American Idol

Indian statue

When the whites come to plant tobacco,
first thing they do is fell all the trees
so the Indians won’t have a place
to hide. No surprise, then,
that some snow-bound frontiersman
should see the profile of a former neighbor
starting up out of the firewood.
He reaches for his pocketknife.
By spring, here’s a faithful scout,
dumb as a stump, to stand
at the corner of the trading post.
If the grain’s too pale, a little
tobacco juice rubbed in with a rag
will make an authentic-
looking redskin, spit & shine.

So here I am, two centuries later,
still playing host
to strangers’ fantasies,
flies with sticky feet,
the white moths of morning.
My wooden lungs ache with dry rot,
still waiting for a light.

8 Replies to “American Idol”

  1. An excellent pairing of picture & words. I love the laconic voice of the poem, which matches so well the phlegmatism in the face of the effigy.

  2. Thanks for the comments. The photo was an afterthought, taken shortly before posting; I was actually thinking of some more typical, life-sized cigar store Indians I’ve seen. The carving in the picture is a moth-eaten antique doll residing, for some reason, in a window well in the basement of my parents’ house. (However, the two concluding lines occurred to me only after taking and processing the picture, so maybe there was some influence.)

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