poetry quarterly

10th anniversary


Susan Deer Cloud



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/.


Published in Volume 13, Number 1, Winter 2012.