#Poem: “Threatened by #Beads” by Red Haircrow

This is one of two of my poems first published in Red Ink International Journal, Dec. 2016, and upcoming in (link) “Writing History” (tr. “Geschichte schreiben”), translated and part of an anthology in German, on decolonizing history and how history is told.  Edited by Sharon Dodua Otoo and Manuela Bauche, published by S Fischer Verlage. The publication launch event is July 5, 2018 during the (link) New Perspectives Symposium, facilitated by Xart Splitta in Berlin, Germany.

Threatened by Beads

by Red Haircrow

“When they see beads they ask, ‘How much?’
because they assume you’re selling and for sale.
But beads outside their ken,
their ‘showcase-our-pet-native’ events,
their museums holding us hostage in basement boxes,
Unsettle, alarm, concern them as old fears return.
Hand-me-down tales of witless savagery and
indigenous aggression, indigenous spat like a curse.

All the while conveniently forgetting
their invasion and abuses demanded native attention,
and that however curious their faces now,
they resemble those who raped and killed us.
The ones who lamented and prayed
for our poor lost savage souls while
calling our passing inevitable and our
genocide ‘survival of the fittest’.

Now with mobile phones and synthetic fiber clothes,
they wear fake headdresses at weekend festivals,
or claim to be our sacred prophecies fulfilled.
They insist they’re honoring us and preserving
our cultures while bidding over our bones and
defending mascots making our children bleed.

Killing by appropriation is the thing these days,
but wearing beads without permission is a crime,
and braided hair for tradition is militant
from the viewpoint of the oppressor and oppressed.
But some keep tossing back their whiskey words,
saying, ‘It’s alright, let them dance,’
finding humor in theft.

Some of us won’t smile with you,
won’t lie with you and even our wordless presence
makes you uncomfortable then angry:
for your anger comes from fear.
Fear that we just might justifiably
call in debts from the centuries old bloody account
from which you keep making withdrawals.”

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