The Eastern Band
There are pictures of their warriors
lithe and lean-cheeked with hardened eyes,
but all we saw was Chief Henry
from our station-wagon backseat—
roadside old man in bright feathers
charging fifty cents per photo.
These woodland tribes used no teepees,
until now. There’s Teepee Diner,
the Dairy Queen, and the gift shops
with plastic tom-toms for five bucks.
Painttown, Snowbird, Big Cove, Wolftown,
Birdtown, and Yellowhill—bright names
for these muddy clumps of trailers.
All is lost in the translation—
the Oconaluftee River
still just comes up wet to your ass,
and Qualla’s turned to casino,
and when my mom’s eyes are flashing
Dad says there’s Cherokee in her,
boiling in her blood. It passes.
But I met a little boy there,
fat and dark-haired, who taught me this:
so-qua, ta-li, tso-i . . . one, two, three.