Poetry Sunday: “In the Walnut Grove,”
“Pow Wow June,” and “View,”
by Kim Shuck

In the Walnut Grove

That year the wind took the
Topsoil and the children the
Maps all changed and not
Everyone found a pair of
Magical shoes or good
Company I wonder if she paused
Every time she introduced herself if it
Was a question between her teeth as well the
Taproots that go somewhere
Unknown and we understand that
Every family has stories that are
Painted over there are always
Things hidden in the walls but when all you
Know is the blank wall and the
Hints and suggestions of what might be in there and you
Know, know that all of the expected
Family portraits are in ink only
Visible under a certain moon


First published in West Trestle Review in 2014 and reprinted with permission of the poet.


Poet’s Note

I wrote this for the grandmother I never write about. She was adopted young and there are many extremely strange stories about her origins, efforts to find a real birth certificate, the siblings we did manage to find, and other angles and inexplicable curves. It was in a time when Native kids were being adopted in Oklahoma to gain access to their Dawes allotments. So, this is a poem about the Dust Bowl, adoption, theft, and family stories.


Pow Wow June

I’ve come home I
Know it
Cowboy coffee with the girls we
Watch the Pow Wow roué
Still life with road flares and the
Young women who can’t see them but
Smell the smoke from his fancy new clothes the
Sweet flag on his breath I
Remember a woman who would have bet on those
Careful feet but I
Don’t date cousins anymore, son
We settle down on the bleachers to watch the
Dance and the dance
Heartbeat in the soles of my feet we decide
Stand, shake out our shawls, stand
We stand, an elegance of
Ndn women we’ve retired from the drama we
Stand to dance


Reprinted with permission of the poet.


Poet’s Note

I’d figured out that I was a grownup and was now invited to sit at the grownup table. This happened at a Pow Wow at San Francisco State. I think that it took me another ten years to work out that although there were mistakes I’d stopped making, I’d started making others. I use the term Ndn because some of us urban Native folk were calling ourselves Sidewalk Ndns. To be fair, the only really accurate terms are our original tribal names, but in my experience, people don’t say them correctly and there is all of this political freight. At the same time, the terms Indian, Red Indian, or American Indian kind of bug me, even though when I was growing up we were ‘Indians’. I suppose it’s more evidence that to be a poet is to embrace internal conflict.



May even have meant to
Take your last breath into my lungs the
View from that pink stucco building was too
Acute too full of gunfire in the
Night and then we made the mistake of
Survival a common one so
Here in this other room whose view is
Origins and squirrels and the art of the
Self-consciously damned it’s safe to call it
Confusing safe to say that no
Augury pulled this from my palm or scraps of
Pasteboard or even wax
Poured through the eye of a key
Don’t know you anymore but then I see
Mackerel sky and think of how all we saw was
Hibiscus in among the strip malls


Reprinted with permission of the poet


Poet’s Note

This poem is about the father of my children and our first apartment in a crack neighborhood. There is a Polish tradition of telling a fortune by pouring wax through the head of a key and reading the shapes. I’m Goral (Tatra Mountain Polish).


Kim Shuck is a long protein who amuses herself by writing and making visual art. Shuck holds an MFA in Textiles from SF State University. Her artwork has been on display somewhere almost continually since 1998. Her dance regalia is danced from Pimlico Sound to Santa Barbara at various times during Indigenous dances. Kim has three full-length books and one chapbook. Her work is translated and has been published in Europe, Asia, Central America, and Africa. Her latest book is a collection of poems called Clouds Running In, which can be ordered here. In June 2017, she was named the seventh Poet Laureate of San Francisco. For more visit kimshuck.com.

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