Even on their totally awesome chestnut-colored horses,
the Indians were fucked over and we knew it
so anyone who was anyone in the third grade
wasn’t going to be caught dead in an Albertson’s
paper bag cut down the middle, decorated
in red and yellow crayon “pictographs,” worn
as an Indian vest for the Thanksgiving Festival
at Center Street School in El Segundo, CA
where, before 1934, there were four signs on the cardinal
points of town that read:
“No Blacks, No Jews, No Dogs.”
No question that when she chose me to be an Indian, I felt
a John Wayne wild sense of betrayal
by Mrs. Trachtenburg, who could have easily turned
me into a pilgrim, like Kristen with her Norwegian
blonde hair, making me wear a paper-towel
white hat, simply by saying
“Suzy Pearlman, you will be a pilgrim.”
I colored my vest along with Julie,
who worked so hard in school, who everyone called
a “retard,” who had had a stroke
in the womb, who I thanked god
was a Christian because she would have never
made it through Hebrew School. Everyone
was nice to her only because they knew
that, at the drop of that pilgrim’s hat, they could be mean.
My “Indian name” was “Careful Dove,”
because the class called me Butter-fingers.
Little bespectacled Indian Jew—Schlemiel—
on a horse—fighting the white man,
at the Festival, in front of our parents.
We recited our Indian poems. Careful Dove
said each line while Julie drooled:
Peaceful dove. Alone.
Fly around the town.
Oi, Vai! Careful dove. Alone.
Eat a pumpkin pie when you get home.
Then all of us pilgrims and Indians took
out our recorders (because the music
teacher had to fit a performance into the
curriculum) and played “Love Me Tender.”
Even, Julie, who couldn’t play a C, pulled
a plastic recorder out of her paper vest.
We were told to play in unison but
we sounded like geese, lost in our own flock.