Adrian C. Louis

A half-breed Indian, Adrian C. Louis was born and raised in northern Nevada and is an enrolled member of the Lovelock Paiute Tribe. From 1984-97, Louis taught at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota. Currently, Louis is Professor of English at Minnesota State University in Marshall. His most recent collection of poems is Savage Sunsets (West End Press, 2012).

 

Xmas at Wakpamni

In the shiver & shadow
of arid Yuletide, the aching
scrawl of my K-Mart sneakers
circles the cracked parchment
of your earthen home.

A five hundred mile drive
into the sixth full year
since your burial. It’s Xmas
& I am old & half-drunk.
A weak December sun or maybe
the whiskey bends the shadows
away from your grave mound.
I wish it were the godlight
of acceptance, but it’s not.
I wish I could shudder one
more sliver of futile sadness
& the pain would disintegrate.
I wish I knew why I was so
disconcertingly content with
my peculiar brand of bullshit,
but I don’t, so I lay a full pack
of Marlboros upon your headstone,
climb into our clunker & clatter away.

 

Shadows

To survive our redbrick
prison of the mind, you
gave the dilettantes sharing
our hallways secret names
like “Doktor Hollowman,”
the “Composition Cows”
& “Sister Mary Sestina.”
You were imperious
in your dotage & kicked
at the shadows that groveled
at your feet, shadows waiting
for the most inopportune moment
to grab you madly by the short hairs
& drag you to that lair of liars.

We stood under the pallid sun
for years, a salon of two, smoking
& scorning careerist colleagues,
cursing our amnesiac nation & mocking
the encroaching dance of the shadows
until the day came that I stood alone.

In this unavoidable twilight, I cringe
& nod at the shadows which are
flirting with me, those same swirling
whores of indignity that took you, will
take us all into meaningless nothing
for a moment & then unto blazing stars.

 

Gaudeamus Igitur 2.0

I.

Hi ho, off to work I go,
to the little burblers &
their bubbly bipolarities.
I drive into the morning
moon, a macadamia moon,
an academic moon smirking
inside a festering herd of clouds.

A quick coffee & I’m on
the clock, thus upon the stage.

Act 1Super-Sneeze.
Great & green is the glob
that hurtles from my beak
& someone snickers as I reach
into my jacket for a Kleenex &
knock my pack of Marlboro
Ultralights onto the floor.

Act 2Big Bang Theory.
Upon bending down
to grab my sacred smokes,
I cannot control the prison
break of deathly methane &
my loud & lordly eruption is
followed by chaotic giggling
& the poetry of the poetry
workshop begins.

 

II.

The student who wants
to be a poet is so fat that
her ankles hang over her
cheap shoes & this is no
poetic bullshit–I fear she
will fall down with some
impossibly arcane cardiac
fallibility & I will rhyme her
line with mine trying to lift
her massive ass off the floor. 

I shouldn’t be saying this.
It was a dark & windy day
& I was in my office-cell with
Jerry Jeff Walker on my Ipod
when a commotion intruded.
There she was, on the tile floor.
I tried to help her up—No, she said.
I left her alone & just stood there.
People walked by & tried to help.
She refused all help.  A crowd was
gathering & I demanded she let
me help her huge body to its feet.
She said no again & so I went into
my cell, shut the door & turned up
Jerry Jeff full blast.  Opened the door
ten minutes later & she was gone,
risen like the zombie Jesus.

 

III.

All the real writer folk
in the English Department
have been put out to pasture
or have wisely run, sometimes
screaming syllables of madness.
An unwritten memo says no
more steaks in passageways.
Behold the sad canned soup
stench wafting from a hotplate
in the janitors’ break room &
how it glazes the dead eyes
of the cadre of meeting-goers
& small town Machiavellis
I march with for money.

 

IV.

The student yakking
after class is saying
nothing about everything.
Her dad is a boozehound
& she works at McDonald’s.
She says she loves sonnets,
but does not say what I see:
she is homely, lonely & lost
at nineteen, young enough
to be my grand daughter, a
third of my acreage of years.
This terrifies me. Soon I’ll be
dead & she’ll still be babbling.

One of us is insane: her with
a blouse above her belly button
or me with my shivering eyes.

Fuck yes, I’ve finally reached
that mossy age where youth
confounds me, but I would
slobber upon her tummy if
not for the hideous & garish
Gila monster tattoo that
curls up from her waist.
Gilas are the pit bulls
of the desert & once
they grab your pecker
they never let go.

 

V.

And so it comes to pass,
the anti-Christ, the conniver
who used an insanity plea
to alter his work schedule
barges into my dream while I
am swimming in the dark, doe
eyes of a nubile Nepali student
& invites me (me!) to a potluck
for a lucky fool who’s retiring.
“A meatless potluck,” he says
& in that instant I am meatless.
The Nepali exits & my colleague
simmers in profound witchery,
his bleached blue hair electric,
his bony butt protruding from
black, assless chaps which he
wears over Levis though he’s
never sat astride a Harley
in his life & the sun in my brain
beckons, blazes as I thunder
into it, escaping this black hole,
these cornfields, this zombie world.

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