I Am Made of Cardboard

i am made of cardboard, subway steam and the iron grate.
i hover on the forgotten side of town, blending in with the weeds
that tunnel up through the cracks of the sidewalk, avoiding
strangers, hawkers, bible stalkers come to pray and prey on all us
lost souls for their own deliverance, i glide like a ghost barely alive
but surviving on your open warm doors and one dollar bills
fast becoming as obsolete as pennies. As the middle class poor
we once were, finding ourselves teetering on the edge
of the dispossessed, the repossessed, the disarrayed of mind:
Was it once so clear as this cloudless night with vivid stars,
dreams that held us like glue together? Dreams so different than
these unseeing eyes, set lines of mouth, indifferences i could take
a hammer to–to shatter like a store front window of cold mannequins
made in your image, made to order, made like your clean god.
I am made of street clothes, yard sale donations, salvation army
attire–out of fashion and out of mind. But see me here:
i am made of the sun as it sprays out of my empty pockets,
my pores, my eye sockets, the ends of my hair like fiber optics
my fingers spray out like laser rays out into the atmosphere.
It sends the steam billowing off me like the roaming buffalo
silhouetted against winter, against hundreds of their own.

A.M. Nelson was a junior/senior student at the Institute of American Indian Arts when she wrote this poem. She is Crow and Seminole. She returned to college in 2008 after both her mother and grandmother passed away in 2007. “I had grown up in poverty on an impoverished reservation, but it was my mother and grandmother who put pens, pencils, and crayons in my hand and who gave me encouragement,” she says. “I don’t think I’d be where I am now if it wasn’t for them.”

In 2008 and 2009, Nelson was accepted to the ABC/Disney/IAIA Television Workshop at IAIA, and she has received a number of awards, including the L. Rivard Scholarship, the Truman Capote Award, and the Naropa Scholarship, which is offered only once a year to one IAIA writing major.  She feels blessed to attend the tribal college and is grateful for its fine instructors. Adding that another of her passions is animal rights, Anna says, “I am in the process of writing a book of poetry for the animals. After I find a publisher, I want to donate any future funds I receive to their many causes.”

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