Tuesday, October 9, 2007

~At the Powwow by Ann Walters~


With a scattering of light in the eye the boy dances, his feathers weaving the colors of stone and corn, his head cocked in an attitude of supplication. His feet singe the ground where they touch.
Too many of the old men drink beer and shuffle from pickup to pickup comparing the size of their tires or the weight of the abandoned hopes that push their truck beds so low they threaten to scrape the road.
Some mothers busy themselves with costume changes and last-minute beadwork. Others sit on plastic chairs in the patchy grass and watch the girls with their subtle sways and hops, remembering vaguely what it feels like to flirt with only a flick of the hand.
A few old women sit in a circle, chanting softly to themselves. Whatever their words are, only they are meant to know. Behind them a baby crawls in the dirt and a pair of dogs mate quickly before chasing down stray crumbs of fry bread.
Back in the central ring, the boy bends. His fringed kilt sweeps the earth like a broom until he stops and kneels, quivering, on one knee. He would kiss the ground if he could, would love it into being with his breath, but a smattering of applause is the only answer to his prayer.

6 comments:

Maria said...

Hmm...not doing anything for me...

Cynthia said...

"Look, dear, he's doing his native dance. Let's stay and watch."

Grudgingly, her husband sat down with a heavy sigh.

"If I stay to watch this shit," he thought to himself, "then I can hit the golf course later."

The couple stayed to the end.

As the dancer walked off to polite applause, the husband looked at his wife and said, "Let's go back to our room, dear. You can rest before dinner."

On the walk back, he slipped out his cell phone and told his buddy, "Meet me in ten minutes."

Upon arriving at their room, he said, "Here you go, darling. You just sit back. I'll walk around for awhile so I don't disturb your rest. Then we'll go out to dinner."

"Yes, dear," was all she said.

After the door closed, she got up and made a drink. Drink in hand, she walked to the window overlooking the fairway.

She knew. She wasn't ignorant. She didn't care.

Dragon said...

This time, he knew, it would be good medicine.

His heart hadn't been pure the last time. He hadn't yet walked out into the desert and had his soul opened to the dimensions of the universe. Last time, he hadn't been ready.

This time, he was humble, and deserving.

Even the fat white men who watched with polite enthusiasm, safe in their shrouds of cultural detachment, couldn't destroy this moment.

This time, he would show them all.

Amanderpanderer said...

Two Ponies, Memorial Day Wacipi

She served Indian tacos to the dancers as a volunteer. The dancers passed her in their fancydance dress, their jingles weighing, she knew, more than they let on as they step-paused around the circle: ching, tap, ching, tap, ching. She scooped taco meat into fry bread, topped it with waxy pre-shredded cheese. The meal was a misnomer of sorts; tacos, she reckoned, were already Indian by way of Mexico. Borders were invented later, but everyone was thinking them.

His hand brushed hers in the line as she handed him the greasy paper plate. She felt conspicuous: blonde hair, light eyes. He was handsome; he had a question on his lips.

He stepped away, then he turned back. “What nation?” He leaned in, darkly. He repeated, “What nation are you?”

She stammered her answer, “Cherokee.”

He scowled, turned away. Ching, tap, ching, pause. “East? Yes?”

Her eyes wide, “Eastern Cherokee.” Then, a pause, “O—Oconaluftee?” She said it as a question. He recognized it as a question and walked away. It made her feel sick, instantly; her pale skin flush, forehead creased.

She felt she should carry photos tied around her neck, or pinned to her chest. She could point to them, “Look, my mother! See her dark hair. Look, my grandmother’s Indian nose.” And then to herself, “Look, my face.” She wanted to unbraid her hair, tangle it in her fists, “Look, it’s colored. It’s dye.” She imagined the dancers turning away from her as he had turned away, little scoffs amidst the jingle.

Then she felt angry, and because she was angry she stayed.

They lit fires at dusk. And the wood smoke trailed faint and black against the darkening sky. She shivered while she sat on the metal bleachers where the small heat did not reach. The dancers were color and sound, the step and drums sounded louder in the near dark. The voices of the singers were faint though. Little disappearing nations, she thought, “smoke.”

She did not see the dancer before he spoke.

“Aye, Ani-tsi-s-kwa,” he called to her. And when she didn’t answer, “Blonde girl. Taco girl. You gonna answer me?” Her head snapped around. His fancydance dress was replaced by jeans, a black t-shirt with a skull; his hair yanked into a low pony tail; he looked no older than twenty in his street clothes, no older than her.

