Three Poems by Adrian C. Louis

Adrian C. Louis

Adrian C. Louis

Adrian C. Louis grew up in Nevada and is an enrolled member of the Lovelock Paiute Tribe. From 1984-97, Louis taught at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He recently retired as Professor of English at Southwest Minnesota State.  Pleiades Press published his latest poems, Random Exorcisms, in 2016. 

Brother Bear

Brother Bear, 
tonight the pale & 
quivering moon of bone
illuminates our return to
the sweetest human form,
whole in a land of ancestors,
whole among the green sage 
& the peacefully starving 
jackrabbits of memory.
Heart attack? Maybe.
Some discordant spirit 
whispers, "Passed out & 
froze in the cab of his truck."
It is an impossible concept.
You are only ten years old,
standing there in the dusk
trying to catch the passes,
the punts that I practice.


I met my first love at thirteen.
She was brown, and I was pretty green.


Born dead this spring, 
an ancient & skeletal elm 
in our backyard scratches
the face of the sullen sun.
Sliced ribbons of sunlight 
wrap the fact that nothing 
can save you this dry July,
not even bleeding dancers 
tethered by medicine prayers 
to a freshly cut cottonwood 
tree twenty miles from here.

Faces skyward, we all seek 
songs in the whirlwinds 
that parch our slow lives.
We pray all songs for divine
reversal of flesh destructed
will be honored by the sun, 
auburn, ancient & savage.


A fat, sweating aide 
with flaming red hair
& greasy, old sneakers
chases me out of your
cell so she can change
your diaper so I go out 
to the patio to smoke & 
fret & fume for a while.
I stand above an anemic
rose bush & one flower
has a bee sacked out in
a bright, crimson vortex.
Maybe the thing is dead.
I drop ashes on its head
trying to get movement
& nothing breathes but
the shadows behind me.

A geezer with dyed red
hair & a thinned out DA 
bums a smoke so I light
the coffin nail & wedge
it in his palsied fingers 
& he hotboxes it like he
had three pairs of lungs.
His huge amber eyes are 
so grateful that when he
asks for another I fulfill
his desire but then I 
get chewed out by yet
another huge aide with 
fiery red hair & bad skin
for an illegal ignition in Hell.

He only gets one an hour.

Which of us knows what
words will ring in eternity?

He only gets one an hour.

I peer down at the rose that
cages the bee, cages me in
stagnant Nebraska breath
while the two obese aides 
convene in whisper & scowl.
This axis of evil, these two
red-headed devils chattering
is not a good sign, but they
allow me back in your room
where your silent & circular 
smile catches me halfway 
between shudder & sigh.