the shoulders which bend forward and forward and forward


Perhaps this devastating poem from Chickasaw novelist, essayist, and environmentalist, Linda Hogan (1947- ) will ring as true to you as it does to me…


I go to work
though there are those who were missing today
from their homes.
I ride the bus
and I do not think of children without food
or how my sisters are chained to prison beds.

I go to the University
and out for lunch
and listen to the higher-ups
tell me all they have read
about Indians
and how to analyze this poem
They know us
better than we know ourselves.

I ride the bus home
and sit behind the driver.
We talk about the weather
and not enough exercise.
I don’t mention Victor Jara’s mutilated hands
or men next door
in exile
or my own family’s grief over the lost child.

When I get off the bus
I look back at the light in the windows
and the heads bent
and how the women are all alone
in each seat
framed in the windows
and the men are coming home,
then I see them walking on the avenue,
the beautiful feet,
the perfect legs,
even with their spider veins,
the broken knees
with pins in them,
the thighs with their cravings,
the pelvis
and small back
with its soft down,
the shoulders which bend forward
and forward and forward
to protect the heart from pain.