Santee Frazier

Poet Santee Frazier (Cherokee), 2014 NACF Artist Fellowship for Literature.
Grantee:  Santee Frazier
Native Citizenship:  Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
Location:  Syracuse, N.Y.
Award:  2014 NACF Artist Fellowship
Discipline:  Literature
Web Site:  http://santeefrazier.com/

Native poet Santee Frazier received a 2014 NACF Artist Fellowship in Literature in recognition of the fresh and innovative voice he brings to Native letters.

Writing sometimes in dialect, sometimes in gunshot bursts, sometimes in lines that snake across the page, Frazier crafts edgy and restless poems that often emerge from the darkest corners of experience. The poems in Dark Thirty (University of Arizona Press, 2009), his debut collection, address subjects not often thought of as “poetic,” like poverty, alcoholism, cruelty and homelessness. His words take you on a loosely autobiographical trip through Cherokee country, backwoods towns and big cities. They depict clear-eyed portraits of Native people surviving contemporary America.

With the support of a NACF Artist Fellowship in Literature, Frazier plans to finish his second collection of poems, tentatively titled Ritual of Sunrise. His poems have appeared in American Poet, Narrative Magazine, Ontario Review and other literary journals.


 

Mangled in the Demolition Derby
He liked the way car metal bent at the demolition derby, how engines rumbled and the hazy night air stank of burnt tar, hamburger patties, and dumpsters.

A constellation of gum wrappers, cigarette butts, chards of glass, grease monkey, a scatter of wrenches, and there out on the flat of Kansas, the gritty air under the stadium lights,

Mangled gripped the mop tighter and imagined his gloved fingers stretched around the steering wheel, foot revving the motor, then launching himself into the red dirt arena amid the gaze and cheer of the grandstands.

Mangled reckoned at the bugs streaming up the fencepost, the shine of their bodies that crunched between his fingers and teeth. As he looked upon the tilled pasture, hat tilted over his forehead, he slept and dreamt.

-By Santee Frazier (Cherokee, 2014 NACF Artist Fellowship in Literature)


 

The Skewered Face
Mangled skin cooked thick from slogging
through midday July, among the metal noise
of work, flatbeds, trailers,

and eighteen wheelers. Mangled the color
of fired clay, face like bark, eyes yellow
as beer. At night he could hear the quiet,

the town sleeping in the buzz of light.
Clamor of mutts and rats in the blackness.
He thought of LuLu’s round face, pudgy,

the apple in front of it, the blade slung
through them both, her neck lank, the town
folk hushed, gazing at the skewered face.

He was lost in the city, roaming
the alleys, trudging toward signs he saw:
TRUE LOVE’S, BIG RED, CRAZY HORSE,

THE FORGET IT. He made money sweeping
the planks, wiping down bar stools,
mopping the bathroom. He usually slept

on a cot in a storeroom among kegs
and other assorted empty vessels once
anointed with fermentation. During open

hours he floated from shadow to shadow
busing tables—butt-filter in the grit of his
gums, in the grit where teeth once rooted.

-By Santee Frazier (Cherokee, 2014 NACF Artist Fellowship in Literature)

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