Worked at a drop-in center
in the basement of a church,
oh, years ago.
Street kids
played pool and foosball
two nights a week—
mostly Anishinabe, some Dakota,
a couple of Blacks, and
very few whites.

Tried to go into the church
the first night:
a little Anishinabe boy pulled a knife,
waved it at my stomach,
sort of “how you doing
get the fuck out of here.”

Scandinavian, sandy-haired Breck
slid up from behind all calm,
slight southern drawl,
“Give me that, Jimmy Dean.
You know you’re too young to be here.
Pull another stunt like that and you won’t
ever, I mean ever, be coming here again.”
The seven year-old sauntered off.

Among the names from then:
PJ, a Dakota boy.
Came in one night,
hand polishing
his just bandaged
stomach. “It ain’t no big deal.
Some ‘nigger’ shoved in front of me in line.
You shoulda seen what I did to him
after he cut me.”

Another name: Joe—
part Dakota, part Anishinabe,
tall, skinny, distinct Dakota features—
Talked about going to school in a horse wagon
on the reservation,
told about his grandfather
a Dakota Medicine Man.
“That Indian heritage crap’s
off the wall,” Breck snickered once.
“More excuses.”

Actually saw Joe about ten years later.
Heard he was in the hospital,
cut up in a fight. Went in to see him.
He hadn’t grown much taller since then,
almost short now. Almost old. Medicine
dripping into his arm from a plastic tube.

—Michael Dickel

Joe's Hand @2015 Michael Dickel
Joe’s Hand
@2015 Michael Dickel

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