Indian Trains by Erika T. Wurth
(West End Press, Albuquerque NM, 2007)
The poetry and prose of Erika T. Wurth has been featured in numerous journals. She teaches creative writing at Western Illinois University and is currently visiting writer at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Indian Trains is a stunning first book, a woman‘s heritage shared with harsh truth and poignant beauty. It has my highest recommendation.
“Stretching Into Me” is a childhood memory of the powwow, of the relatives who danced and celebrated, and what such gatherings meant to them as a family:
For my Aunt Edie, powwow was God, filling her with sound, her hands on the fan,
dancing traditional women’s, her hands on her children, showing them how to dance,
her hands in the air, reaching for God, for her husband, who understands how her hands
in the air, on the fan, on her children, on me and my one blue flower are reaching for
the one true drum.
* * * *
For my mother, those days were like the days of her childhood,
leaning in, she and her siblings rapt, listening to the radio,
eyes closed & the volume up, everything like the cat, like the desert, like the cat
stretching into the desert, stretching into me.
In the following excerpts, Wurth contemplates the lives of her people -- past and present -- with unflinching honesty and tenderness. She dreams of a happier, healthier generation in “Time to Dance:”
I want our lives to be a fancydance, for every Indian to run straight into the imagination
without stopping for a drink first.
In “Genocide Fists” she holds herself “like a child / waiting for it to end, like it was 1492 in my heart and 1860 in my mind.”
And in “Mama, Don’t Let Your Quarterbreeds Grow Up to be Cowboys” she wants the rodeo Indians to be free, like their horses used to be:
They move, their muscles pulling tight, their arms wearing secrets
Crazyhorse tattoos under their shirts, filled with spirit, filled
with the knowledge of death, running always with the horses
Like children running through the fields
running their hands through the flowers, running
Erika T. Wurth writes what she knows: the places she’s been, the people who shaped her life. Some people and experiences stay with her, “like graffiti spray painted straight into the walls of the heart.” Others fade away, “like pollen in the wind.” Ms. Wurth is an American Indian of mixed blood -- Apache, Chickasaw, and Cherokee. Her work in this first book is magnificent, reflecting the collective sorrows, joys, and ancient spirit of her people.
Laurel Johnson is a Retired Registered Nurse and the author of four books. She is Senior Reviewer for Midwest Book Review and Review Editor for New Works Review. Her poetry and prose can be found online in various literary e-zines. She lives in Kansas with her husband of forty-plus years.