1. I wake up after only two hours of sleep, shower, dress and
walk down to the college.
2. I talk to the pretty tan girl with the wrist tattoo working the
front desk. “Are you the guest speaker?” she asks. Feeling nervous
and jittery, I nod. “Yeah,” I say. “I guess I am.”
3. I look through the window beside the classroom’s closed door
and some students see me. Polite to the bone, I grin uncertainly
4. I’m introduced, don’t know where to start, ask if I can sit. I
stutter, then break into a story about hanging out at the river
with some friends in high school when I was a teenager. I’m
completely unsure of myself but it’s either keep going or
embarrass myself by running away. Dry-mouthed, with all the
innocent looking students looking at me, I keep talking.
5. I read some poems, talk, tell stories, let my sincere desire and
love for what I’m sharing guide me. There’s one young native girl
in the class. She’s wearing a stocking cap, looks me in the eyes
when I look over at her. A sadness smokes out of her spirit. I sort
of talk to everyone else but her so that what I’m seeing in her
doesn’t distract me. I know her. I used to be her and my spirit
used to smoke with sadness like that too.
6. I glance at the clock, finish up, ask if there’s any questions.
No one raises their hand. I feel happy, at the end of a good reading,
glad that the right words and stories came to me. The teacher
asks them again if anyone has any questions. Still no one raises
their hand. I stand up and everyone starts to leave.
7. While waiting in the commons for the teacher, I see the native
girl standing by herself. I go and talk to her. She’s shy, young, her
nose is pierced, she’s wearing a backpack. Her spirit is like a small
animal that’s never been properly loved, that yearns for simple
human touch. “Do you like this class?’ I ask her. “How’s your semester
going so far?”
8. The teacher invites the student to come to lunch with us. We walk
down the cold streets, talking about whatever, gelling together as
three people who don’t really know each other but would maybe
like to. Standing at an intersection with our crosswalk time at less
than we need, the teacher asks, “Should we go for it?” And then
without another word we all three start walk-running for it.
9. We order falafels at a Greek joint and squeeze into a booth. The
native girl talks about being adopted, dyeing her hair black, her hair
falling out, deciding to get sober. The teacher talks about questionable,
hurtful things her mom with beginning Alzheimer’s has been saying
lately. In response to the native girl’s story about feeling bad because
she’s part white, I overshare and tell her what the spirits told me about
being half indian and half white when I was up on the hill. “These two
parts of you are not in conflict,” they said. “They’re complimentary. They’re
two halves of one whole. Use your white side to help your Indian side,”
they said. “And use your Indian side to help your white side.”
10. We get up and I hand the girl the copy of my poetry zine I was reading
from in the class, we dump our trays, head back out into the cold. I hug
the teacher because she’s the hugging type. Then I shake the girl’s hand.
“See ya later Angel,” I say—because that’s her name. Angel: “It was nice
to meet you.” I start walking away, waving at her. “I’ll see ya around.
11. I go home, pray and give thanks for getting to be a poet for my people,
for the great time I had today in that classroom. My heart beats fast and
I have weird worries about my health. The future is so uncertain. I watch
some TV and then crawl back into bed, to get more sleep before work.
I think of Angel and wonder if I’ve ever seen her before. I talk aloud in my
bedroom. “Thank you,” I say. “Thanks.”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Cliff Taylor
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Courtesy of Author