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Weekly Poem: ‘The Fight or Flight Response’

By Sherman Alexie

Years ago, in Spokane, a woman saved
A family of orphaned baby geese.
An amateur ornithologist, she raised
Those birds into adulthood, and then released

Them into the pond at Manito Park,
Where a dozen swans, elegant and white,
Tore the tame geese open and ate their hearts.
Of course, all of this was broadcast live

On the local news. Eyewitnesses wept.
My mother and I shrugged, not at death,
But at those innocent folks who believe
That birds don’t murder, rape, and steal.

Like us, swans can be jealous and dangerous,
And, oh, so lovely, sure and monogamous.


Sherman Alexie is a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian born on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Wash. He is the author of several novels and collections of short fiction and poetry, including “Face” and “War Dances.” Alexie also co-wrote the screenplay for the movie “Smoke Signals,” which won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival in 1998. You can learn more about Alexie at his website, www.fallsapart.com.

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