Her hands flustered by her side. “Yeah?” She almost stood to leave, but fidgeted instead.

“Ani-tsi-s-kwa, you look like you might fly away. You look angry.” He sat down next to her, she could feel the heat of him. She looked at her hands folded in her lap, wanted to disappear. She could see his neck craning towards her to peer at her face, the same questioning gaze as in the line. She shut her eyes in one long blink. “Bird girl, does it bother you? Are these skins about to eat you up because of that pretty blonde hair?”

Tears sprung from her eyes as she blinked again. She felt his finger push a lock of hair above her ear, trace her neck. He should have been handsome; she could imagine this differently. She gulped, braced her hands against the bench to stand quickly, to run from this boy no older than herself. This boy who looked less Indian without his feathers.

He placed his hand gently over hers, and she tried not to flinch. “Hey, little Cherokee, do you know what the dancers are singing?”

She shook her head.

“They are singing about the world beneath our world. They are singing about water and earth, springs and flesh and the deep spirit heart that wills love. Open your eyes. Watch the dancers.” She did; they circled a pair, man and woman dancing in the center. They stepped forward and back. “Here is a man in love. He steps to the woman as a warrior. And here the woman, no less a warrior, moves against him. Now, look: they move not against but together. There is only one step different.” He moved his hand to point at the pair, leaning in closer. Then he leaned away.

“Ani-tsi-s-kwa, you look like my grandmother.” He pointed across the way to a woman laughing, her hair was short and blonde. The woman noticed his gesture and waved, blew a kiss. “See, I wasn’t fucking with you.”

She looked at him nervously.

“And I’m not being all spiritual and shit just to flirt.” Leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees, he cocked his head to look into her face and said “We are what we are. And you need a coat.”

“But I’m going.” She said.

She rose, stepped down into the dust and without turning to him walked away.

He called after her, “Ani-tsi-s-kwa? You know what it means, eh?”

She did not turn, “Of course.” The night air had a chill. The car clicked to life unremarkably. She rolled the windows down. And smiling in the new dark, listened to the tires grind against the gravel, listened to the drums dim at the end of the song, felt the wind.

(856 words)

Sharon Hurlbut said...

At the Powwow

With a scattering of light in the eye the boy dances, his feathers weaving the colors of stone and corn, his head cocked in an attitude of supplication. His feet singe the ground where they touch.

Too many of the old men drink beer and shuffle from pickup to pickup comparing the size of their tires or the weight of the abandoned hopes that push their truck beds so low they threaten to scrape the road.

Some mothers busy themselves with costume changes and last-minute beadwork. Others sit on plastic chairs in the patchy grass and watch the girls with their subtle sways and hops, remembering vaguely what it feels like to flirt with only a flick of the hand.

A few old women sit in a circle, chanting softly to themselves. Whatever their words are, only they are meant to know. Behind them a baby crawls in the dirt and a pair of dogs mate quickly before chasing down stray crumbs of fry bread.

Back in the central ring, the boy bends. His fringed kilt sweeps the earth like a broom until he stops and kneels, quivering, on one knee. He would kiss the ground if he could, would love it into being with his breath, but a smattering of applause is the only answer to his prayer.

Guy Anthony De Marco said...

"Good-sized crowd for this weekend. Who's doing the ya-ta-hey dance for the tourists?" asked Chief Standing Bull.

The diminutive teenaged girl looked embarrassed. "It's my fiance, Dad, but he's been drinking again."

"Hmmm, perhaps we should go watch." He wasn't too proud to stroll over while holding his daughter's hand. The tourists crowded around the field, digital cameras flashing, beeping and clicking, and the Chief joined the throng.

"Oh, he's already out there, Dad."

Running Deer, dressed in his finest ceremonial regalia, writhed, jumped, rolled and grunted gutteral noises. Chief Standing Bull was taken aback, surprised that his future son-in-law would perform such a frantic, crazed dance. The crowd gasped and thrilled at the young mans antics. The five minute dance lasted almost half an hour, wherein the young warrior collapsed on the grass.

The Chief stood frozen while the tourists applauded. As they passed by, he heard them chattering about the wonderful dance they had witnessed. He held his daughter's hand tight, not wanting her to go near the drunkard.

After all the tourists had moved on to the next exihibition, Running Deer stumbled over.

"What the hell were you doing out there? How dare you make a mockery of our traditions!" the Chief roared, glaring at the buck.

Still panting, Running Deer said, "Sorry, Chief. A wasp went up my trouser leg."