Not to Be an American Indian – A Poem

In a poem that he wrote and gave me forty years ago, my friend Jack B wrote about what it was like to be an American Indian. For him, and for so many other American Indians, the experience was devastating. Treated like vermin, and discounted as if they had no identity, so many lost hope. As Palestinian psychiatrist Samah Jabr wrote in a recent article in The Palestine Chronicle, “one of the worst effects” of this kind of behavior “is the internalization of oppressing and the undermining of” a person’s (and a people’s) self-concept.” No one deserves to be treated that way.

Jack was my friend. He gave me the poem, then moved away. I never heard from him again. Here is his poem. – George Polley

Not to Be an American Indian

By Jack B

It is best not to be an American Indian
I will give it up.
I have examined that a kind of life and discovered
it is not worth living.
I will  not ask to know the name of my ancestors’
tribe, or what I must do.
I will pluck the inter eye of emotion.
I will sleep with white sex goddesses,
and never get involved.
I will never use the word love and care
for no one.
I will ask no one to care for me, so I will
never be homesick because I will have no home.
I will avoid solitude and never think of
When I die I don’t want to know what’s happening.
Who wants to root among burial grounds and
taste the bitter roots of the human heart,
only to find that autobiography is tragedy,
and that you are only one alone among many,
an inconsolable outcast.
Is there any more wine in that bottle?

– George Polley contributed this poem to

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