Cheri asks, practices her jingle steps beside our tent,
its open nylon skin spread like a carcass in the cattails
and gamma grass. She and Bella have ditched
their tea stand on the stump beside the porta-potties,
bored of slow business to dreadlocked weekenders.
“What should I call her?” Noah unfolds a tent pole
into my hands. Only yesterday, I hiked the heat of the tallest hill
to call and say, “I miss you. They need lawyers. Come now.”
He threw his sleeping bag in the car and drove through the night.
“Chee, call her Wife!” Bella scoffs.
We laugh and the body of our tent wobbles up now like a calf, footprint
obscuring the tufts of seeding plants. Beneath the girls’ feet,
butterflies, communion-thin, steam from the land. Why don’t we do this
in English? Name things by relationship? When I crouch in the dirt
at the Sacred Fire, to listen to the speeches of AIM veterans
and grandmothers, the kids yell “Teacher!” This one word, a reminder
of who I am. I am ashamed to say I am jealous sometimes. Of this land,
of the word “ancestral,” which never belongs on my tongue.
I come from the body of a woman I’ve never met, call only
biological. My blood traces to a hilltop, forest, or quiet lake I’ll never
name. Maybe, I am afraid of this relationship,
of what it means to be White on this land, plant my tent
by the Íŋyaŋwakağapi Wakpá, named by soldiers the “Cannonball,”
because when you know only weapons even a river can look
like a war. Across the gravel, kitchen volunteers boil blueberries
down to their sweetest syrups, the smell of wojapi
sugaring the air. A man from security walks by,
walkie-talkie crinkling like the warm aluminum wrapped
around our dinner each night. Here, everyone comes carrying
what they can, a trailer full of notebooks, a single box of crayons,
each night the circle overflows with dancing, the kids checking,
“Teacher! Did you see me?” and teenagers flirt with each other
from brightly painted horses. Here, the grasses erupt into golden
fireworks of seed. Every day, I want to be helpful.
Every day, I know I am happy here. And it is not enough,
but I am trying to close my mouth to hear the waving flags, the cattails
bending beneath the kids’ feet. Some days, I want to call this love. Or maybe I want
to call this home. Or maybe I’m hoping to call this mine. Maybe if I can learn
to be quiet, one day I will be able to name the difference.
Teresa Dzieglewicz is the winner of a Pushcart Prize, the 2018 Auburn Witness Poetry Prize, and an Academy of American Poets Prize. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in the Pushcart Prize XLII, Best New Poets 2018, Beloit Poetry Journal, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere.