Friday, October 17, 2014

Mama on the Yurok Reservation (poem)

At the casino, the lights flash
in fits of colors, staccato
and strobe off the ceilings,
light up the faces of slot machines
that talk in helium-voices,
cartoon lisps or computer monotones,
overlaid with elevator music
interrupted by microphoned
“Will Mrs. (whoever) please come
to the Winner’s booth. Repeat, Mrs.…”
while hot crowds, cooled to alertness
by imported polar air, mill
about the tables, push their money
into slots, hands, and plastic pails,
like robots programmed to disappear cash.

She perches on her stool,
tiny face squinted against the odds,
her manicured nail poking a button
that says “Bet nine” as her nickel count
on the screen diminishes.
Her hair, a curly cap of silver floss,
barely hides her scalp. Her back
is bent, as if she’s watching
the years of her life spin past in flurries
of cherries and bells, BARS, and birds.
She turns, with ruminative eyes,
as her counter runs empty, and says
“I’ll bet you that the Indians
are too smart to play these things.”


  1. Love these images: hot crowds, cooled to alertness
    by imported polar air,

    And hair like floss, which is also disconcerting.