Susan Deer Cloud
HE TOLD ME
He, too, was Mohawk …
going way back.
I had stepped into his wife’s
boutique in Ithaca, New York.
Chinese, she sewed shawls
that made me dream
magical multi-colored birds
and Joseph’s coat of many colors.
We shared stories about
the “way back.”
His Mohawk ancestress
married a 17th century Dutchman
with sky eyes and a land grant
she could give to her children.
Many Indian women did that, he said,
when they saw the land being stolen.
I wondered about my first ancestress
who spread her legs like broken
wings for a white man.
Was it so centuries later
I’d be here? Did she
grow to like it?
Now some pale eyes forget
their history, would send back all
“illegal immigrants.” Their hate
can’t see what’s funny in that.
I try on a velvet shawl
that trails like peacock feathers
across my white skin.
O to fly away from this loss.
Susan Deer Cloud is a Métis mountain Indian
(mostly Mohawk/Blackfoot) from the Catskills. She has received
a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and two New
York State Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowships. Her most recent
books are Braiding Starlight, Car Stealer and The
Last Ceremony. She is dedicated to getting out the voices
of indigenous people through her editing work and by serving on the
board of YANAN (You Are Not Alone) non-profit Native organization for
stopping suicide among young Native people. Her website: sites.google.com/site/susandeercloud/.
in Volume 13, Number 1, Winter 2012.