As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Michael Wasson – Poetry

You leave no ash

to jar up
no dust in the rug

so we spray rosewater
on the walls

leave a plate of food
split wood in the shed

burn the field
that grows right back.

Back On The Reservation


Back Home a Cord Phone

The phone rings
mom’s in jail again.
She leaves a message.

I leave it alone
walk the railroad tracks
behind the bar.

C’mon, baby.
Someone pick up.
The hell is wrong?

Quiet in the train car
I wait for songs
dim streetlamps

a broken bottle
headlights, my sockless
mom with a black eye

holding the phone
the cord chewed up
handing it to me.

Mourning Ceremony

hipe’síweme kaa wáaqo’ ‘ilcwéew’cixnim cilakátki
‘iceyéeyenm wéetesne péetek’ene. They carved and now
Coyote distributed Monster’s body to various lands.

When grief is allowed to us it’s in the stern shape and voice of a man
who walks around ‘n yells at us and his hollering holds our faces
while we are handed polaroid photographs and old portraits
and lip-stained cups with either coffee or red Kool-Aid rings inside
and dirty paintings and ashy ashtrays and almost clean enough pots
and iron skillets and washed pans and jean jackets still glazed
with the scent of sweat ‘n armpits and pine-rubbed flannel coats
and pants so dirty when you glide your hand across ‘em dust slips off
and fades into the blaring gymnasium lights
and cracked and bent glasses frames with a little resin of ear oil
and a smear of dried blood still in the screws and plain moccasins
and porcupine quill roaches ranging from child-size to adult-size
worn out shoes and torn boots and a wristwatch an elderly woman
puts to her ear and keeps it there like a phone and a phone
though we don’t have enough money to buy an answering machine
to record your lost breathing soft into some spooled static
and a collection of tapes and your Black Sabbath and Beatles
and Jimi Hendrix and the Eagles and Led Zeppelin and Credence
Clearwater Revival and the blankets you took with you
when you ended up homeless for a little while and slept along
the Clearwater River and baskets with nothing inside them
and door knobs and rugs and your dirty shirt that had Mickey Mouse
adorned in a headdress and more blankets and letters and notes
and he’s yelling at us that this is the only time we get to mourn for you
for this loss and for this collection of your life that we broadcast
across this throbbing I feel up here in these wooden bleachers
and across the sudden loneliness taking ahold of our burning throats
that you need to hear us and that you are never coming back
that we are weak people who are holding your separated body
in our wrecked arms ‘n hands and on our laps ‘n behind our eyes
and we grip onto these monstrous pieces of you until we break
into this ancient song now flooding the air and shaking the overhead lights
burying you beneath this rush of desperate longing
and face your bright and drawn-out vanishing of ‘ilcwéew’cixnim tim’íne
your sáw’is kaa sayaqi’sníx kiké’t núunim ‘ipsúusx pipísne pawic’asc’asnóoya
and sound our tightening ribs so wide even all the long dead ones can hear
each of our gym-lit bodies bursting and wailing and blooming open.

michael wasson headshot
Michael Wasson, 
nimíipuu from the Nez Perce Reservation, earned his MFA from Oregon State University. Recent poems are forthcoming in Poetry Kanto and Waxwing: American Writers & International Voices, among others. He lives on a small island in Sato-machi, Japan.

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