Word Play Wednesday: I’m not the Indian you had in Mind by Thomas King

Welcome to Word Play Wednesday!
Word Play Wednesday is a weekly feature of written and spoken word poetry. I will be sharing my written and spoken word poems in addition to poems by other like wonderful Poets both past and present. If you are interested in sharing some of your poetry, feel free to buzz me and we can work something out.

I hope that you enjoy reading and listening to our thoughts, feelings and rants and in many ways relate to some of them.

With all that has been going on this past week in the US following the murder of George Floyd and also in my country Nigeria where multiple women/young girls have been raped and killed, this week’s poem is what comes to mind. On many levels, we are all  guilty of stereotyping those around us and this has led to a lot of hurt and pain in our communities. It is time for us to change our views, to see and treat people as we would like to be treated not because they are black or white, women or men, weak or strong, poor or rich, but because it is what is right. Let us give each other the respect we all deserve.

This week’s poem is by Thomas King.

I’m not the Indian you had in Mind

I’m not the Indian you had in mind
I’ve seen him
Oh, I’ve seen him ride,
a rush of wind, a darkening tide
with Wolf and Eagle by his side
his buttocks firm and well defined
my god, he looks good from behind
But I’m not the Indian you had in mind.

I’m not the Indian you had in mind
I’ve heard him
Oh, I’ve heard him roar,
the warrior wild, the video store
the movies that we all adore
the clichés that we can’t rewind,
But I’m not the Indian you had in mind.

I’m not the Indian you had in mind
I’ve known him
Oh, I’ve known him well,
the bear-greased hair, the pungent smell
the piercing eye, the startling yell
thank God that he’s the friendly kind,
But I’m not the Indian you had in mind.

I’m that other one.
The one who lives just down the street.

the one you’re disinclined to meet
the Oka guy, remember me?
Ipperwash? Wounded Knee?

That other Indian.
the one who runs the local bar
the CEO, the movie star,
the elder with her bingo tales
the activist alone in jail

That other Indian.
The doctor, the homeless bum
the boys who sing around the drum
the relative I cannot bear
my father who was never there
he must have hated me, I guess
my best friend’s kid with FAS
the single mum who drives the bus
I’m all of these and they are us.

So damn you for the lies you’ve told
and damn me for not being bold
enough to stand my ground
and say
that what you’ve done is not our way

But, in the end the land won’t care
which one was rabbit, which one was bear
who did the deed and who did not
who did the shooting, who got shot
who told the truth, who told the lie
who drained the lakes and rivers dry
who made us laugh, who made us sad
who made the world Monsanto mad
whose appetites consumed the earth,
it wasn’t me, for what it’s worth.

Or maybe it was.
But hey, let’s not get too distressed
it’s not as bad as it might sound
hell, we didn’t make this mess.
It was given us
and when we’re gone
as our parents did
we’ll pass it on.

You see?
I’ve learned your lessons well
what to buy, what to sell
what’s commodity, what’s trash
what discount you can get for cash

And Indians, well, we’ll still be here
the Real One and the rest of us
we’ve got no other place to go
don’t worry, we won’t make a fuss

Well, not much.

Though sometimes, sometimes late at night
when all the world is warm and dead
I wonder how things might have been
had you followed, had we led.

So consider as you live your days
that we live ours under the gaze

of generations watching us
of generations still intact
of generations still to be
seven forward, seven back.

Yeah, it’s not easy.

Course you can always go ask that brave you like so much
the Indian you idolize
perhaps that’s wisdom on his face
compassion sparkling in his eyes.
He may well have a secret song
a dance he’ll share, a long-lost chant
ask him to help you save the world
to save yourselves.
Don’t look at me.
I’m not the Indian you had in mind.
I can’t.

I can’t.

Thomas kingThomas was born in Sacramento, CA in 1943. He is of Cherokee, German and Greek descent. King was raised in California, later becoming a photojournalist in Australia.

In 1986, he completed his Ph.D. in English and American studies at the University of Utah. He has taught Native Studies at the University of California, the University of Lethbridge, and at the University of Minnesota, where he was also Chair of American Indian Studies. King is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Guelph, west of Toronto.

King published his first novel Medicine River in 1989. It marked him as an important voice in Canadian literature. His use of humor, well-crafted dialogue (influenced by his interest in traditional oral literature), and an honest portrayal of day-to-day life of Natives marked the book as an important work of fiction. In 1990, King tried to radically redefine how theorists view Native literature.

In the article Godzilla vs. Postcolonial, King challenges the view that all Native literature is a reaction to colonialism, rather than an extension of longer Native tradition. The term postcolonial serves, in King’s opinion, to reinforce the legacy of colonization.

In 1992, King published the collection of short stories One Good Story, That One. Again mixing humor, traditional Native mythology and contemporary issues, King creates a collection of memorable stories. One such story that plays with the idea of Christopher Columbus discovering America, A Coyote Columbus Story, was transformed into a children’s book that was ultimately nominated for a Governor General’s Award.

He was also nominated for a GG Award in 1993 for his second novel, Green Grass, Running Water. Maintaining the same theme and style of his previous works and enhancing them, King combines the lives of a number of Native characters making their way back to their reserve with a continual retelling of the Creation myth. Truth and Bright Water was published in 1999 and focuses more on the oral tradition of the Natives in its form and style.

Thomas King also wrote a series of comic radio scripts for the CBC during the 1990s, The Dead Dog Cafe. He has edited a number of anthologies on Native writers. The Dead Dog Café was also resurrected in 2006 and 13 episodes are currently in production for CBC Radio.

King was chosen to deliver the 2003 Massey Lectures, entitled The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. King was the first Aboriginal Massey Lecturer. In the series, King examined the Native experience in oral stories, literature, history, religion and politics, popular culture and social protest in order to make sense of North America’s relationship with its Aboriginal peoples.

 


Copyright © Biyai Garricks
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Biyai Garricks, rovingbookwormng.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

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