my forced labor!!!

a poem in honor of Sherman alexie’s writting style.

There was once one strong

 

The skin sheds from a body

The muscle and blood exposed

To the biting wind of the sun

Faltering stumbling along the path

 

the alcohol that pumps through its blood

makes it not notice

 that it has already been skinned.

A body is breaking

 

shifting and swaying with

the other debris in the wind.

prosperity of a time before

 

is preventing eyes

from seeing the desolation

that surrounds the walking soul

The wind that is cutting its flesh

 

Could cause it to break up

Into strips in the breeze

Shifting and turning in

The Sand of this world

 

I wrote this poem in Sherman Alexies writing style Sherman Alexie in many ways. First I wrote (even if I did not mention it) with regards to the Native American struggle to against the whites in mind. I also broke the poem up trying to mirror Sherman Alexie’s use of breaking poems.

 

comments!!!

to danny:

Gabe Tharp.
upon reading about a few other poets i am starting to question how much you can make off witting poetry, considering the fact that almost all seem to have multiple jobs to pick up the tabs even though Gary is the first poet that i have heard of who was a part time lumber jack, most like mine (Sherman Alexie)do occupations like writing books part time, even though it could be used as poetry subject matter i do admit. This excuse does not answer why my poet does stand up comedy or why he directs movies though????

hello Kevin.

your poet’s child hood sounds almost depressing and he seems to have similar intelligence levels as my poet does (Sherman Alexie). Even though i don’t know if a suicidal father beats, constant seizures, brain surgeries, as well as exile but they both seem like downers. Sherman like john was a very intellectual child while growing up (even if he did not skip a grade) he still read grapes of wrath by the age of six. this seemed to effect both are poets writing’s mine keeps on rambling on about killing those evil whites (hes native American forgot to mention that) and how the he wants to start armed revolts against the whites, even though most recently he has stopped using such strong language, but i was wondering what you refer to when you say dark. even though are poets are separated by a century they seem pretty similar.

to briget:

I find your poem a super market in California to be allot like Sherman alexies poem

Defending Walt Whitman

Basketball is like this for young Indian boys, all arms and legs
and serious stomach muscles. Every body is brown!
These are the twentieth-century warriors who will never kill,
although a few sat quietly in the deserts of Kuwait,
waiting for orders to do something, to do something.

God, there is nothing as beautiful as a jumpshot
on a reservation summer basketball court
where the ball is moist with sweat,
and makes a sound when it swishes through the net
that causes Walt Whitman to weep because it is so perfect.

There are veterans of foreign wars here
although their bodies are still dominated
by collarbones and knees, although their bodies still respond
in the ways that bodies are supposed to respond when we are young.
Every body is brown! Look there, that boy can run
up and down this court forever. He can leap for a rebound
with his back arched like a salmon, all meat and bone
synchronized, magnetic, as if the court were a river,
as if the rim were a dam, as if the air were a ladder
leading the Indian boy toward home.

Some of the Indian boys still wear their military hair cuts
while a few have let their hair grow back.
It will never be the same as it was before!
One Indian boy has never cut his hair, not once, and he braids it
into wild patterns that do not measure anything.
He is just a boy with too much time on his hands.
Look at him. He wants to play this game in bare feet.

God, the sun is so bright! There is no place like this.
Walt Whitman stretches his calf muscles
on the sidelines. He has the next game.
His huge beard is ridiculous on the reservation.
Some body throws a crazy pass and Walt Whitman catches it
with quick hands. He brings the ball close to his nose
and breathes in all of its smells: leather, brown skin, sweat,
black hair, burning oil, twisted ankle, long drink of warm water,
gunpowder, pine tree. Walt Whitman squeezes the ball tightly.
He wants to run. He hardly has the patience to wait for his turn.
“What’s the score?” he asks. He asks, “What’s the score?”

Basketball is like this for Walt Whitman. He watches these Indian boys
as if they were the last bodies on earth. Every body is brown!
Walt Whitman shakes because he believes in God.
Walt Whitman dreams of the Indian boy who will defend him,
trapping him in the corner, all flailing arms and legs
and legendary stomach muscles. Walt Whitman shakes
because he believes in God. Walt Whitman dreams
of the first jumpshot he will take, the ball arcing clumsily
from his fingers, striking the rim so hard that it sparks.
Walt Whitman shakes because he believes in God.
Walt Whitman closes his eyes. He is a small man and his beard
is ludicrous on the reservation, absolutely insane.
His beard makes the Indian boys righteously laugh. His beard
frightens the smallest Indian boys. His beard tickles the skin
of the Indian boys who dribble past him. His beard, his beard!

