Susan Deer Cloud
I am a mixed lineage Catskill Mountain Indian who has returned to live in the mountains after many decades of living and traveling elsewhere. I call these the Manitou Mountains after the spirit and mists that pervade them, and I feel an affinity for the lingering panther presence here. I knew before I was sent off to school that I had been born a poet and storyteller, and over the years I have had countless poems and stories published in literary journals, anthologies, and books including my recent Hunger Moon and Fox Mountain. I have received such honors as a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and two New York State Foundation for the Arts Fellowships, especially gratifying given some of the harder seasons in my life when I created in poverty and solitude. https://sites.google.com/site/susandeercloud/
Vietnam War Story
He wasn’t like that before Vietnam.
He didn’t want to fight. He didn’t want
to kill anyone. He was drafted. Poor
small town boys had no way to escape
the draft. They sent him into the jungle
where women were fighting for the
Vietcong. Women captured by his unit.
His sergeant shoved one of them
towards him and yelled, “Shoot her!”
He said he wouldn’t do it, he didn’t
believe in killing. “Oh, yeah?”
The sergeant raised his pistol,
pressed it to his skull. “Believe
or I’ll shoot you.” He wasn’t
like that before he shot the woman
with eyes whose silence was louder than
the sergeant’s yelling and never stopped
screaming after she dropped in a heap
to the jungle floor. She wasn’t the only
female Vietcong they caught that day.
There were daughters, too. Brains,
blood, everywhere. So if you
wonder how he robbed and killed
an eighty year old woman when he
returned to the States, went to prison
then after his release helped murder
another woman because she wouldn’t
give him and his buddies money
and her car, that’s how. That’s why
he could run that “fat white trash” over
with her beat up Ford nine times.
“I remember him when they first
let him out,” I released my pent
breath. “Swaggering down Main Street,
smack in the middle as if he were
going to whip out two pistols
and have a shootout at high noon.
My mother started laughing, said
he looked like he had a load in his pants.
How could they set him free again
after he killed another country woman?”
No clue. I see him wandering
by the rivers. He’s mellow
and we always say “Hello.”
©2016 Susan Deer Cloud