as they have done throughout their lives
on Black Eagle Child Reserve. They peer nervously
into the shaded Big Top where the tribal
celebration is about to take place:
Mary Two Red Foot in her brilliant
cotton-white skirt has her one year old,
big-boned son, Robert No Body, slung
on her back in a green yarn-fringed shawl.
In the choking humidity, the serrated trim
of the tent vibrates as a concert bass drum
is being tuned. Mary squints in the harsh
daylight and begins talking: “Agwi ma ka ski
bi da bi ya nin ni sha na ki sha bi wa ke.
I can’t see in there, but they’re already
seated.” All she can make out are silhouettes
of singers on bales of hay.
Her younger half-sister, Doreen Half Elk,
with unseen hands on her hips leans over
and listens intently. In the heat all Doreen
wishes to show is her face. A black and gray-striped
shawl covers her body and head.
Even her feet and shoes are in the dark
shade of her ruffled skirt. She’s a statue
whose base is the earth.
Beside them, sitting in a semicircle
on the ground, four white men in neckties,
suspenders and strawhats are having lunch.
The baby, No Body, looks down at the men
who are nearly transparent in the hot,
July 15, 1932 sun.