Three Poems by Joyce White Deer Vincent

BOMB 15 Spring 1986
015 Spring 1986

Warrior/Two Step Half Step No More

Excuse me, brother
forgive me, please
I know a Warrior
is a mighty being
one who should
be approached carefully
lest he fall
off his chair
if awakened too

Excuse me,
please, Mr. Warrior
it is my understanding
that it is you
that we come to for help.
—are you comfortable?
careful you’re spilling
your beer.

Please, Mr. Warrior-Sir.
If I may—
while I speak
open the window
to let out the
stale reefer smell
and in the
fresh air.
this shouldn’t take long
I promise
I won’t take
up too much of
your time.
I know you have meetings
to attend
that the charity
can be reaped in.

My fine Warrior,
Sir, Mister,
Mister Warrior Sir.
this stupid
woman wishes you
to help her understand
—why it is that …
the children are hungry
no shoes for their feet
why many of our addresses
are the handles of
old four door sedans?

Mr. Warrior, Sir.
I do not wish to
just to talk
my friend
a bit
before I head
for work
that your
electric and food
bill can be paid
your cigarette
reefer and
be had (as you have)

I only want to ask
seeing how things
and the funding
don’t seem to be coming in
none too much
any damn way
if you could
blink out the
from singing fortyniners
all night long
for the last ten years,
(the whites are still here)
toss the gotdamm bottle aside
snuff out the weed
shake the crick outta
your ass
and help me get
this load down the road
before the people starve? …


New York City
September 1983

Nupish Stones

curling my toes on nupish stones
giving my back to the basking sun
my face to ocean winds
i drift out with the tide
following the dolphin’s song
i immerse, infuse
I am the spirit Nupish
protector of Water Nation
it births in me
depends upon me
returns to me
ebbing stillness
reflecting Grandmother Moon’s brilliance
I watch
dropping and budding leaves upon the shore
I am blessed
the four legged come to drink
and the two legged come
I wait
some come shuddering disrespect
to these I am cold
luring them to an inky death
a lesson learned
others come singing joyously
offering sweet tobacco and sage
to them lessons I return
that they may carry prayers for rain
a part of me that I give lovingly
as I enfold with Brother Sun’s rays
for council with the Four Winds and Air
gifts will we give to Grandfather’s
lulling in my vastness
as day begins its westward descent
i acknowledge my time of return
and rush foamy upon the shore
uncurling toes from nupish stones
dress my warm brown body
and slowly head for home.


New York City/Sag Harbor
January 1983


Red Woman Tears
When at first my eyes met yours
Red Woman tears
glistened on my cheeks
Strength whelmed up so—
that I called back what
had been surrendered long
long ago.
I trusted
thinking you understood.
                  Each time I met your eyes … .
I trusted
giving honestly again
and again
and again.
When they tried to take you away
(History doesn’t repeat itself
it just continuously doesn’t
I put my woman feelings aside
with Red Woman Tears
running down my face
and allowed strength to guide me
that I might do
what it took to keep you free
believing in you
thinking you understood
                  I spoke honestly what I saw …
When a way came
to set your past free
and to clear your path—
you trusted me then
and sat inside
thinking you were alone.
It was not you
who was alone
but me
You had my Love
—I had your fear,
your hope, you desperation
to reach your dream.
And again I faced
the dark alone
Red Woman Tears
Streaming down my Soul.
Thinking you understood.
                  We were safe then … .
Safer than you knew
while you tested the
emotions of others
to feed your own
I gave honestly again,
and again
and again
believing you understood.
I grew stronger
facing the dark alone
So many times
with nothing to console
but the trail of
Red Woman Tears
I thought
were mine alone.
                  Learning from the dark … .
I came to sit
into the light.
You called upon me
asking what I saw
I gave what I could
hoping you understood.
You began to bring others
unlike our own
seeking out-side of themselves
instead of within
                  I became quiet … .
When they tried to claim me
for their own use,
refusing to allow myself
to be displaced
I helped in the best way I could
As a Woman
A Red Woman
who remembers her ways.
I tried to explain
but you were not listening
Your words were of a possible
comfort in another’s arms
attempting to gain me
by emotional control
and again I held the
Woman feelings aside
slipping into the safety
of my soul
Praying you understood.
                  Weeks passed … .
How many centuries
did those few months hold?
Our lives not really our own.
When the time came
to set the Woman
in me free
I told you
That I had found one
who was willing to help me
to do this
your ego asked—who?
you seemed hurt—confused
That night
in your arms your fear
echoed through-out my soul
forcing Red Woman Tears
to overflow the shores
of darkness
that enveloped
our seeking bodies
                  Pushing forward … .
the one I held back
from you so long
laying in your arms
struggling for Life
forced to face
the dark alone
not right then
for you were there
holding, caressing, consoling
trying to understand,
trying to touch
the pain I set free
trying to feel the loneliness
I alone could see
that part will never change.
                  The dream … .
I dreamt the other night
where you sought me
as your wife
There was no answer
I could give you
and the dream melted—
dripping into
the ancient ocean
of Red Woman Tears
to be guarded by my Grandmothers
holding the wisdom
I yet to find.
Soon I will walk away
being here is
so lonely
more than I can bear
the constant images of your face
holding me down
intruding the dreams meant
for others—
trusting you understood
When it really doesn’t matter
if you did or did not
It was meant to get us
where we had to be—
                  The Secret of the Phoenix … .
I was your ally
in whatever form
you needed—
protector, lover, friend, sister
that could remain
to stay still now
in our love
We would both soon be dead
Seven generations
that lay waiting
                   The Other Side
                   of Red Woman
                   Tears … .


 New York City
December 1983

White Deer Woman, aka Joycekim Vincent, has until now read her poetry for listeners. She lives and works in Amherst, New Hampshire, where she is working with other native people to secure the protection of Indian burial grounds and grave sites. The poem, Warrior/Two Step Half Step No More was previously printed in Moccasin Line, a publication of the NorthWest Indian Woman’s Circle, Spring 1984, Tacoma, Washington. She is a Cherokee/Blackfoot.

Special Thanks to Jody Van Buren for her help in gathering American Indian Poetry.

Three Poems by Maurice Kenny
​Don Steinmetz 001
Three Poems by Maurice Kenny
​Don Steinmetz 001


Retrieving my past?

Billy-Ray Belcourt by Layli Long Soldier
Billy Ray Cover 2

As an Indigenous poet, Belcourt is creating space for himself and his community in “a world we did not want, a world that we did not build for ourselves.”

The Best and the Worst: Dennis E. Staples Interviewed by Elizabeth Hoover
Book cover of This Town Sleeps by Dennis E. Staples

The writer on writing about urban legends, gay life on the reservation, and why he created a happy ghost.

Originally published in

BOMB 15, Spring 1986

Graham Swift, Horton Foote, Ping Chong & Pablo Vela, and David Deutsch.

Read the issue
015 Spring 1986