The Fork-in-the-Road Indian Poetry Store

By Phillip Carroll Morgan

i saved my energy as i read,
          like managing held-breath underwater
so i could extend my survey
          and not miss anything great

the fork-in-the-road indian poetry store
on the highway on the northeast side
of wetumka toward weleetka
          large open grassy field behind it
          county road completing the fork
          vanishes in verdant
          north oktahutchee bottomland
i am overcome
by the indianness of this town
                       an unexplainable import of joy
                       pervades me
even the few current-age vestiges
do not belie
                        a sense that this town
                        this people have always been here


the reading today on the lawn is by two elderly sisters
in long gingham dresses who are the last living speakers of yuchi
you can stand still on an aisle inside the store and reach poems
and stories on the shelves in muskoke chikasha chahta and english

all the great indian writers on both sides
of the sweet gum bridge
          rich treasure of people
          alive and well on this continent
          after millennia of continuance
potluck table for reading guests
spread with banaha sofke tanfula
corn soup tobi squash and peppers
                       brown-skinned teenager
                       corner easy chair
                       absorbing the story of an epic
                       stickball competition
which attracted four hundred contestants
and twenty thousand spectators
                       while columbus
                       still navigated in an italian gene pool
                       a century before his birth  


the building
a turn-of-the-twentieth-century gas station
         abandoned for that use
         before model a’s and t’s
         disappeared from the road
                       has weathered wood clapboard siding
                       and two tapered wood columns
                                     on top of stucco pedestals supporting a roof
                                     which forms a one-car portico

honeysuckle perfumes
summer evening air while
          cicadas and tree frogs
          serenade well-dressed people
          sipping iced tea
                       long shadows massaging
                       green grass

a grandfather
plays a wood flute
          oddly harmonious
          with ratcheting locusts
dark-haired boys and girls
further east
        on the lawn revolve
        around a foam rubber football
                      their cries forming another
                      stratum of sound


what words would I write
if my favorite pen were the only pen left
in the world
and it held only a few drops of ink
i would write this
           in the creek talwa
           muskokean peace town
           corn sings harvest
                        bluegills broom red sand
                        with their tail fins
                        in shallow kingfisher pools
                        nearby people drumming
                                      a seated grandmother
                                      with a light spot on a brown iris
                                      in a wrinkle-supple face
                                      looks east through the yard
praying thankfully
and sees her grandmother walking
amongst children playing ball
you are welcome here

Phillip Carroll Morgan, “The Fork-in-the-Road Indian Poetry Store” from The Fork-in-the-Road Indian Poetry Store. Copyright © 2006 by Phillip Carroll Morgan. Reprinted by permission of Salt Publishing.

Source: The Fork-in-the-Road Indian Poetry Store (Salt Publishing, 2006)

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Poet Phillip Carroll Morgan

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

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 Phillip Carroll Morgan


A Choctaw/Chickasaw poet, Phillip Carroll Morgan earned a PhD in Native American literature from the University of Oklahoma. He writes for Chickasaw Press, part of the Chickasaw Nation Division of History and Culture.
Morgan’s poetry engages his tribal ancestry and its mythology. His first poetry collection, The Fork-in-the-Road Indian Poetry Store (2006), won the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas First Book Award.
. . .

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Poems by Phillip Carroll Morgan

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SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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