Luke Warm Water







Sailor No More


As a boy

seasick I figured

from the pale green Ford

station wagon Rez trips

incredible summer heat

dust particles thick

in the air haze

visibly hanging

rear panel window

cracked open

allowing exhaust

into my lungs

car sick coma

barreling down

those gravel roads


Dad would reminisce

starboard on your right

port on your left

you will never confuse

which side of a ship

starboard and port is

port being the same side

of the chest where your

heart leans

and being on the seas too long

your heart longs for home

for port


Oceans carry no calm

on the seas of battle against

the Imperial Japanese Navy

during WWII

stories of longing for home

momentarily detracting horrors of war

his US Navy shipmates would recount

about the sailor

who had enough of the oceans

despised all 7 of them thoroughly

wanted nothing more but to live his

remaining life on land

when the sailor got to port

he slung an oar over his shoulder

started walking inland

kept walking

decided he would not stop

until someone asked him

what that thing was over his shoulder

that’s when he would know

that you are far away

enough from the sea


Dad expanded to that story

told me that sailor

was finally asked what that was

slung over his shoulder

in the Badlands of South Dakota

in the tiny town of Scenic

he would tell this story

each time he would drive our family

through that one horse town

the mid-point on our way to and from

Rapid City and the Pine Ridge Rez








Lozen Help Us


Old poet looks at me

mocking still

telling me that at 40

I am still a pup

says he didn’t even

start seriously writing

until his mid-30’s

even then he wasn’t

considering himself

a poet even if

he lived to be

500 years old

he would still only

always be an

amateur poet

“As if” I exclaimed

regardless that was just fine

because the café

house patrons of overflowing

writers weren’t considering

him a poet either


A poet is to be held

in high esteem even

in context of what is

filled in a bowl of an Amsterdam

hookah or what costs

least in your poor cup

shattered mug of a border Rez

roadside Indian bar


Old poet told me

of warriors

not the warriors we

think of as uncommon men

but those who stand

alongside of greatness

are just as important

most times even

more important

because they are women


Old poet said take

for instance


the Apache warrior woman

who fought alongside



In the Sierra Madres

5,000 soldiers could not

defeat thirty-six Apache

men, women and children

those Apache eventually surrendered

for the last time


In the only photograph

ever taken of Lozen was in 1886

on the way to be imprisoned

in Florida

with 498 Chiricahua Apaches

including the Apache scouts who

served the U.S. Army


In that picture Lozen

on one knee

crouched forward

brow furrowed

she on the left of Geronimo

which meant she was

Geronimo’s most trusted


not his wife

a protector

a freedom fighter through

and through

Lozen never married

nor birthed her own

her children were in defending

her people

fighting terrorism

in the 1870’s and 1880’s


Lozen had two types

of medicine

gift of horses

leading successful horse

raids against both

U.S. Cavalry and Mexicans

stealth within

physical prowess

also gifted

of spirit world

able to know/sense where

enemy was by ceremony

asking spirits

singing prayer with palms up

tingling in her palms showed

direction and distance to enemy

if enemy were very near

palms turned purple


Old poet finished by telling

me there are not enough

women warriors that are

recognized enough these

past 500 years

that fought for freedom


Agreeing wholeheartedly

I nodded at my reflection

in the bathroom mirror

thinking to myself

‘There are not enough

men warriors, today’

adding out loud

“Lozen! We need more

warrior women like you

Now! More than ever”







Mind of Peace, Heart of War


He fidgeted a bit while asking

where I was from, “Oakland” I said

Americano Indio originally from South Dakota

Alejandro said he was originally from “Coney Island”

with a slight east coast-ish New York city accent

born in Mexico the first year of his life

the home of his mother, his father

Filipino raised in New York City


Local barrachos kept interrupting

us as they related

slow mouthfuls of broken English

desperado stories working illegally

in Arizona at construction jobs

as they scarfed down

3 A.M. outdoor taqueria tacos

they finally staggered off

to catch the old high school looking

converted into city buses

that tootsie roll around Cabo San Lucas

proper touristo section

all hours spewing chocolate colored exhaust


Alejandro is 32 but appears younger

than he looks with his wiry frame

slight hyper nervousness as he talks

“Hey, Oakland, man, my wife

and new born baby are here

in Cabo, she lives in San Jose

south bay and is Mexican originally”

she is visiting with her mom

they got pissed since earlier

in the night he went out partying

at “a fine ass” strip club

came home smelling like

stripper juice sweat perfume

“her and her mom’s always gets like that

when they are together

start harping on me over

stupid shit” adding “I explain

to them I don’t fuck

or get my dick suck by

any of those stripper bitches”

so they kicked him out of the hotel

they are all staying in

“I even paid for the fucking fine hotel”

mumbling “I didn’t mean to fuckin slap

my baby’s mother”


His dad’s side of the family has

a successful jewelry business

that does well in Manhattan

regularly sending him money

since he arrived 3 months ago

he stops talking as a cop car

rolls by and I smile at it

but he doesn’t make eye contact

turns away “Man, I can’t get in trouble

with any of them Mexican cops”

he squashes out the cigarette

he bummed from me

then asks if he can have another

quickly sitting back down

as I light it Alejandro goes into

the trance of middle story

“I thought it was safe

we were in the ‘green zone’

playing cards with my best bud

and two other guys in our platoon

all of sudden my buddy, his head just

exploded! pieces of blood and brain

and shit splattered all over me

my brother David slump over, slow motion like

my bro’s fuckin torso still holding

the cards in his hand

his headless ‘thud’ to the dirt sand

everything went numb and silent

like barely hearing myself yell

‘mother fuckers!’ I shot back

but my full clip already empty

I must have blacked out a moment

not remembering I shot back

emptying my clip, my company

shooting blindly in the direction

of the sniper round sound”


That’s all it took, it was the last straw

Alejandro is AWOL from the US Navy

serving 7 years in Iraq and Afghanistan

as a battle soldier on the ground

he told me his story out of confession

without guilt

yet the aura of nervous ghosts

still shrouded him

in the unforgiveable

experiences of battle


I handed him another Mexican Marlboro

lit it for him

did my best to absolve him

by just listening to the horror

of war, and its effects, one American

to another American

in the early morning of

a taqueria paradiso Mejico

we spent our last Tecate

saying little staring out into

the empty street early bird songs

and dim illuminated dark blue sky

as sunrise crept to life

I said goodbye to Alejandro

gave him a bro hug handshake

and the rest of my pack of cigarettes

“Hey Luke” he said as I walked away

I turned around

he seemed to look through

beyond me

as he raised his voice

“I have the brain of peace,

with the heart of war!”














The marginalized American Indian poet LUKE WARM WATER was born and raised in Rapid City, South Dakota, and is an enrolled member of the Lakota Tribe. His poetry appears in Shedding Skins: Four Sioux Poets (Michigan State University Press, 2008) and 8 chapbooks since 1999. Luke was a featured poet at the prestigious Geraldine R. Dodge 12th Biennial Poetry Festival in 2008. He has featured at poetry venues throughout the United States and Europe, and has won Poetry Slam competitions from California to Germany. Luke is the recipient of a 2010 Oakland Cultural Arts grant and his chapbook City Tree of Concrete & Hope (2012) received an Artists Embassy International book award. He currently resides in Oakland, California.

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