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Mark Tilsen · February 14, 2019

“I met you at Standing Rock”

A poem by Mark Tilsen

I met you at Standing Rock

The phrase said so often it loses meaning but 
Let’s imagine it’s true 
under the night of the fireworks 
some false victory 
when the cynics asked, “what are you celebrating?” 
A boy met a girl 
A young woman and a young man to be more precise
He wore his freshest baseball cap at a jaunty angle
i Don’t know how he kept that basketball jersey so 
crisp for weeks in camp 
And she was a vision 
All defined jaw and high cheek bones caramel skin 
Skin tight flashy shirt and white jeans 
Hair so long she could sit on it 
He holds out two cell phones playing the same music video 
She twirls ‘round and ‘round 
Her hair splaying out like a silky galaxy 
hitting his face all slow motion car wash 
he blinks 
The lights of the phones flashing over her as she 
smiles in the twirling dance hands held low at her sides 
palms flat to the earth and still green grass 
It is an Indian summer that will last forever 
fireworks ring them iridescent halos of explosions 
She will smell of wood smoke, camp food, 
chokecherry lotion and conditioner from the prairie knights casino 
maybe not forever, but for just this moment, he is in love 
With this girl, this time this place

I let my cigar go out crawling into my tent 
with a smile on my face witnessing young people in love 
When I tell my sister Lee in the morning what I saw 
She asks me, “did this really happen or was it a dream?”
-This was before the water cannons and rubber 
bullets snipers and mercenaries helicopter flyovers 
humvees and mraps before the broken bones batons and mace- 
I look up at the godless sky 
Both I tell her


Mark Tilsen
Mark Tilsen

Mark K. Tilsen is an Oglala Lakota Poet Educator from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. At Standing Rock he stepped into the role of a direct action trainer and police liaison. Since then he has led trainings and teach ins about the lessons learned from Standing Rock. He recently spent six months at L’eau est La Vie Camp helping fight against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline which is the tail end of the Dakota Access Pipeline ending in Louisiana.

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