The Station Wagon (for my mother)



My mother used to drive us around
In a big old seventies station wagon
painted in different colors.
My siblings and I would sit in the back,
we’d pretend it was a boat
and we’d sail with the big window down,
wishing we could brush our fingers along
or just dive right into the black water highway
that we glided on through.
But we knew we’d get left behind if we did that
And the rest of the modern white world
would not care to look back
for a foolish Indian child.

How did she get us through the eighties
In that huge thing
without being pulled over in every white town
that was patrolled by cops
— who always busted Indians
passing through?
They had to make sure we didn’t
have too much pride
because if we did
They had to pour it out by the side
of the road,
as we stare and watch ashamed
That every car passing by has to see
that we are beneath them.
How did she drive on past
other natives who hated her?
Because she was their own brown face
Staring right back at them.
They’ve got to smash out her car windows
So they don’t have to see their reflections.
They have to deflate her ego
So that she knows she can’t
do better than them.

On the reservation
the roads are not well paved.
Perhaps it is because they lead to nowhere special.
Or perhaps this sea of land
Is much too angry
To let a vessel filled with children
and a single mom
— sail comfortably along.

We left the border town
that one summer.
Because my mother
was done bartering
with her half-breed lover
with the station wagon already
at half a tank
We soon ran out of gas
In the appropriately named
— Watertown.
We bobbed there back and forth,
dropping our anchor in the park.
Sweating and starving
on the tailgate
With nothing to trade
nothing to offer up.
No gods would help us
not Poseidon,
not even Triton.
Until later that day,
a nun saw past our pirate skin,
and helped us
to get back on the highway.
Back to our odyssey
of broken down cars
and reservation dreams.
Mother, you did your best
to guide us on through.
I know it wasn’t easy for you
— to be a vessel of hope
when everyone else
was ready to give up.

Waters Funambulist