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Poetry: Too Much for the Average Indian
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Hypatia 18.2 (2003) 133-151

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Too Much for the Average Indian

Annette Arkeketa

Too Much for the Average Indian

Some days are just too much
when I take an inventory of
the day, week, year, century,

I realize there is much work to do.

We are shown in many ways
that this life is not easy for

thank you Hesvketvmese for giving my
relatives and me
a sense
of humor

because some days the grass
don't grow
and the wind don't blow
just quite right

some days
the spirits surround us
and put an extra fancy dance
in our step
as we walk
endowing us [End Page 133]
with the strength
to carry on

What I am about to share
with you are true stories
of what can be too much for me
the average

they appear some days like this


My friend Nita Pahdopony
Comanche Sister
is ecstatic
she gets a 240K
grant for her tribal
education program

then I tell her
where I work
I order just one helicopter
for that price


The woman from the EEO office
tells me I am too aggressive
I better be careful

She sez

"The FBI has written down your car tag number.
You shouldn't be out there protesting the Columbus ships"

as those ships trespass across my history once again.
I pick up the phone, call my cousin, the FBI agent,
and ask him if they need any more information
about my car or me [End Page 134]


A federal employee is glad for welfare reform
in her tidy office cubicle

she seethes

". . . it is about time they did something
about those people who suck up the taxpayers' money . . ."

I reply

"Yeah, downsizing in the federal government
makes perfect sense to me."


Those people try to overlook me again

I explain
I will not be overlooked

I say it with an EEO case number
a union grievance
a call to the Senator's office
a protest sign marching down
the streets called America


When folks tell us

"That will take an Act of Congress"

We reply

"No problem, that is normally how we do business." [End Page 135]


In a sleepy moment one morning, I find a
beetle whose eyes glow green.
A warning to quit chasing the spiders away

please count the toes
of the salamander
clinging to the bare glass morning
resisting mainstream


Cedar smoke
morning prayer
follows me to work
stays with me
I am home


The white man across the room
yells at me
in his irreverent way
he reaches for
one of his
philosophical fixes
he doesn't realize
there has not been a

"how to fix"

book written about me [End Page 136]


The white man
keeps yelling

I do not let him go
from my gaze

I tell him
with my eyes
that I was born for
this kind of confrontation
I like this kind of thing

My compadres tell him

"and she don't back down."


When the millionth person refers
to my being Indian in stereotypical
ignorant fashion

I reply at once,
"I will kick your ass if you ever
refer to me like that again"

as they try the 500-year-old apology

I tell them
"I don't need your apology
I just need you to remember
what I just said." [End Page 137]


When the day has weighed me down
to the center of my heart
with bad medicine

I get home from work
the battle still rages

I look in my mail box
and at my e-mail

there are words
letters arranged
by friends who have come to
comfort me

They tell me with their
thought symbols
they have been sent

they know I need them

Their love surrounds
the bad medicine
that is crushing
my heart

and sends it away


I dream of my grandmother
she stands with me always

my parents call me
and tell me about Jessica
and baby Bear [End Page 138...