Ralph Salisbury

Writer, Professor

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Blind Pumper at the Well

Blind Pumper at the Well evokes the poet's awareness of modern life, his experience of war and the experience of others. An affirmation of a peaceful life, a life lived in harmony with Nature, and an evocation of love, that between men and women and that among all human beings, Blind Pumper at the Well also holds the poet's awareness of his 80 years of life and coming death.

Sample poem from Blind Pumper at the Well


A Killer Seeking Forgiveness

From where I will kill
a fellow creature, as
my Indian people have,
for generations, done,

I see
a porcupine,
its waddling body an ambulatory cactus,
which only the most benign intentions
of a poet’s tongue would even try to ease
into garden row or vase —

see pines,
which fought, like two of too many children,
for each other’s ration of sun,
and, now, the stronger lives on,
to gloat or to grieve —

and see,
disputing snow crimsoned by
some earlier hunter’s good fortune, crows,
as black as oil spilled by temblor
or greed’s heedlessness or war.

A sentinel crow is able to see, not me
but camouflaging leaves, from trees,
whose wood may heat someone’s home
and cook someone’s food eventually,

and, then, while wind weaves vines,
as if to mitten this trigger-finger hand,

my desperate family’s first meat,
after days of hunger, comes,
browsing some blossoms so
forgiving they are still enduring this freezing fall.

Selected Works

To order any of these books, please click on the titles below and, again, below the cover images. To read samples please click on the titles below and scroll down in the center column.
Literary Nonfiction
“Ralph Salisbury’s So Far, So Good will take its place beside Scott Momaday’s The Names and Joy Harjo’s Crazy Brave as a major addition to the evergrowing genre of contemporary Native American autobiography.”—Geary Hobson
Poetry
The manifest destiny of these poems is justice and salvation in language for people torn down by blind nationalism, war, greed and racism. As soft as lingerie, as tough as steel pipe, and as fine in phrase and image as our best American poets, Ralph Salisbury sings "Like the Sun in Storm" for a world that can be healed. --Henry Hughes
"The poems of this volume make stunningly clear the ways in which Ralph Salisbury continues to model the traditional and modern (postmodern, if you will) roles of the poet as Cherokee humanist and indigenous cosmopolitan." -- Arnold Krupat
"It’s great to see the energy of an 80-year-old poet at work. Mixing WWII memories with his observations of the peaceful world outside his study windows, these poems celebrate longevity and unflagging concern for peace." -- Diane Wakoski
"Salisbury writes out of the passion, rage, and lyricism that mark the Native American spirit in these blasphemous times."
- Paula Gunn Allen
Finalist, Oregon Book Award. “A magnificent summa from a superb artist.”
-Louis Owens
“The words of Going to the Water: Poems of a Cherokee Heritage ‘do it right’. They hit hard. And they must be heard. Listen.”
-Simon Ortiz
Short Fiction
Salisbury excavates the hearts and minds of his characters, mining them to fuel his stories. And his stories are the richer for it — invariably compelling and continually surprising. (MSU Press)
“...unique in tone and voice, unlike the voice of any other American Indian writer writing today.”
-Gordon Henry