Every Atom | No. 53

LeAnne Howe

Introduction to Every Atom by project curator Brian Clements

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. . . . . . .


Ah-hem.  Where to begin? 

I sing myself electronic.  


You know why Sitting Bull was a star? It was because he had a

good public relations man.


Reality is a rubber band you can pull in any direction.


I clinched my fists and scream. “Shut up, shut up, shut up. I want

you to shut up and go away. What do you want? Who sent you?”


A blonde flight attendant walks past us, and we both smile at

her as if nothing is wrong. He looks away, rueful and uneasy. He

nervously bites a loose fingernail. Finally, he pulls his wide lips

together, until his mouth resembles an egg. “You should have

remembered that for every action there is a reaction. I don’t know 

how much that vulgar display of alchemy cost you last night when

you were in the swimming pool. But I think you lost Grandmother’s

respect. She said you always act like ‘Puss ‘n Boots’.”


I wrote the above lines in a 1994 story, “The Chaos of Angels,” homage to Walt Whitman, including its masculine tone and overt haughtiness. 


My narrator is a bullfrog, “Bull.”  He’s seated next to a Choctaw businesswoman on a flight to Dallas.  Bull blathers about everything he sees, much like Whitman in “Song of Myself”:  “squaw,” “darkey,” “negro,” “red girl,” are no exceptions. Bull says:


Some of us lived like crayfish.

Some of us lived like turtles.

Some of us lived like coiled snakes end to end.

Some of us lived like people. 


“The Chaos of Angels,” referenced here, originally appeared in Callaloo, Volume 17, #1 Native Heritage Issue, Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore. It later appeared in Evidence of Red from Salt Publishing (UK, 2005).

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LeAnne Howe (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), Eidson Distinguished Professor of American Literature in English at the University of Georgia, writes novels, plays, poetry, screenplays, and scholarship that deal with Native experiences. Savage Conversations, 2019, is the story of Mary Todd Lincoln and a Savage Indian spirit she invented to torture her in 1875.


Cover art by Matt Jorgenson