God Comes to the Tachi
By the time the army came
to take them to the place no one else wanted,
the Tachi already knew Jesus,
but believed he was a god who lived in Mexico.
God’s name changed many times: U. S. Congress,
Southern Pacific, Standard Oil, Boswell—
but the Tachi remained ignorant of the prayers
that would bring sustenance to their thirsty land.
Without the right prayer they became lost,
though they stayed in no more than one place.
In time, no one asked where the Tachi had gone,
not even God always remembered.
But the Tachi never lost love for each other,
a devotion which God could not ignore—
and so gave them commandments writ on vellum:
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Accordingly, the Tachi built a sacred palace
where the faithful congregate, day and night,
humble in attitude, hands rich in prayer,
and, lo, the blessed air fills with the names of God.
David Oliveira is the author of one book of
poems, In the Presence of Snakes (Brandenburg Press,
2000), and is co-editor of How Much Earth: The Fresno Poets
(Roundhouse Press/Heyday Books) with Christopher Buckley and M.
L. Williams. His poems have been published widely, most recently
in California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present
(Heyday Books/Santa Clara University Press) edited by Dana Gioia,
Chryss Yost, and Jack Hicks. He was founding editor of Solo,
an award winning national journal of poetry. He is the Poet
Laureate of Santa Barbara, California and lives in Phnom Penh,