Pia’isa, little ones. To learn of magnificence, the kind that comes from a long history. The turns of pure magic, through stories. How the moon and earth were once as close as leaves of a branch, how the sky tilted, a disc throwing colors of all kinds, or the dark marathon of the animal earth-diver into the primal waters for a handful of mud here or a fingernail worth of sand there. The First People, as they’re called now, but who should be called by their own collective name for themselves - the people, or simply us. They are and were a fantastic people. If you asked them, Who is that over there, those strangers? Their answer would always translate today to the word enemy. Who are those people? Oh, they are enemy. The same goes for any other object or living being they might be asked to identify. Over there is a big mountain. What do you call that? Oh, that? We call that a big mountain. The First People names for me varied by immense and roaming tribes. To the Hopi, I was Kweo Kachina; to the Potawatomi, I was Chibiabos. The Metis called me Rou-garou, and the Shshone whispered Pia’isa to their children at night to frighten them into calming. Pia’isa is watching for your eyes to open, awâsis.
This boy breaks into a house and we find out it’s his grandma’s place,
that he’s stealing her pain meds. Next thing you know
the grandma’s on the floor with a busted head. Boys like that get shitkicked
by Sean Holly in lockup. Big Sean did it and didn’t care who knew it,
told the boy he wasn’t his mamaw and flattened his head against the cell wall,
jarred his eye loose so that it popped it out of his head,
left it swinging on the optic nerve. Thing is, that boy’s eye started moving
across his cheekbone, pushing itself toward the bridge of his nose
the way a snail does, using the exposed nerve like its body to inch along.
And it started growing. That’s the word Sean tried to say later. Growing.
Bird arrives as heroin.
Eyes lidded and soft,
steps like socked feet
on shag carpet,
he moves so lightly.
shadow the room
from center stage.
Buddy on drums,
but the rest are a
haze coffin out of sight.
The heroin is vein-rusted,
plants him to the stage.
It soaks through the skin
to mix with his sweat,
it screams into the sax
and blows out into the
club like shards from his reed,
a prodrug sprinkle
of notes exactly ragged.
Sheldon Lee Compton is the author of four books, most recently the novella A True Story (Shivelight Books, 2017). His fiction and poetry can be found in gobbet, Wigleaf, Live Nude Poems, Gravel, Anti-Heroin Chic, Unbroken Journal, Vending Machine Press, The Cabal, and elsewhere. He lives in Pikeville, Kentucky, with his partner, the photographer Heather McCoy.