Love of Iron and Fire
By Craig Paulenich

I need words
that pressure the eardrum,
rumble in bone and belly,
syllables chipped and ground,
shouted through cupped hands,
words that stumble in the sand,
words without earplugs,
words stinking of wine sweat
the day after payday,
cut words, live wires,
nouns for fifty kinds of fire,
ten kinds of dust, nouns
common, proper, collective, concrete,
black nouns blown out the nose
so that handkerchiefs read like
tea leaves, tarot cards, Rorschachs.
May my tenses be perfect, my participles past.
I need verbs that smell in the clothing,
that set up housekeeping in the pores
so that others will sniff and say,
“You work at the Malleable,”
words like fingers in the sand,
adjectives that burn, wooden
shoes atop a ladle of steel, words
that puddle, slosh, sputter, ping,
that cling to the flannel shirt,
mundane and fundamental as
time cards, lunch buckets, hard hats,
words familiar as workboot creases,
words for the love of iron and fire.

from Blood Will Tell (2009), reprinted with the permission of BlazeVOX[books]

Family Tree or Comanches and Cars Don’t Mix
By Sy Hoahwah

Spanish captive, Hoahwah, married twin sisters/
The one wife called Double
turned into a snake
after eating a nest of glossy eggs.
Snake Woman still lives on Mt. Scott,
sleeps facing west.
The sun a white skull itself
bathes her on the cedar breaks.
In rectangular dreams
she calls the young men grandson.

The other sister Tsy-yee, named after a war deed
(her father charged a cavalry officer
knocked him off his horse then lanced him to the prairie)
bore three children: Tabe titah, Namnetse, and Sam Hoahwah.

Lena, Sam Hoahwah’s favorite daughter
ran off with an Arapaho from Canton.
Sam sent his men after her
on horseback, their ranch-hand-shadows
overcast the Cheyenne and Arapaho Rez.
Lena said: I ain’t comin back.
She bled to death on a mattress after a miscarriage.

Mother couldn’t remember Lena
just the car ride to Post Oak Cemetery
and watching wind in the pinwheels.
Mother died the same age, fish-tailing
into Comanche history
in a Chevy Z-28 without car insurance.

Great grandfather Sam Hoahwah
first Indian in southwest Oklahoma to own a car
got run over with his own Model-T.
His Mexican cowboy-chauffeur
forgot to take it out of gear
when Sam crank-started the car.

Not far from his own car, Uncle Fredrick
was found dead in the weeds of Cache Road,
keys missing.
He sang gospels in Comanche,
and backup on Robby Robertson’s
Contact from the Underworld of Redboy.
(Uncle liked Levon Helm better.)

Fredrick Jr. caught ghost sickness
bicycling across Post Oak Cemetery at night.
He looked past his shoulder
it twisted his face.
The moon mocks him now.

After the incident, his girlfriend fell
in love with his cousin Rusty
nicknamed Rabbit
who loves fried baloney
and calls it Indian Steak.

Rabbit’s younger brother
paints abstract horse murals
in empty swimming pools,

and images of a 20 foot long red talking snake
who calls him grandson in his dreams.

from Velroy and the Madischie Mafia (2009), reprinted with the permission of West End Press

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