National Poetry Month Day 11: Wakaya Wells





Jesus Was an Indian

for ‘paying it forward’

I dreamt that Jesus was an Indian, I dreamed
that Jesus was an Indian.
Did Jesus dream he was an Indian?
Kept prophecies, hands healing,
a dark-skinned rabbi—
the beginning and the end.
He, Son of God, sounds crazy.
Fed the hungry, and
cured the sick,
I haven’t really heard from him, them, lately.
Jesus was probably a woman,
Muslim, a black man, a daughter,
Jewish, transgender,

Jesus, my uncle Matthew, sleeping in the Choctaw County Courthouse
waiting for his sentence:
recovering meth addict, gun peddler, dealer,
thinks he knows Kung-Fu, kicks the air in the jail cell.
Said Jesus not only died for me, but
as me, but
then what about when Jesus lived,
if, crazy.

How, the miracles? Raising from the dead.
2000-year-old stories written down
stay intact, misinterpreted,
like me. I do card tricks, I have
testimony, used to
read about the rapture,
so gay ashamed I had
night terrors I was the antichrist,
Mama had to hold me.
Your mama ever held you?

Granny Grace called Jesus, sounded like conjuring
ceremonies we forgot
the names to.
What do we do about / how do I
make sense of feeling God in old Christian hymns
sung in Choctaw?
I pray to forget certain things,
but can’t shake this god: trauma

killed Jesus, just like it kills us—
maybe dreamt, too.
This world is temporary,
people just keep trying to make it end,
get closer to God, as faith in my own species
runs out, runs away from me,
it never calls me,

Jesus was an Indian.
Thunder being and mound builder.
Serpenteer, basket-weaver,
medicine woman,
gender bender.
Liked boys and girls,
was bisexual.
Jesus was an Indian.

Jesus, Father, Uncle Luke lived on the streets
of Dallas, TX, ate his meals at the soup kitchen.
Never wanted to move back to the Choctaw Nation,
for some reason we still buried him here.

Jesus’s people don’t powwow,
but he knows how to sing,
to shuffle his feet to stomp dance.
Leads the men and the women—
shakes turtle shells, and
brings his mama’s green corn
around Labor Day.
Likes to gamble with Cousin Earnest at the Choctaw casino.
Only tells me when he wins, when he wins
things are good with his wife and kids, Jesus
holds down a job. He never tells me
when he loses, but I see the
dark circles under his eyes, and
yellow on his teeth.
Jesus saw the waters rising,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
the fire from hell baking our feet.
Soon, even the sky will be burnt.
We just keep looking for new worlds
where God hasn’t died yet.

Jesus likes to fish on the Muddy Boggy with Uncle Johnny,
put out the lines and think about simpler times.
Talk about that visit with the Jehovah’s Witnesses
and who exactly has it all right. What the hell
happened to the church.

When I think about the close,
how it is supposed to end
how it was with the Ghost Dance:
the Indians didn’t all come back, and maybe
He won’t either.
All I know is,
Jesus was an Indian,
and I am, too.


Photograph of Wakaya Wells by Ryan RedCorn.

Wakaya Wells (they/he) is Choctaw and was raised in District 8 of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. They received a BA in Native American Studies at Dartmouth College, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Wakaya is a Queer Two-Spirit writer, storyteller, and educator. Their work is found at the intersections of identity, mental health, and community. They are currently working to finish their debut novel. More from this author →