Elise Paschen - “Two Standards”

                              -- at a Native Writers’ Conference in Norman, Oklahoma

Joan's one eighth. I'm a quarter. 
When we walk into Billy's 
I want to look like her, 
full Osage. "You wouldn't find 
an Indian here," she tells me, 
"if not for the conference."

And the cigar-chewing driver 
shuttling in from the Will 
Rogers Airport confides: 
"I never seen so many 
Indians all in one spot." 
The bar's packed like a bar

should be. Joan shows me off, 
introducing her friends 
to a light-haired, East Coast 
educated outsider 
whose mother, Betty Tallchief, 
is Oklahoma's pride.

"At that table are some 
Osages you should meet." 
They know my relatives 
in Fairfax, though they come 
from Pawhuska, Pawnee. 
Angela says the Tallchiefs,

the keepers of the drum, 
will host the Osage dances 
next June. "Will you join us? 
You'll be given your Osage 
name." Even though my grandmother 
Tallchief’s daughters became

well-known as ballet dancers, 
she displayed photographs 
of my mother and aunt 
when they were twelve, eleven 
in Osage ceremonial dress, 
performing at a powwow.

My mother said her father's 
mother taught her those dances. 
I say, when asked, I never wanted 
to dance, but here, in Billy's 
with the jukebox repeating 
the Beatles' "Twist and Shout,"

all I want is to dance 
and to adopt my mother's 
Osage name "Wa-Xthe-thon-ba": 
"Two Standards." All I want 
is to return to Oklahoma 
and answer Angela "Yes,"

though New York City's half 
a continent away. 
I am my mother's daughter, 
"Two Standards," and tonight, 
forgetting my given name, 
I will take that ancestral one.

“Two Standards” appeared in Infidelities (Story Line Press, 1996).  Copyright © 1996 by Elise Paschen.