Two Poems by Suzan Shown Harjo

President Barack Obama presented Suzan Shown Harjo a 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House. Photograph by Duke Ray Harjo II.
after-dinner remarks (after dinner with 
guillermo gomez-pena and the sisters)


we are uncommon peoples with much in common
          for starters, mutual oppression

we are not the half-time show
          for the whiteman’s redskins game
          or his taco-bell-selling chihuahua
          we do not resemble 
          frito bandito or chief wahoo

we are not the pastoral peons 
          of the americas
          or the idiot children 
          of juan valdez and 
          the indian butter maiden

we get the same sleazy propositions
          from california, chiapas 
          and washington
          and all the states 
          of mind-control

we catch the same nafta nasties 
          and gatt gnats
          from sleeping 
          with too many dogs 
          and fleas

we speak the language of the heart
          but with europese in between

do they really think we cannot recognize ourselves
          just because they shot out some windows and mirrors
          we have our own borders to cross and crosses to bear
          and that is family business

we are related by blood by red hands and red dirt
          by blood of the sun
          by blood on the streets
          by blood on the feet of lives on the run

we have toasts to make with sangria
          and that is thicker than wine

in sangria    to mexico, the u.s. and all the rest:
          you are the documented illegal aliens
          never forget, you still are guests
          in our red quarter of Mother Earth
name of the game

             i never went to
             john wayne movies
             and never played
             cowboys and indians
             because i couldn’t stand
             seeing indians  
             lose all the time

             so, i devoted fifth grade to jacks
             and became the champion player
             the runner-up called Grandma
             “blanket ass”
             and i never felt the same
             about winning 
             or even playing the game

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