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Sample Poetry by Ralph Salisbury

Montezuma’s Castle—Cliff Dwelling—Arizona

      “Sivapu,” hole in the earth, from which people first issued into being.
                — Myth of the Hopi and others.

For their “population-explosion”— when
the Pinta, Nina and Santa Maria were
two hundred years from any shore—
the Sinagua built high-rise apartments,
whole trees propped root-end up
to support defense-minded generations’ weight.

Horizon dust sighted from sentinel loft—“Invasion”—

or “Drought,” only wind flowing through irrigation-gates,
yearning lovers’ starving seed
shriveling in the womb—

the Sinagua fled

into scholars’ guesses, passed on to
an Indian survivor,
surrounded by Sivapu-deep
nuclear missile wells.

 The U.S. Bombs a Hospital for the Mentally Ill While Invading Grenada, Which Spain Originally Took From Indians  

Pilots, assigned
to take care of the sound of mind
administered shock treatments to the insane,
and planes, like gulls, their nesting done,
were lighter returning to sea,

from which, like out-
of-season hurricanes,
Manifest Destiny’s weaponry came,
for centuries.

It came again —
as incendiary angels descended, not
from cathedrals’ carved heights
but from the U.S.A.,

imposing military history
on natives already as civilized
and Christianized as
explosions and sperm could make them,
Indian genes islands, invaders’ blood
flooding my veins and Earth.

 Potato-Planting, a Native History

     “The duty of the writer in violent times is to keep history alive.”
                 Laura Restrepo, Colombian novelist

Our knives honed thin
as spring’s last edge
of ice, we peel brown skins
thick so sprouts will root

and we can eat summer
through winter,
as generations did, before

conquerors skinned men,
seeking to find gold they thought
to be hidden in minds—and, now,
in supermarket-bins, they put
potatoes, wet not to rot
till sold,

by whites,
to whites,

where Indians planted Indians
in Indians in Indian land.

 War in the Genes, a Reveille for Mustering the Dead

Once what someone once called Keats,
“a stable-boy,” brisk brushing startling blood into flood,
under my hair, as white
as clouds grandchildrens’ nuclear bombers comb, I write
of grooming descendants of battle-steeds
abandoned by Spaniards to free
galleons’ holds for New World gold, and, war,
for Arab oil, now on, ink colts
of colts of chargers and get
of get of soldiers are risen, again,
in mind, as is Indian blood, in scalp,
as is sun, this day, of my few or fewer, begun.

 The Five-Hundred Year War

             for a sister in battle

Her husband’s too proud to take government aid
and won’t join his work-mates on strike.
A storm-window-maker, but what
does he know of tornado, I
and my family, huddled in cellar, survived.

The English he’s born from took Spaniards’ “Chalaque,”
taken from “Tsaragi”— Choctaw for “cave-men”—
“Cherokee,” now, trade-name for cars,
even our slave name enslaved.

His wife—religious, courageous, the swell
of her belly mortality, beauty—marches for
ending imperialism’s Five-Hundred Year War,

which threatens her children
and everyone’s,

scars, in my body and brain,
petals, for her and for all like her.