Fiction   Essays   Poetry  The Ten On Baseball Chapbooks In Memory

Sherman Alexie



Three boys climb
The wheat silo;

Two of us
Wait below.

Rung by rung,
The climbers rise

Toward the top.
We strain our eyes

To see, but our
Friends disappear.

We wait and wonder,
But then I hear

The oddest sound,
A soft whistle,

And then I know:
One of them is pissing

From the top.
I run, hoping

To escape, but
Troy, with open

Mouth, stares up
And gets a face

Full of yellow.
Soaked, enraged,

He curses
The humid sky

But I remain
Amused and dry.


Drunk and horny,
My girl and I exit
A high school party
To have sex in

The wheat. It's noon.
I see my girl nude
In the daylight
For the first time,

And I am pleased
To see that her skin--
Her breasts and belly--
Are just as golden

As the summer wheat.
Later, my girl and I grew
Apart, but I knew
Her once as she knew me,

Young and tall and uncruel,
And yes, so bountiful.


We weren't vandals,

But we didn't stop
When the local cops

Flashed their lights
Into our teenage eyes.

Panicked, the three
Of us dashed into the wheat.

Suddenly unbored,
The cops were more

Than happy to chase us

Through the small town dark.
Doug and Karl were smart;

They ran around the fence,
But I, being slow and dense,

Sprinted into the barbed wire.
Ah, shit! My chest was on fire!

And I thudded to the dirt.
Bloody but mostly unhurt,

I remained hidden, uncaptured,
And heard the cop's laughter

As they carried away my friends.

In that wheat field,

I waited until the cops were gone,
Then ran and made it home by dawn.


Here is a photograph
Of my neighbor's wheat field.

It's just one of my backyards.
As a child, I was surrounded

By wheat fields. Isolated,
I often felt small and rhymeless,

But I was free to roam,
With all of my neighbors' blessing,

In any of their fields.
In this way, step by step, row by row,

I learned how to escape.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Marriage


How odd to be jealous of one's lover's
Long ago lovers, when one should thank them
For their various failures. And strengths.
And odder, this desire to rank them

As she must rank them, but will never say.
Where is the handsome Christian? Or the one
Who said he wasn't married? Or the short
British man whose parents were far more fun?

And what about the existentialist
Who kissed so well she swooned in the street,
But was far too rational to feel joy?
I celebrate the men who preceded me --

Just as the bank celebrates its debtors --
Because they make me look so much better.


A female fan, upon meeting my wife,
Said, "Oh, wow, you must have a wonderful life
Since you have such a wonderful writer
For a husband. That book, The Fistfighter,

Is so charming. Your husband must be charming, too."
And my wife thought, What a literate fool!
Only the poet's spouse fully learns the truth:
We writers are the worst kind of cruel,

Because we worship our own stories and poems,
And what human can compete with metaphors?
Writers stand still and yet vacate our homes
Inside our fantasies. We are word-whores,

With libidos and egos of balsa wood.
We'd have sex with our books, if only we could.


If I were single, would I be thinner?
Do I overeat because I don't compete
With the flat-bellied bachelors? Or do we
Thick husbands look and feel thicker

Whenever our wives see a slender man?
Or does it matter? Of course, it matters.
I can't stick with any weight loss plan,
And though my extra twenty won't shatter

Any scales, I despise my love handles,
And often feel ugly and obese.
But my lovely wife always lights the candles,
Disrobes, and climbs the mountain called me,

Because wives can love beyond the body
And make mortal husbands feel holy.


Every summer, my wife travels to France
To spend a week or two with her good friend.
Of course, my sons and I welcome the chance
To de-evolve and cave it up, and yet,

I sometimes wish that my wife gave me all
Her love and attention. But it's selfish
To want such devotion. There should be walls
Inside any marriage. My wife can wish

For more privacy and solitude
Without me thinking it cold and rude.
She should have friends I rarely meet,
If ever, and I shouldn't let my needs

Become demands, but when I'm most alone,
I often wish my wife was always home.


To save time, I put the good pots and pans
In the dishwasher and ruined the damn things.
And, once again, my wife can't understand
How thoughtless I can be. And, again, I sing

The same exhausted song: I forgot, I forgot.
When left up to me, the bills go unpaid,
The fruits and vegetables go unbought,
And the master and twin beds go unmade.

Once, when a teacher wondered why our son
Spent so much time lying on the classroom floor,
My wife said, "Because he's seen it often before."
On a basketball court, I will madly run,

But anywhere else, I will use sedate
Opportunities to pontificate.


In the hotel room next to mine, women
Talk and laugh and keep me awake 'til three.
Exhausted and soaked with sweat and venom,
I stare at the walls and think of twenty

Ways to get revenge for their selfish crimes.
At five a.m., as I walk by their door,
I pocket their PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB sign,
And then, from my taxi to the airport,

I ring their room. "Who the hell is this?"
Asks a woman, still drunk and irate.
And I say, "Hey, I just wanted to wish
You a good morning and a great fucking day."

When I tell my wife about my adolescent rage,
She shrugs, rolls her eyes, and turns the page.


Yes, dear wife, we were younger and slender
(And, damn, I had terrible hair and clothes).
Our marriage was new, exciting, and tender.
Naked in front of me, you still felt exposed,

And I had yet to learn how to touch you
Properly. But now, sweetheart, I've memorized
The curves of your breasts, belly, and thighs,
As you've memorized me, and if we do

Each other less often than we should or need,
Then we can blame time's ground and pound
And not the lack of carnality,
Because, D, I still want to lay you down

Hour by hour, and make you cry for more,
As I cry for you, adoring and adored.

©2009 by Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie is the author of many books of poetry and prose, including Face, a book of poems from Hanging Loose Press, and the forthcoming War Dances, a book of short stories from Grove Press.

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