Sherman Alexie


On the Amtrak from Boston to New York City Poem by Sherman Alexie


The white woman across the aisle from me says 'Look,
look at all the history, that house
on the hill there is over two hundred years old, '
as she points out the window past me

into what she has been taught. I have learned
little more about American history during my few days
back East than what I expected and far less
of what we should all know of the tribal stories

whose architecture is 15,000 years older
than the corners of the house that sits
museumed on the hill. 'Walden Pond, '
the woman on the train asks, 'Did you see Walden Pond? '

and I don't have a cruel enough heart to break
her own by telling her there are five Walden Ponds
on my little reservation out West
and at least a hundred more surrounding Spokane,

the city I pretended to call my home. 'Listen, '
I could have told her. 'I don't give a shit
about Walden. I know the Indians were living stories
around that pond before Walden's grandparents were born

and before his grandparents' grandparents were born.
I'm tired of hearing about Don-fucking-Henley saving it, too,
because that's redundant. If Don Henley's brothers and sisters
and mothers and father hadn't come here in the first place

then nothing would need to be saved.'
But I didn't say a word to the woman about Walden
Pond because she smiled so much and seemed delighted
that I thought to bring her an orange juice

back from the food car. I respect elders
of every color. All I really did was eat
my tasteless sandwich, drink my Diet Pepsi
and nod my head whenever the woman pointed out

another little piece of her country's history
while I, as all Indians have done
since this war began, made plans
for what I would do and say the next time

somebody from the enemy thought I was one of their own.

Submitted: Friday, July 21, 2006
Edited: Wednesday, August 18, 2010

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Comments about this poem (On the Amtrak from Boston to New York City by Sherman Alexie )

  • Rookie Stanley Breyers (8/6/2012 11:49:00 PM)

    Walter, you must be white! I forgot you're the true authority on what is and isn't necessary in this day and age-thanks so much for that. What would we do without your wisdom to completely suppress the meaning behind Alexie's barbaric and misplaced hostility? ! Keep on inspiring us with your ever-so-balanced insight of the true and intended meaning behind the poetry written by authors of color. I'm sure that your attitude will help solve the whole one group taking advantage of another group of people, and destroying them for the most part problem. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Tosin Otitoju (1/30/2012 1:55:00 AM)

    My new love in poetry - Sheman Alexie. Gorgeous. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Rocky Rocky (2/19/2008 11:15:00 AM)

    This is a nice poem. Nicely written. I have been able to use its resources and write a nice essay. its posted on: http: //www.freestudentedu.com/viewessayid_171.php (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Walter Durk (3/10/2007 6:33:00 PM)

    This is obviously very powerfully and well written. It conveys a strong sense of hostility and while that is understandable, I am not so sure it is a necessary statement in this day and age. The one universal message to be received is that there seems to be a cycle of one group taking advantage of another group of people, and destroying them for the most part, as evidenced in Iraq and elsewhere. (Report) Reply

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