the old indian and the coat

one day on the street in Saskatoon
an old indian with a tired face
asks me to buy a drink
for a child.
i think for a minute, say okay.
i want to be good, you know.

i go into the store.
the child is small,
face needs washing,
eyes keep flitting about.
he wants pop, but i insist on juice.
on the way back outside the store,
i worry,
scared the indian is going to leave
me with the kid and a long explanation to police.

outside, the old indian still here,
child moves from behind me,
stands beside him.
the man takes off his leather coat,
offers to sell it to me for
five dollars.

eyes stinging and throat burning,
i refuse and hurry over to the alley,
where i burst into tears,
crying at the unfairness of it all,
and the times,
when my head and heart don’t know what to do,
and all i know to do,
is crouch in an alley,
and cry.

~ Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen is a poet, fiction writer, journalist and editor originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Her first book, She Dreams in Red was published by Frontenac House in April 2007. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Strike the Wok (New Asian Canadian fiction – TSAR books 2004), 2000% Cracked Wheat (Coteau Books), The Ottawa Citizen, Broken Pencil, Prairie Fire, and The Western Producer. She holds an International Studies degree from the University of Saskatchewan, and a Graduate Diploma in Journalism from Concordia University. Alexis is of mixed ethnic heritage: Chinese, French, German, and English/Scottish. She has lived in Montreal, Wainwright Alberta, Grande Prairie Alberta, Vancouver, Indonesia and Mongolia.

She currently works at the Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune as the arts, lifestyle and agriculture writer.

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