Family Tree or Comanches and Cars Don’t Mix

By Stuart Youngman "Sy" Hoahwah b. 1973
Spanish captive, Hoahwah, married twin sisters.
The one wife called Double
turned into a snake
after eating a nest of glossy eggs.
Snake Woman still lives on Mt. Scott,
sleeps facing west.
The sun a white skull itself
bathes her on the cedar breaks.
In rectangular dreams
she calls the young men grandson.

The other sister Tsi-yee, named after a war deed
(her father charged a cavalry office
knocked him off his horse then lanced him to the prairie)
bore three children: Tabe titah, Namnetse, and Sam Hoahwah.

Lena, Sam Hoahwah’s favorite daughter
ran off with an Arapaho from Canton.
Sam sent his men after her
on horseback, their ranch-hand-shadows
overcast the Cheyenne and Arapaho Rez.
Lena said: I ain’t comin back.
She bled to death on a mattress after a miscarriage.

Mother couldn’t remember Lena
just the car ride to Post Oak Cemetery
and watching wind in the pinwheels.
Mother died the same age, fish-tailing
into Comanche history
in a Chevy Z-28 without car insurance.

Great grandfather Sam Hoahwah
first Indian in southwest Oklahoma to own a car
got run over with his own Model-T.
His Mexican cowboy-chauffeur
forgot to take it out of gear
when Sam crank-started the car.

Not far from his own car, Uncle Fredrick
was found dead in the weeds of Cache Road,
keys missing.
He sang gospels in Comanche,
and backup on Robby Robertson’s
Contact from the Underworld of RedBoy.
(Uncle liked Levon Helm better.)

Frederick Jr. caught ghost sickness
bicycling across Post Oak Cemetery at night.
He looked past his shoulder
it twisted his face.
The moon mocks him now.

After the incident, his girlfriend fell
in love with his cousin Rusty
nicknamed Rabbit
who loves fried baloney
and calls it Indian Steak.

Rabbit’s younger brother
paints abstract horse murals
in empty swimming pools,

and images of a 20 foot long red talking snake
who calls him grandson in his dreams.

Sy Hoahwah, “Family Tree or Comanches and Cars Don’t Mix” from Velroy and the Madischie Mafia. Copyright © 2009 by Sy Hoahwah.

Source: Velroy and the Madischie Mafia (West End Press, 2009)

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Poet Stuart Youngman "Sy" Hoahwah b. 1973

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity


A member of the Comanche Nation, Sy Hoawah’s family descends from both the Yapaituka/Penatuka Comanche and the Bad Faces band of the Southern Arapaho. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Hoahwah was raised in Arkansas and southwestern Oklahoma. He is a direct descendent of Comanch orator and principal chief Ten Bears, and of the Arapaho leader, Little Raven. Hoahwah earned an MFA from the University of Arkansas and is the author of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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