I first learned about his work when I saw the movie Smoke Signals, loved it, and learned that it was based on a short story by Alexie. From there, I read lots of his short stories and poems. I love that they’re funny and honest and meaningful.
I read these Alexie poems today for the first time, and liked them right away.
The Sasquatch Poems
Sasquatch: A hairy manlike creature reported to exist in the northwestern U.S. and Western Canada and said to be a primate between six- and fifteen-feet tall; also called Bigfoot. —Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary
I believe in Sasquatch
just as much as I believe in God
which is not logical
since more people have seen Sasquatch
than have seen God.
We hire priests and politicians
who promise us there are no mysteries
only doors that can be opened easily.
Mystery is a series of large footprints
leading us from the edge of the forest
to the center of the desert.
At the center: an Anasazi pot.
In Hopi, Anasazi means ancient, alien one.
After 1200 A.D., the Anasazi vanished, leaving behind
only the slightest traces of their sudden departure.
Only the Hopi know where they went.
In the year I was born, a Sasquatch chased N
from Benjamin Lake to Turtle Lake.
N was on horseback
and still barely escaped.
N refuses to speak of this event now
and will only smile
when asked about the chase.
Because we are human
we assign human emotions to Sasquatch.
When it chased N from lake to lake
we assume Sasquatch was angry.
How would our hearts change
if we discovered Sasquatch was running
just for the sake of the run, the burn
in the leg muscles and lungs?
We tell these Sasquatch stories
because we are Spokane Indian.
We are Spokane
because our grandparents were Spokane.
Our grandparents told Sasquatch stories.
Our grandparents heard Sasquatch stories
told by their grandparents.
In this way, we come to worship.
By now, the hunters and hobbyists also call them Sasquatch
because they have come to understand a little
of what Indians have always understood.
Headline in the tabloids:
“Bigfoot Baby Found
in Watermelon: Has Elvis’s Sneer.”
Those who say “Bigfoot”
are those who don’t believe.
We must learn to fear metaphor.
We followed the footprints from the source of the stream
to the place where it emptied into the river.
We saw its hair snagged on branches ten feet above us.
Its smell was still powerful a full day after it had passed through.
The smell: rotten eggs, sulfur, burned hair, blood, sawdust
pine sap, bat piss, standing water, split granite, sunlight.
Even now, we like to think science replaced religion
when, in fact, religion became science.
I ran into the house on fire and saved my father and mother.
I ran into the house on fire and saved my sister and brother.
I ran into the house on fire and saved my version of God.
I ran into the house on fire and saved my only effective blanket.
I ran into the house on fire and saved my Adam and Eve.
I ran into the house on fire and saved my porcupine quill.
I ran into the house on fire and saved my cup of ice water.
I ran into the house on fire and saved my metamorphic rock.
I ran into the house on fire and saved my saxophone.
I ran into the house on fire and saved my last will and testament.
I ran into the house on fire and saved my favorite red shirt.
I ran into the house on fire and saved my basketball.
I ran into the house on fire and saved my book about Sasquatch.
After D. B. Cooper hijacked the commercial jet
and parachuted 30,000 feet into the Cascades
where he and his newly acquired money disappeared
we can only assume that he lived
because his death would kill the mystery.
Our only certainty: D. B. Cooper is not Sasquatch.
In order to know what Sasquatch is
we must know what he is not.
Here, I wonder why I speak of Sasquatch as male
when more female Sasquatch have been seen
including the most famous: the Sasquatch woman
who walked across deadfall in the film
shot by Roger Patterson on the Hupa Indian Reservation
in Northern California. We have all seen her
pendulous breasts, prominent brow, large feet
and shadowed eyes as she turns to face the camera
and the commotion caused when Patterson’s horse threw him.
Patterson continued to film as he fell, as he climbed
to his feet, and ran after the Sasquatch. His home movie
has never been discounted, only ignored or dismissed.
The scientists don’t want Sasquatch to exist
because her existence would destroy their God.
Roger Patterson was a Yakama Indian
a fact which provides me with a small, secret pleasure.
I have been taught to keep secrets
and to fool you into believing I’ll reveal them.
If we sit in John F. Kennedy’s limousine on November 22, 1963
and then we look back over our shoulder just as the first shot is fired
we will see a shadowy figure in the sixth-floor window of the
Moving closer, we can see the rifle, a gold ring, and brown eyes.
We can see a bead of sweat fall from forehead to gun stock, soaking
into the finely-grained wood. We can see the fine smoke rise.
We do know that Sasquatch did not shoot JFK
but we wonder if the man who pulled the trigger
was hired by the same men who pay the scientists.
On his deathbed, Roger Patterson wished
he would have shot the Sasquatch
and proved her existence with a corpse.
Thesis: Indians can only be proven superstitious
if non-Indians are proved to be without superstition.
Do the Sasquatch believe in us?
Do you take the bread and wine
because you believe it to be the body and blood?
I do, as other Indians do, too
because that colonial superstition is as beautiful
as any of our indigenous superstitions.
Of course, Sasquatch and Indians have known of each other
for thousands of years. Certain Indians believed Sasquatch
were evil Indians banished from their respective tribes.
Others believed Sasquatch came down from the skies.
Some Indians have sat at lonely campfires and watched
the woods for signs of Sasquatch, their long-lost brother.
A man named Anomaly is over there, in the dark
corner, with his eyes closed, dancing all by himself
I can give you proof of God: Jim Thorpe, Sac and Fox Indian,
won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912
Stockholm Olympics. He won those medals despite the fact that
Indians were not yet recognized as United States citizens.
Sasquatch did not kidnap the Lindbergh baby.
Sasquatch did not bury the empty coffin of Heinrich Müller.
Sasquatch did not kill the prostitutes in White Chapel.
Sasquatch did not fly with Amelia Earhart.
Sasquatch did not roll the stone away from Jesus’s tomb.
Sasquatch did not build the pyramids.
Sasquatch did not create the Ghost Dance.
Sasquatch did not drop the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Sasquatch did not descend from the Missing Link.
Sasquatch did not drag boulders across Easter Island.
Sasquatch did not crash-land in Roswell, New Mexico.
Sasquatch did not walk across the Bering Strait.
Sasquatch did not sink Lemuria.
Sasquatch did not write Shakespeare’s plays.
I can give you proof of Sasquatch: Indian tribes of the Pacific
Northwest carved ape faces into their totem poles long before
any Europeans arrived and brought news of such animals.
According to the scientists, there are no other primates, aside
from human beings, indigenous to North America.
If Sasquatch is the deviation
then what is the common rule?
Late night on the Spokane Indian Reservation
we can hear the shrill cry echo through the pines.
We have recorded the cry and played it for the experts
who cannot tell us which animal made that sound.
Because the Sasquatch use tools, I wonder if they write poems.
Because the Sasquatch steal salmon from nets, I wonder if they
Because the Sasquatch travel alone, I wonder if they love.
Because the Sasquatch travel in families, I wonder if they hate.
Because the Sasquatch stink, I wonder if they feel shame.
Because the Sasquatch hide, I wonder if they are afraid.
Because the Sasquatch cry in the night, I wonder if they believe
A large footprint in the damp sand.
A bush burning on the mountain.
When I asked the Indian elder, she said
with a smile, “I don’t know if I believe in Sasquatch
but he sure does stink.”