Caesura published Ribbons and Eagle Feathers in the issue called reset, winter 2022.
Ribbons and Eagle Feathers
Every Saturday morning Monica’s father drove us to Polish Dancing and Language Classes that were supposed to teach us poise and confidence. The classes emphasized how great it was to be Polish. Once, in the spring, he pulled over at the town square on the way home. There were teepees there, smoky campfires, preparations for an afternoon pow wow, a demonstration of Native American traditional dance. Monica and I walked closer, dressed in red dirndl skirts hemmed with layers of ribbons; white, high-necked puffy-sleeved blouses, black velvet vests encrusted with beads and embroidery and small black berets cascading ribbons.
We leaned against the split-rail fence and watched the Natives use their horses to pull another teepee upright. And then, one of them walked toward us. He wore a cream-colored buckskin shirt, open at the throat. His shiny dark hair was pulled back in a knot of feathers that spilled over his shoulders. The bells on his moccasins tinkled with each step. He pulled me to the center of the square. The touch of his hand on mine sent electric shocks up my arm. My black-strapped shoes moved through the grass. The wind blew the ribbons from my hat across my face. He tossed his feathered head-dress back and screamed, “Hey ya ha.” Drums thumped wild and loud, pulsating.
He started his dance, lifting his feet high and coming down hard. He said “C’mon” to me. He wanted me to dance, but I didn’t know what to do. He screamed and stamped, ululating. I began the intricate, delicate Polish steps and turns, holding one arm in front and one arm in back. For a while, he followed me, holding my waist, his heavily beaded moccasins stepping beside my black-strapped shoes. The crowd clapped. Then, he pulled away, bent low, and stamped one foot. I mimicked him, ribbons flying, floating through eagle feathers. The crowd cheered and screamed.
He was the most beautiful man I ever saw. I never knew his name, never knew his tribe. Was he Blackfoot, Piegan, Chippewa, Blood? It never mattered. We had the same heart. And we were gloriously, gloriously different.