Distracted from COVID-19, Attention Shifts to MIA Maiden from Land O’Lakes Butter Box

America mourns for the Indian
figure who knelt like a supplicant before dairy,
fatly blessed our milks, our cheeses,

anointed our lands & shores.
The Google tutorials surface—
the “boob trick:” score the box & fold to make

a window for her knees to jut through.
O our butter maiden
brought all the boys to the yard.

Twittersphere so prostrate with grief
petitions are launched for the Dairy Princess:
O our pat O Americana,

O our dab O Disneyesque,
O our dollop O Heritage.
The mourning procession bears witness:

Jolly Green Giant & Chicken of the Sea Mermaid,
Uncle Ben & Aunt Jemimah,
magically delicious leprechaun & Peter Pan—

even the Argo Cornstarch Maiden & Mazola
Margarine “you call it corn, we call it maize”
spokesIndian raise stalks in solidarity.

Mia, aptly named, our butter girl mascot,
the only Indian woman gone missing
that anyone notices, anyone cares about.

Related Poems

The Tecumseh Motel

In Shawnee cosmology,
a shooting star can fall to earth as a mythical panther.

            Tecumseh—
            phonetic approximation of an Algonquian name:
            Shooting Star,
            One Who Waits,
            Crouching Panther.

The first cultural event in Chillicothe
is a matinee performance
of an outdoor play
highlighting Tecumseh’s life.
We are honored guests,
ushered backstage before the show.

How to approximate a scalping at the Tecumseh Outdoor Drama:
            Hollow an egg with care.
            Fill with Karo syrup and red tempera paint.
            Soak a toupee with cherry Kool-Aid and mineral oil.
            Crack the egg onto the actor’s head.
            Red matter will slide down the crown
            and eggshell will mimic shards of skull.

Actors on horseback frame the stage.
A roan flicks his tail irritably at flies
as his rider shifts uncertainly on the saddle blanket.

How to approximate death by gauntlet:
            The victim must lead the action.
            The aggressor follows.
            Burn marks are approximated on the actor’s chest
            with burnt ends of wine corks
            hidden in the sand at his feet.
            The knife is dull edged,
            lined with a small tubing mechanism.
            The actor squeezes a pump
            of corn syrup, liquid soap, and red food dye
            in a limp arc across the torso.

At the end of the performance
the crowd turns a standing ovation
to the representatives of our tribe
sitting in the middle rows.
Are we mocked or honored with such a display?
That evening,
I rail glibly on the telephone:
            historical inaccuracies,
                        hooping and hollering,
                                    pandering to the worst stereotypes.
My husband interrupts me—
            you sound like you’ve been crying.

A Chillicothe chief to the British Army Commander in 1779:
            We have always been the frontier.

Good Hair

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
Do you grieve their loss? Have you thought twice about your braids?

With that long, black hair, you looked overtly Indian.
If vanity equals vice, then does vice equal braids?

Are you warrior-pretend? Are you horseback-never?
Was your drum-less, drum-less life disguised by your braids?

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
You have school-age kids, so did head lice invade your braids?

Were the scissors impulsive or inevitable?
Did you arrive home and say, "Surprise, I cut my braids"?

Do you miss the strange women who loved to touch your hair?
Do you miss being eroticized because of your braids?

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
Did you weep or laugh when you said goodbye to your braids?

Did you donate your hair for somebody's chemo wig?
Is there a cancer kid who thrives because of your braids?

Did you, peace chief, give your hair to an orphaned sparrow?
Is there a bald eagle that flies because of your braids?

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
Was it worth it? Did you profit? What's the price of braids?

Did you cut your hair after your sister's funeral?
Was it self-flagellation? Did you chastise your braids?

Has your tribe and clan cut-hair-mourned since their creation?
Did you, ceremony-dumb, improvise with your braids?

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
Was it a violent act? Did you despise your braids?

Did you cut your hair after booze murdered your father?
When he was buried, did you baptize him with your braids?

Did you weave your hair with your siblings' and mother's hair,
And pray that your father grave-awakes and climbs your braids?