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Another Attempt at Rescue

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The time is important here—not because this   
has been a long winter or because it is my first   
at home since childhood—but because there is so much   
else to be unsure of. We are on the brink of an invasion.   
At a time like this how is it that when I left only a week ago
there was three feet of snow on the ground,
and now there is none, not even a single patch   
on in the shadow of the fence-line.   
And to think I paid a cousin twenty dollars   
to shovel the walk. He and two of his buddies,   
still smelling of an all-nighter, arrived at 7 am   
to begin their work. When I left them a while later   
and noticed their ungloved hands, winter made me feel   
selfish and unsure. This ground seems unsure   
of itself for its own reasons

and we do not gauge enough of our lives   
by changes in temperature.
When I first began to write poems
I was laying claim to battle.
It started with a death that I tried to say
was unjust, not because of the actual
dying, but because of what was left.
What time of year was that?
I have still not yet learned to write of war.
I have friends who speak out—as is necessary—
with subtle and unsubtle force.
But I am from this place and a great deal
has been going wrong for some time now.
The two young Indian boys who almost drowned
last night in the fast-rising creek near school
are casualties in any case.
There have been too many just like them
and I have no way to fix these things.

A friend from Boston wrote something to me last week
about not having the intelligence
to take as subject for his poems
anything other than his own life.
For a while now I have sensed this in my own mood:
This poem was never supposed to mention
itself, other writers, or me.
But I will not regret that those boys made it home,
or that the cousins used the money at the bar.
Still, there are no lights on this street.
Still, there is so much mud outside
that we carry it indoors with us.

M. L. Smoker, "Another Attempt at Rescue" from Another Attempt at Rescue. Copyright © 2005 by M. L. Smoker.  Reprinted by permission of Hanging Loose Press.
Source: Another Attempt at Rescue (Hanging Loose Press, 2005)
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Another Attempt at Rescue

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  • A member of the Sioux and Assiniboine tribes, poet M.L. Smoker earned a BA at Pepperdine University and an MFA at the University of Montana, where she received the Richard Hugo Memorial Scholarship. Smoker also studied at UCLA, where she received the Arianna and Hannah Yellow Thunder Scholarship, and the University of Colorado, where she was a Battrick Fellow.
    Influenced by John Steinbeck, James Welch, and Philip Levine, Smoker composes free verse poems that focus on personal struggle and identity and engage Native American history, language, and culture. As Smoker noted in a From the Fishouse audio recording, “[B]eing a poet allows me to interact and observe and be a witness to so many things that go on in the world around us, large things that go on in our community but also things that happen in our day-to-day lives, and I’m very honored to have the chance and...

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