Red River

. . . makes a noisy entry into Texas
like tumbling file cabinets.

Four mountains
Four creeks
Four forts
Four suns
Four seasons
Four nations—Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho


At Yellow House Canyon
the river turns tight.
Talons skim the water,
waves confirm dawn.

With white sheets tied around their waists
Tonkawa scouts cannibalistically count out
a bag of children’s hands.

Seated in a silver Concho saddle,
Death’s dirty sergeant lights up
his ceremonial breathing leaf.


Where Cache Creek empties into the Red River
is a nerve center of war.
There Velroy fought the gruesome brotherhood:
Blue Corpse, Smallpox, and the Creeper, cruel 300 lb nymphs.
They tried to strip his body of Carbon-14 atoms.

Velroy, knowledgeable in the Flying Crane Technique
of Kung-Fu,
drop-kicked Blue Corpse in the windpipe
simultaneously breaking his neck
in three places.

He tricked The Creeper with his own taboo.
By passing wolf’s milk and tequila
through a hole in an oak tree,
it made The Creeper vomit up his own stomach.
Velroy quickly buried it,
turning him into a tree.

Smallpox challenged Velroy
to a dance-off.
It took place on top of the creek.
While Smallpox was doing a head spin,
Velroy pulled the cardboard out from under him.
Smallpox dropped into the water and drowned.


Snake Woman sits in the deep,
a cinema of silver scales.
Her hair moves like meadow grass in flood water.


Members of the Black Knife Society
crossed the south fork of the river
on horseback in a V-formation.
They possess gear
simultaneously musical and military:
a stretched skin to serve as
both shield and drum,
and a club, sword, or lance
that is also a drumstick.


At the Red River
Ute chief cuts my guitar strings
Ute women love Punk

Sy Hoahwah, “Red River” from Velroy and the Madischie Mafia. Copyright © 2009 by Sy Hoahwah.
Source: Velroy and the Madischie Mafia (West End Press, 2009)
More Poems by Sy Hoahwah