Sherman Alexie is the author of, most recently, War Dances, stories and poems, from Grove Press, and Face, poetry, from Hanging Loose Press. He is the winner of the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award, 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, 2001 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, and a Special Citation for the 1994 PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Fiction. Smoke Signals, the film he wrote and co-produced, won the Audience Award and Filmmakers Trophy at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. He lives with his family in Seattle.
White Girl Powwow Love, 1978
She was skinny and buttermilk-pale.
She wore her hair with a rattail.
And I knew I'd two-step to jail
For her love, which was the no-fail
Pick-up line that year. "Me in jail,"
I said. "Only you got the bail
To rescue me." She smelled like stale
Everything, and though I was frail,
I talked her into chucking the bale
And "later"-ing her Dad, a whale
Who thought everything was for sale,
Especially the sacred. So we sailed,
Her and me, on the powwow trail,
Until my dirty joke splat-failed—
The porno punchline was "Snails."
White Girl Angry, she dug her nails
Into my skin and said, "Why males
Have to heave and hove and dog wail
Such awful shit?" She was a gale—
A storm through a trailer park vale—
An F-5 on the tornado scale—
And I wanted to aside her veil
And touch and memorize her pale
Skin like a blind man touches Braille,
And so I did. Damn, I went flail
On her breasts, and that tough rail
Of a girl went all weakness and quail.
I thought I was all rez-prevail,
But then she put on her chainmail
Armor and golf-ball-sized hailed
Me with this confessional tale:
"My Daddy is a goddamn Whale
Killer," she said. "Ain't no scale
To weigh his evil. His devil pail
Is filled to the brim." She wailed
Tears like anvils and then bailed
On me. She ran back down the trail,
And I ran after her, but I failed
To catch her. Her pain gave her sails.
And though I never saw her pale
Self again, I pray, without fail,
When I think of her stuck in jail,
Or maybe still walking powwow trail—
A white girl, skinny, hard, and frail—
And likely wed to a killer of whales.