Originally posted 4/2/2011; original title, “Exile: Portraits.”
I live alone in the far woods,
among good words
in this house — air conditioned,
of mountain spring
in the dead of winter,
a perfect shade of rose.
I like it here.
I like living alone
I like the muscles in words, like
how they move,
how it’s not even work
when they move. I like
how different work is
Sometimes I talk to myself.
I say, out loud,
that I don’t want my hands
or my corn anymore.
I’ve held too many things
and been too well-fed. I’m trying
to be leaner, a good citizen of the world,
though I’ve not left this home soil
in fifty years, though I was born here
as were all my genes. Lucky
for me that I like it here. I like
living with words —
I like the work they do
without appearing to work at all.
The only time I ever left
was when I was sent to kill.
I came home certain
that all the creation stories
my little nation ever taught me
were literally true. A coyote
indeed brought us fire, the snakes
indeed were postal carriers to the gods,
I indeed was fashioned
to wear the word “warrior,” and
someday, all will indeed be restored.
It has to be true: every brown person I killed
in every country where I killed them
told me the same story
in different words,
and I like words. I like
the way they move, the way
their muscles shift, the work
they do without appearing to work,
I like how well-scrubbed
they can make me feel.