Go, Ghost, Go
At this university upon a hill,
I meet a tenured professor
Who's strangely thrilled
To list all of the oppressors --
Past, present, and future -- who have killed.
Are killing, and will kill the indigenous.
O, he names the standard suspects --
Rich, white, and unjust --
And I, a red man, think he's correct,
But why does he have to be so humorless?
And how can he, a white man, fondly speak
Of the Ghost Dance, the strange and cruel
That, if performed well, would have doomed
All white men to hell, destroyed their colonies,
And brought back every dead Indian to life?
The professor says, "Brown people
From all brown tribes
Will burn skyscrapers and steeples.
They'll speak Spanish and carry guns and knives.
Sherman, can't you see that immigration
Is the new and improved Ghost Dance?"
All I can do is laugh and laugh
And say, "Damn, you've got some imagination.
You should write a screenplay about this shit --
About some fictional city,
Grown fat and pale and pretty,
That's destroyed by a Chicano apocalypse."
The professor doesn't speak. He shakes his head
And assaults me with his pity.
I wonder how he can believe
In a ceremony that requires his death.
I think that he thinks he's the new Jesus.
He's eager to get on that cross
And pay the ultimate cost
Because he's addicted to the indigenous.
Sherman Alexie self-identifies as a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian. He grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington, which he left to attend a nearly all-white high school (where the only other Indian was the school's mascot). His first screenplay, Smoke Signals, was the first major film produced, written, and directed by American Indians. Alexie is the author of dozens of books and the recipient of nearly as many awards (you can read a bio about him here). The above poem is available online here, and in Alexie's recent book, War Dances. (Image source)