Ponca Lunch Hour Poems – Cliff Taylor

Ponca Lunch Hour Poems © Cliff Taylor

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Unforgettable characters, enlightened by random revelations, cross the coffeeshop, the sidewalk, the freeway while Cliff Taylor records them through narrative-verses and laughter in his Ponca Lunch Hour Poems zine. In the first page of this zine, hand written, we read:

I wrote these poems in the Spring of 2019, after my girlfriends and I moved to Astoria, Oregon.  Some I wrote at work, some at the coffee shop before work, some in Tokyo, some while traveling back. I am a Ponca Indian so a lot of them are about my tribe, our people, how we see and experience the world. I am also into comic books, horror movies, and just everything to do with art: so expect to find some of that in here too. I would love for some of these poems to become your friends on an unexpected day or night as you’re busy doing your thing or taking a well-deserved break. I hope you like them.

Thanks, Cliff. 


It took us three months and a total of two cars to 

drive across the country and move from New Orleans 

to Astoria, Oregon, a city neither of us had ever 

actually been before. It was epic, unforgettable, 

exhausting. Our second day here, while I was on 

the sidewalk outside the coffee shop smoking, a big 

tattooed dude walked up to me and asked, surprising 

me like birdshit in my eye, “Your name wouldn’t 

happen to be Cliff would it?” i rocked back; how 

could anyone here know me, let alone this guy?

Then I flashed: I remembered this guy from high 

school, he was a classmate, a punker and skateboarder, 

20 years ago back in Columbus, Nebraska. “Ken?”

I asked back. “Ken —?” It was him; he owned 

the three stool walk-up noodle shop two doors

down from the coffee shop. Having not crossed  

paths in 20 years, he recognized me. I pointed 

to our packed car and told him that we’d just moved 

here, yesterday. “Welcome to Astoria,” he said, 

friendly as I remembered, “This is maybe one of 

the most beautiful places in the country. Glad you’re 

Here.” We talked and smoked and I was kind of stunned, 

dazed, transported into the surreal nature of the mystery 

of why we’d come here, to Astoria, this place we’d never 

been before. My ancient past had sent a messenger 

to welcome us to our freshest chapter, to shake our 

hand in the middle of this great unknown. For the 

rest of the day I was speechless with the magic of it 

all, a cheetah wandering a woodsy wonderland, an 

Indian in full regalia on Ray Bradbury’s sweet Mars. 

We’d been delivered to the right stretch of earth;

We were drinking our coffee right where we were 

meant to. Miraculously, we’d arrived.


Cliff Senior

I wish I remembered more stories 

from my grandpa (who doesn’t, I guess).

My mom would often comment on how 

he talked so quietly you could barely

hear him. My little brother spent 

more time with him that I did, as he lived with him for awhile when 

he got out of juvenile detention; he 

has some good stories and they’re 

all new to me. Sometimes at my 

gas station Indians I didn’t know 

would come in, learn who I was, 

and tell me stories about my 

grandpa’s house back in the day;

“There was always a big pot of 

soup on,” they’d say; “He was 

always feeding everyone who stopped 

in”. I remember visiting him on 

my way up to Sundance, hanging 

out with him in his bedroom 

when he was on oxygen. He sat 

up and lit himself a cigarette, 

handed me one when I asked for 

One. He was on his way out; this 

was the kind of smoke you couldn’t 

regret. “So what are they gonna 

do, pierce your nipples?” he asked.

Yeah, something like that,” I 

said, smiling. I wonder what 

story my grandpa would share 

if he heard me read this poem. 

I wonder what he would share 

if he could only share just 

one. Grandpa? You’re up. 


I talk with this elder who has diagrammed, 

mapped, and database every earth-mound in 

America. It’s staggering. There are shapes 

of every imaginable variety. It’s been his 

 life’s work. He hands me the zip drive with 

everything on it. “It’s yours now,” he says. 

“When I was young I was told that this 

was my calling. When I got old they told 

me that it would be the next person’s calling 

to know what to do with it.” I drive along 

the coast with my two dogs, heading towards 

a thunderbird’s mound in Oregon; its eye 

is a somewhat well-known mountaintop. 

“I guess it’s our turn now,” I tell the dogs, 

ocean visible through the open window. 

“Let’s go see what this thunderbird has 

to say.” 

Signals and cages in the Seattle Art Museum

I had just hopped off the Greyhound 

and, walking around, I bumped into 

the Seattle Art Museum and saw that 

there was Indigenous exhibit.

