Sherwin Bitsui


Tonight, I draw a raven’s wing inside a circle

              measured a half second

                            before it expands into a hand.

              I wrap its worn grip over our feet

                            As we thrash against pine needles inside the earthen pot.


He sings an elegy for handcuffs

            whispers its moment of silence

at the crunch of rush hour traffic

and speaks the dialect of a fork lift,

              lifting like cedar smoke over the mesas

                           acred to the furthest block.


Two headlights flare from blue dusk,

            –the eyes of ravens peer at 

Coyote biting his tail in the forklift,

             Shaped like another reservation—

                           Another cancelled check.


One finger pointed at him,

That one—dishwasher

he dies like this

              with emergency lights blinking through the creases of his ribbon shirt.


A light buzzed loud and snapped above the kitchen sink

I didn’t notice the sting of the warning:

            Coyote scattering headlights instead of stars;

howling dogs silenced by the thought of the moon;

constellations rattling from the atmosphere of the quivering gourd.


How many Indians have stepped onto train tracks

             Hearing the hoof beats of horses

             In the bend above the river

                           Rushing at them like a cluster of veins

scrawled into words on the unmade bed?


In the cave on the backside of a lie

             soldiers eye the birth of a new atlas


one more mile, they say,

                                         one more mile.



“Atlas’ is from Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press, 2003).