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Steel Anniversary

by Sherman Alexie


1.


In this life, I have loved six women.

I have seen five dogs get crushed to death by cars.

Four of those women have loved me back.

Or maybe it’s three.

Two of those dogs were mine.

I married one of those women.

 

2.


If I could only read one book for the rest of my life, I would choose it randomly.

If I could only read two books for the rest of my life, one of them would be about outdoor survival techniques.

Back in high school, after I’d had sex for only the third time, I totaled my car when I hit and killed a deer.

It had four legs, of course, and four antler prongs.

During his life, my big brother has hit and killed five deer. And totaled five cars.

I’m terrified that the sixth will take his life.

 

3.


When I asked my wife what she thinks of when she hears the number six, she said, “Julius Erving’s basketball number.”

My wife has five siblings. Her big sister played college basketball.

During this poem, I will tell four lies.

Lie #3: That my wife knows Julius Erving’s number. But I put those words into her mouth to demonstrate her beauty and intelligence. Or maybe it’s something more sinister. Would I love my wife more if she could instantly recall Dr. J’s number?

If my wife could only read two books during her lifetime, she would choose The Bible, New American version, and a theological tome by her latest favorite Jesuit.

I asked her, “Do you think there’s one God?” She said, “There’s one God expressed in innumerable ways.”

 

4.


One god appears to me in the form of a waterproof, quilted ice scraper mitten.

Another god created man in his own image; therefore, that god has a receding hairline.

However, the God of Hair gave my wife and me these epic tresses; our love story is told by long, black hair scripting every surface of our home.

I pray that a vengeful god drops meteors on the speeding drivers who killed my dogs.

God’s favorite book is his ghostwritten autobiography.

Since a good education depends on a low student-teacher ratio, I think there should only be six believers allowed per god.

 

5.


I have the blood of six tribes.

My wife has the blood of five.

When I was four, I was an epileptic. When my wife was four, she was hiding in the closet during her father’s drunken rages.

Our third child should have been a daughter, but she was miscarried. My wife and I sometimes sit in the dark and tell each other stories about our daughter’s imaginary life.

We have two sons. Their favorite hero is Luke Skywalker, who grew up on a planet with two suns. I don’t believe in magic, but I believe in interpreting coincidence exactly the way you want to.

When I ask my sons if they believe in one god, they say, in unison, “Huh?”

 

6.


“You got one lifetime, dude. Fill it up.”

I’ve heard the above statement said by two different men in two very different circumstances.

I Google searched “I will love you for three lifetimes,” thinking that an ancient Chinese poet must have written some version of that line, but I only found repeated references to Dolly Parton’s classic song, “I Will Always Love You,” or to Whitney Houston’s bipolar cover version of the same tune.

Given the choice, we’d all choose wives who were more like Dolly Parton than Whitney Houston. Hell, we’d choose husbands who were more Dolly than Whitney. As the
ancient Chinese poet wrote, “You will meet your true love during your fourth reincarnation. If you fuck it up, you’ll have to start all over.”

My wife and I have been in love for so long that our first date movie tickets cost only five dollars each.

Sweetheart, look into the sky. If I were a god, I’d build six constellations for you: the daughter, deer, dog, Julius Erving, and two sons linked.

 

Sherman Alexie is the author of, most recently, Face, poetry from Hanging Loose Press, and War Dances, poems and stories from Grove Press. He lives with his family in Seattle. (10/2011)


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