Not that I can’t remember being young and a rebel,
only in the days of Civil Rights, anti-War, Women’s Rights,
Gay Pride and American Indian Movement marches
I was a rebel with a cause believing everything mattered.
I, unable to vote at 18, feel shocked by 21st century youth
crowing they won’t vote. “Why?” I chant. “Why?”
And they can only croak, “It don’t matter.” But I,
moved back to Catskill hometown after decades
of living hither and thither and roving in between,
walk to Town Hall to cast my mid-election vote.
Maybe these young ones become like the mountains,
valleys, rivers, caves. What need have they for civic duty?
Later I’ll learn 60 percent of Americans felt no need,
even women once deemed not smart enough to vote.
On election day this mountain Indian woman
thinks of the young man at Peck’s Grocery,
boy-man with that frayed half-washed appearance,
hunger leaving a low dying fire in his eyes,
sinkholes in a face forever drooping towards torso
in worn flannel, ubiquitous clothing in these parts.
I offered to let him go ahead at the checkout,
him with just hot dogs and Pepsi in his hands.
He smiled a little, “It don’t matter,” his voice
low, sad, haunted, haunting, and carefully polite
in a way that made me want to cry. On election day
I am thinking of the girl who came trick-or-treating
Halloween Eve, garbed in 19th century clothes,
fulsome body shy inside homemade dress,
girl at border between childhood and womanhood.
I am hearing her lilt “It don’t matter” when I asked
if she wanted chocolate bars, Dots, or ice pops.
Something in her saying of it made me want
to give everything I had, she half-whispering
“Thank you” for the Dots as if she had received
rubies, emeralds and topazes … me wondering
about her story hidden by ankle-long dress
of wildflowers like dresses I once wore
and still wear. If only I could hug her
with such kindness it would begin to matter,
and she would see she was a star, the queen
of lynx-eyed spirits … she of the moon face
lacking Halloween mask, her face itself a mask.
On election day I recall the privileged One Percent,
the spawn of the rich, entitled prep school kids,
the snots who call country people “rubes,” “rednecks”
and worse. To those arrogant, clever, sarcastic
and cynical, I say your soullessness “don’t matter.”
On election day I cast my defiant vote, my hope
it will matter for the beautiful hopeless once more.
Susan Deer Cloud, a Catskill Mountain Indian, is the recipient of an NEA Literature Fellowship, two New York State Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowships, and an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant. Published in numerous literary journals and anthologies, some of her books are Hunger Moon, Fox Mountain, Braiding Starlight, Car Stealer and The Last Ceremony. A long haired rover who prefers the ways of wise woman gentleness, Deer Cloud loves wandering with fiery dreamers and feral cats whose eyes mirror the Van Gogh nights.
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