The Tecumseh Motel
In Shawnee cosmology,
a shooting star can fall to earth as a mythical panther.
phonetic approximation of an Algonquian name:
One Who Waits,
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?
I rail glibly on the telephone:
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.
From Tributaries (University of Arizona Press, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Laura Da’. Used with the permission of the author.