God, there is beauty in every body. Walt Whitman stands
at center court while the Indian boys run from basket to basket.
Walt Whitman cannot tell the difference between
offense and defense. He does not care if he touches the ball.
Half of the Indian boys wear t-shirts damp with sweat
and the other half are bareback, skin slick and shiny.
There is no place like this. Walt Whitman smiles.
Walt Whitman shakes. This game belongs to him.

after reading it I felt quite odd thinking that so many poets had written about Walt Whitman as the actual subject, this might just be from my over growing hatred for Whitman and his long annoying, boring, patriotic, gory and sexist poems but I found it odd that people can like that guy enough to spend the time writing a poem about him as a person. Well any way I think it is interesting that both poets wrote poems about meeting Walt Whitman.

to Jessica:

after reading the poem there is a blue bird, and all the poems by Sherman alexie, i am beginning to wonder if all poets are addicted to alcohol and drugs they all seem to be almost obsessed, with what most people would be call sin. up until this last month i believed that all poets where based on sun shine and the happy parts of life, or at least a beatification and obsession with lost and tortured souls. With all these poems on drugs alcohol and cigarettes, I am beginning to understand why we usually don’t start serious poetry analysis until high school (even though why now when they are trying to prevent teens from drinking/ smoking.

 

comment on posts in general:

i found that doing posts this way was far more interesting then doing a full on boring study filled research paper and actually added an interesting aspect to what would have been just another dull and boring paper. the one regret that i had with doing the blog post (i bet i am in the minority here) is that i wish that i could have more poems to be analysis and that some of the poems you could just analyses my self and not have to rely on others ideas considering there was several of my favorite poems by Sherman that i was not able to do because the lack of scholarly sources.

sherman alexie’s poem “the summer of black widows”

The Summer of Black Widows

The spiders appeared suddenly
after that summer rainstorm.

Some people still insist the spiders fell with the rain
while others believe the spiders grew from the damp soil like weeds
with eight thin roots.

The elders knew the spiders
carried stories in their stomachs.

We tucked our pants into our boots when we walked through the fields
of fallen stories.
An Indian girl opened the closet door and a story fell into her hair.
We lived in the shadow of a story trapped in the ceiling lamp.
The husk of a story museumed on the windowsill.
Before sleep we shook our blankets and stories fell to the floor.
A story floated in a glass of water left on the kitchen table.
We opened doors slowly and listened for stories.
The stories rose on hind legs and offered their red bellies to the most
beautiful Indians.
Stories in our cereal boxes.
Stories in our firewood.
Stories in the pockets of our coats.
We captured stories and offered them to the ants, who carried the
stories back to their queen.
A dozen stories per acre.
We poisoned the stories and gathered their remains with broom
and pan.

The spiders disappeared suddenly
after that summer lightning storm.

Some people will insist the spiders were burned to ash
while others believe the spiders climbed the lightning bolts
and became an new constellation.

The elders knew the spiders
had left behind bundles of stories.

Up in the corners of our old houses
we still find those small white bundles
and nothing, neither fire
nor water, neither rock nor wind
can bring them down.

i found an article on this poem From academic one file from Michigan Electronic Library (mel) the link is

http://0-find.galegroup.com.elibrary.mel.org/itx/retrieve.do?contentSet=IAC-Documents&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&qrySerId=Locale(en%2C%2C)%3AFQE%3D(KE%2CNone%2C14)sherman+alexie%3AAnd%3AFQE%3D(TX%2CNone%2C19)sherman+alexie+poem%3AAnd%3ALQE%3D(AC%2CNone%2C8)fulltext%24&sgHitCountType=None&inPS=true&sort=DateDescend&searchType=BasicSearchForm&tabID=T002&prodId=AONE&searchId=R4&currentPosition=2&userGroupName=lom_accessmich&docId=A19918553&docType=IAC

the first paragraph states “In Sherman Alexie’s title poem, black widow spiders, appearing on the Spokane reservation in miraculous numbers, become a metaphor for stories. The summer is full of spiders and thus rich in stories, and even after the spiders disappear, their evidence is found in every corner of a place that remains rich in poetic possibility.”

