1. A white poet whose work I admire said she feels most inspired on her daily four-mile walk through a forest.
2. I wish I had time to walk four miles daily. I can usually manage one mile with dogs. My dogs are distractible, and they distract me.
3. The Native poet I wish I was gets up early to walk dogs through a forest and comes home to her desk overlooking a lake. She spends half the day swimming with dogs, the other half reading and writing. Dogs are pleased. She is mostly inspired.
4. The poet I wish I was travels around like a famous Indian poet I know, reading and speaking and accepting awards. I don’t care much about awards—I just want my poems to be better, like his. (That’s a lie. Every poet wants all of the awards.)
5. The famous Native poet kept writing about his dead father. He said he’s made mostly of his dad. “Like water.” It’s a short poem.
6. The poet I wish I was spent her childhood walking through a forest, because that’s where Indians belong, right? She didn’t spend her childhood wishing she could be a child whose father didn’t leave, believing it was her fault, then seeking out men who would leave her.
7. I never wanted to be that famous Indian poet. I wanted to be his best friend or his older sister. The one who walked out of that drunken house fire in Montana. The sister who lived.
8. I wanted to be that poet’s father. The one who didn’t die of kidney failure, alcohol related. The Indian father who lived.
9. I wanted to be my own father. The one who didn’t die of cirrhosis, alcohol related. The Indian father who lived. I wanted to be my own father so that he could still be alive.
10. How fucked up is that?
11. The poet I wish I was is grateful to Indian fathers who stay alive, who work hard so their kids don’t go hungry. Who want to be better, like my brother, who is a good father. We all just want to be better.
12. My kids never went hungry. They ate canned corn and baloney for years.
13. Many of the poets I admire have leapt or fallen from the perches where I stuck them carefully like plastic Jesuses, again and again.
14. However good we are, we can’t change the beginning or the middle—we can only try to rewrite the end.