out of a worse ditch. When the truck reverses, then swerves forward, as if to block you in, you take the ditch to the right, and when
the truck slams to a stop and begins to reverse at a slant, taking the
whole road, you cross the road to the far ditch, which is shallow,
is like a small road made of grass, a road made for you, and you
drive like that, on the green and yellow grass until the truck has
made its turn, is behind you. By then you can see the highway, and
the truck is beside you on the dirt road, and the truck turns right,
sharp across your path. So you brake then veer left. You veer out,
onto the highway, fast, in the opposite direction.
Left is the direction to Williston. So you drive to Williston,
and no one follows.
At a big-box store in Williston, a lot sign advertises overnight parking for RVs. You have heard about this, how girls
are traded here. You had been heading here to see it, and now
you’re seeing it. Mostly, you’re not seeing. You are in Williston
for thirty-eight minutes, and you don’t leave your car.
You spend those thirty-eight minutes driving around the
question of violence, of proximity and approximation. How
many close calls constitute a violence? How much brush can a
body take before it becomes a violence, before it makes violence,
or before it is remade — before it becomes something other than
the body it was once, before it becomes a past-tense body?
At Standing Rock, the days pass in rhythm. You sort box upon
box of donation blankets and clothes. You walk a group of children from one camp to another so they can attend school.
The night before the first walk, it has rained hard and the
dirt of the road has shifted to mud. The dirt or mud road runs
alongside a field, which sits alongside the Cannonball River,
which sits alongside and empties itself into the Missouri.
Over the field, a hawk rides a thermal, practicing e=iciency.
After school but before the return walk, the children and you
gather with hundreds to listen to the tribal chairman, to sit with
elders to pray, to talk of peace.
That afternoon, you walk the children home from school, there
on the road. You cross the highway, the bridge, which lies due
south of the Backwater Bridge of the water cannons or hoses. But
this bridge, this day, holds a better view. The canoes have arrived
from the Northwest tribes, the Salish tribes. They gather below
the bridge on the water, and cars slow alongside you to honk and
wave. Through their windows, people o=er real smiles.
That night, under the stars, firelit, the women from the Salish
tribes dance and sing. Though you’ve been to a hundred powwows, easily, you’ve never seen this dance, never heard this
song. You stand with your arms resting on the shoulders of
the schoolchildren, and the dancers, these women, move their
This piece was first published in Catapult, January 2017.
arms in motions that do more than mimic water, that conjure
it. Their voices are calm and strong, and they move through the
gathering like quiet, like water, like something that will hold,
something you can keep, even if only for this moment. A