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M.L. Smoker belongs to the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation in Northeastern Montana. Her family's home is on Tabexa Wakpa (Frog Creek). She holds an MFA from the University of Montana in Missoula, where she was the recipient of the Richard Hugo Fellowship. She is also a graduate of Pepperdine University, and attended UCLA and the University of Colorado, where she was a Battrick Fellow. Her first collection of poems, Another Attempt at Rescue, was published by Hanging Loose Press (hangingloosepress.com) in the spring of 2005. Her poems have also appeared in Shenendoah and South Dakota Review and have been translated for Acoma – an Italian literary journal published by the University of Rome. M.L. Smoker currently resides in Helena, Montana, where she works for the Office of Public Instruction, in the Indian Education Division.

Grandfather Poem
English version

Grandfather Poem

His words are the ones no longer spoken, rising instead
from the steam in the kettle on the blackened wood stove.
He is almost blind but pours the cups with a steady hand:
“Coffee for this granddaughter, nighttime is on her mind.”

Oyade wihamna. Hageji.
    Iyuha ezhedu wihamnabi.
        Oyade wihamna.

I pack fresh tobacco, begin the long walk.
Winds cut and cross over ravine, then plateau and ravine again.
I enter a door which faces south and I do not feel ashamed
for entering this way. I think of a father and mother in sleep.
I know then of the distances we will devise,
navigate imperfectly.

Oyade wihamna. Hageji.
    Iyuha ezhedu wihamnabi.
        Oyade wihamna.

My grandfather and I sweep down through the yielding riverbed,
walk the quiet rushes of the Mni Shoshe, then move north,
to higher ground. He motions toward the ponies as they rise up
and release their tears, large drops the size of ripe apples.
They dance then, as my mother and father shift in sleep,
dreaming to the rhythm of horses’ hooves.

Oyade wihamna. Hageji.
    Iyuha ezhedu wihamnabi.
        Oyade wihamna.

(reprinted with permission from Another Attempt at Rescue,
Hanging Loose Press, 2005.)