Jan/Feb 2001  •   Poetry

Johnson is Navaho

by Sean McKim

Johnson is Navaho

"I was an athlete," he proclaims.
High school glories die hard in the desert,
carcasses smolder under exposure;
flesh melts and bones grow
a luster all their own.

"I used to drink," he says.
He needs five more years
to qualify for a government pension.
What then?
Gallup offers very little.

He uses me for my Ford,
trips to town for laundry,
six packs. He reciprocates with his story:
In very quiet tones he tells me
about his experience with joosh.
He has loved, he has lost; it is an American story.

"Really interesting," he says
when describing the Navajo culture.
Is it interesting because it is,
or because I expect it to be?