Ray A. Young Bear

A Season of Provocations and Other Ethnic Dreams

It began near the site
of a smoldering but vacant
mobile home. East Quail
Road. There, blared the scanner,
relatives conveyed a teenager
was upset for being deprived
of a "real Three Stooges
videotape." Thus was the day
ignited. Next, through the jet's
window, I waved to my wife,
Selene Buffalo Husband,
as the bus-like craft turned
over a runway of corn stalk
stumps. And then we ascended,
westward. Unbuckled, I sat in
the back and stretched my arms
across the tops of a soft bench.
Standing beside me, an ethnic
pilot was uneasy. He deflected
my questions with stares toward
earth of concern. Like an amateur
verbal boxer I recited: "Best to leave
a rock that refuses to talk alone;
best just to listen to the water
rippling around it."

Once, after an all-night drive
to Taos, New Mexico, I became
disoriented. At some plaza square,
perhaps close to the designated
meeting place with the poetry
reading contact, I approached
a group of ethnics on a balcony
and, thinking they were other
invited poets, asked: "Are you
here to meet Peter Cottontail?"
Unflinchingly, while wiping salad
bits from their mouths, they pointed
to each other. "No, but we have Bugs
Bunny here—and, oh, here's Daffy!"
Travel-faced in their expensive sun-
glasses I was convex at the ethnologic
query about who I was. Si, I said, an
Indio, from a nearby immiscible history.
Years later, I recall this exchange
and wonder if Woody Woodpecker
really has a daughter and what
her name might be. Is it Splinter?
you knothead. Methinks it's a clue
from Oklahoma via the Lazy-Boy
quest sessions in the disappearances
of Laura and Ashley.

English for Black Eagle Childs,
Pat "Dirty" Red Hat once noted,
is saturated with linguistic pitfalls.
For example, he once asked
a coy waitress at an old German-
style restaurant on Interstate 80,
"Do you serve alcoholics?"
"Yes, we do," he was told
that Sunday morning. At a Sears
auto garage the manager peace-
signed when Pat asked about
"Hallucinogenic" rather than
halogen headlights. And at
the Youth Service Facility
co-workers oft-reflected when
he "applied a Heineken" on
a muskmelon pulp-choking
girl. That singular misapplication
had more notice than the turbulent
adolescence saved. But no one quipped
at the line given when he mis-addressed
himself: "I am completely reverse
of what I am." Because that term
could fit anyone, ethnic—
or otherwise.

Ray A. Young Bear, The Rock Island Hiking Club, University of Iowa
Press, 2001.