I wandered in, began to ascend the 

Stairs. Then, like an out-of-the-

blue gunshot in the YMCA, I was 

hit by this grief of the spirits, brought

to the verge of tears. I kept it 

together, proceeded forward, went 

into the exhibit. A few minutes 

in I heard the spirits tell me to 

sing a song for all the spirits that 

were boxed inside this place, 

enmeshed with the displayed objects 

and unseen. I was young, too nervous 

to upset all of the interested browsing 

that was going on; I was asked but 

not strong enough to do so. I saw 

the living shamans’ rattles, ornate 

paraphernalia and utensils, big hides 

and pots that were so potently 

not inanimate. Half of me was a museum-goer, 

half of me was a Sundancer seeing everything 

with ceremony eyes. When I left 

I thought, Someday I’ll write about this.

Wandering aimlessly down the street, 

I thought, People should know what 

Indians experience when they encounter 

their stuff still being held hostage. 

We took him back to our place so he could shower

This was in Standing Rock when all the shit 

was going on. He tells us about all sorts 

of stuff that I don’t think most anybody 

would believe. Prophecy. A multi-dimensional 

 coded mythology. What he was told on the 

hill. His grandma feeding little people who 

came to her windowsill. A cave in the Andes 

where leaders from all over the Western Hemisphere 

deposited objects for a future Age which is 

taking place right now; the objects he saw 

in the cave, what he came back with.  Unbelievable 

stuff; but there are spirits in the car with us 

as we drive him to the casino and so I’m paying 

real close attention to everything he says.  We 

drop him off and the night is cinematic, hyper-

real; everything on fire with meaning; tomorrow 

we’re going to ceremony and I can only imagine 

what the spirits are going to say about all 

this. I get out of the car and shake his 

hand, give him a copy of my little book. 

“I’ll pray you find those things you’re looking 

for,” I say. “I’ll see you around, brother.”

100 years of visionary memories

I remember literally staggering out 

from behind my gas station’s counter 

and falling to my knees after having 

finished Gabriel García Márquez’s 

One Hundred Years of Solitude. It was 

almost 4 AM, my morning customers 

were about to start coming in. The 

masterpiece had slayed me, had rocked 

me; this was what literature’s true 

greatness and power felt like. 10 

years later I still find myself 

thinking what I thought when 

I rose from my knees and just stood 

there looking out into the mystical 

Nebraska dark: now all I need 

to do is write a Native book like 

that, a world-changer like that, 

and that shouldn’t be too hard, 

should it? It’s doable, right?


I helped this old man, Myron Longsoldier, 

with his sweat for 13 years; from age 22 

to 35. I’d get off work at 7 AM, go home 

and sleep for an hour, and then drive out 

to the sweat and get the fire started. I learned 

what humility was from him; it was a quality 

of the heart; it had a palpable, tangible 

texture. Myron grew up speaking Lakota, 

had gone to prison, was an ex-alcoholic, 

a Sundancer, a leader in the community.

He’s retired now, is on oxygen, can no 

longer pour sweats. When I post about 

going to Tokio he comments that I better 

wear my best Indian clothes that I got and 

to give em’ hell, whatever that means. Once 

as he was praying with the first seven stones

I saw all of his prayers coming out of him, 

like a big twisting smoke coming out of his 

face and front; animated energy traveling 

up. I think of him while facing the shelves 

on a quiet Thursday evening, turning and 

stacking the cans to get them just right. All 

these ones I ‘ve known, I think; May I please 

never forget them. 

My Tokyo Lightning Book 

I picture myself writing a book about 

everything that happened in Tokyo. I’ll 

illustrate it with drawings of the city, the 

people I met, the beings I saw; and all 

the images will crackle and shimmer. Every 

full moon the book will grow hair and 

transport you into a real single moment 

for as long as you’d like; you, Liv, and the 

Bigfoot who came with me; dancing 

joyfully for Nipsey; the romance of standing 

on the train with your partner on the other 

side of the planet. Cool older folks 

will give it away on Halloween.  Daring 

souls who wander into caves will find 

it mysteriously on their person when they 

reemerge. It will spread the word on 

how to equip and prepare oneself for 

participating in large-scale ceremonial 

work purposed towards the healing of 

countries, cultures, and time; with a 

detailed account of Fukushima, WWII, 

and what happened with the 40 or so of us 

during our ritual. It will fit in your pocket, 

like The Little Prince. It will function as 

the perfect leveling-up gift between friends 

transitioning into lovers, or allies, or mates 

for life. It will be code in Japan for 

someone who travels with the medicine 

that the Gods and Goddesses wish to see 

flower again. It will be a shrine for the 

little people, the Other World. And 

When people read for a second time 

another copy will appear on a swan’s 

back and right before that swan dives 

a child will see it and know that 

somehow they have to save it. 

For more about Cliff Taylor

Ponca Lunch Hour Poems © Cliff Taylor

~ Siwar Mayu, September 2023

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