroy everything in his life. 13. “Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.” 14. When   I was seven,  during a New Year’s Eve party at my house,  I  watched two   Indian men fist fight on our front lawn. Then one of the Indians pulled a pistol and shot the other Indian in the stomach.  As my mother rushed me back inside the house, I heard the wounded man ask, “Why does it hurt so much?”


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