I think this analysis however misses the main point of the piece entirely yes if you read the poem you can easily tell that the spiders are symbolized as stories and if you did not read a lot of Alexies works the analysis would just end there. this would be a regular poem with symbolism about the spiders on a reservation and how they left stories that will never be swept away and would be the end of a poem that is just like every other poem by naturalistic and optimistic poet out there. knowing Sherman Alexies other poems, even to the limited extent that I do, I believe that, this is not Sherman Alexies intent. Most of Sherman Alexies poems leave me comparing Sherman Alexie to Malcom X. With his strong language and constant hint that the native Americans will never forget their suffering and may one day fight to get there land back it seems odd that this poem would have nothing to do with this central idea that is found in the rest of his poems. this thought process lead me to focus on the portion of the poem that states

“while others believe the spiders climbed the lightning bolts and became an new constellation. The elders knew the spiders had left behind bundles of stories. Up in the corners of our old houses we still find those small white bundles and nothing, neither fire nor water, neither rock nor wind can bring them down”

The first sentence of this portion of the poem displays these spiders as equivalent to gods worthy of the stars which to me would mean that these are in no way just spiders from a rain storm. If these are not spiders, then that leads me to believe that these spiders are focus more on the story aspect of the poem, yet I don’t believe that exactly works, I must be more specific and use the statement that these stories have to be exclusively the native American stories or even the Natives Americans themselves. Viewing the next sentence in light of what was derived from the first, this would mean that the natives even after the lightning storm that killed them (the white settlers, I blame Andrew Jackson mostly) would still be spread in thought and ideas throughout the land. Using these ideas and Sherman alexie’s normal (and actually quite understandable) disdain for the invading white settlers, the last sentence could be easily understood to mean that the natives traditions, beliefs and people, will never just be brushed out of America by the governments “fire … water… rock [or] wind” into oblivion.

sherman alexie “crow testament”

OK this poem is rather long but here it is and then a slightly altered poem that i believe is more realistically what he is stating


Crow Testament

1
Cain lifts Crow, that heavy black bird
and strikes down Abel.

Damn, says Crow, I guess
this is just the beginning.

2
The white man, disguised
as a falcon, swoops in
and yet again steals a salmon
from Crow’s talons.

Damn, says Crow, if I could swim
I would have fled this country years ago.

3
The Crow God as depicted
in all of the reliable Crow bibles
looks exactly like a Crow.

Damn, says Crow, this makes it
so much easier to worship myself.

4
Among the ashes of Jericho,
Crow sacrifices his firstborn son.

Damn, says Crow, a million nests
are soaked with blood.

5
When Crows fight Crows
the sky fills with beaks and talons.

Damn, says Crow, it’s raining feathers.

6
Crow flies around the reservation
and collects empty beer bottles

but they are so heavy
he can only carry one at a time.

So, one by one, he returns them
but gets only five cents a bottle.

Damn, says Crow, redemption
is not easy.

7
Crow rides a pale horse
into a crowded powwow
but none of the Indian panic.

Damn, says Crow, I guess
they already live near the end of the world.

Sherman Alexie


Crow Testament

1
Cain lifts
the natives, that heavy black bird
and strikes down Abel.-don’t have a clue

Damn I guess
this is just the beginning.

2
The white man, disguised
as a falcon, swoops in
and yet again steals from our people.

Damn if we could swim
I would have fled this country years ago.

3
The Crow God as depicted
in all of the reliable Crow bibles
looks exactly like a Crow.

Damn, says Crow, this makes it
so much easier to worship myself – just imagery

4
Among the ashes of
our home,
we sacrifice our firstborn sons.

Damn a million worlds
are soaked with blood.

5
When native fight native
the sky fills with beaks and talons.

Damn it’s raining blood.

6
we move around the reservation
and collects empty beer bottles

but they are so heavy
he can only carry one at a time.

So, one by one, he returns them
but gets only five cents a bottle.

Damn redemption
is not easy.

7
the gods ride a pale horse
into a crowded powwow
but none of the Indian panic.

Damn, I guess
we already live near the end of the world.

Sherman Alexie

ok if you could not tell from one read of his poem or my own version, i will state here this poem is a symbolism of the suffering the Native American people have suffered since the conntact with the “white men”. Beyond that the last statment goes into the idea that the Native Americans are on the edge of death.

I was surprised how little there is on the web about this poem it is quite a good example of his poems but of the five blogs that contain the word “Crow testament” i found one that talks of it briefly about this topic

http://phhansen.blogspot.com/2006/04/critical-analysis-i-read-little-bit-of.html this web site merely comments the way that Sherman Alexie uses animals in his poetry and how this poem is a good example of animals in Sherman Alexie’s poems.

I disagree about this assertion in two ways however, first off Sherman Alexie does not in my opinion use animals in his poems in any larger fashion then the average poet, maybe even  a little less than the average poet so as, not to fall into that all too common stereo type . Second of all I don’t relay like the way that he uses crows as metaphors in this poem. I believe that in most of his other poems he does not hold back at all going into detail into the awful life the natives have lived, yet in this poem Sherman Alexie seems to be holding back from the descriptive language while at the same time as he is not holding his language back in the form of his cussing, and so his animal the analogy seems only to be half-@$$ed when you take his repeated use of swear words.