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Miss Clairol 49

She is dyeing her hair

She is not washing the dishes

She is not sweeping the floor

She is dyeing her hair

Same as she has since she was 15

She can dye her hair all she likes

It will never stop white people from making comments

“My great great grandmother was a Cherokee Princess”

“You look like a paleface to me,”

“I went to a sweat lodge once,”

“I bet I got more Indian Blood in me than you,”

Somehow White People

Always turn being Indian into a question of blood

From the BIA to the Nice White Lady New Ager

They are more obsessed with blood than a movie vampire

What does blood even mean?

That a “full blood” no matter upbringing is more fully Indian than anyone else?

Her husband is ¼ Swiss

Does that mean he has a natural inclination to yodel?

But only 6 hours a day?

Her grandmother would casually mention old people she knew as a child in the 1920’s

Who “used to be white”

Captives Mostly

And a few Army deserters

The old Comanches kept out of affection

Instead of killing or selling them

And they would never be white again if they tried

Or maybe they didn’t want to try

Either way, she is dyeing her hair

Her grandmother used to say “I don’t trust White People,”

And she would argue back

Listing white people she knew who doted on her grandmother

“Oh there are some I like,” her grandmother would say

“That doesn’t mean I trust ‘em,”

But as soon as she went to school White People let her know

She, too, was white

Until she stood

Staring in the giant mirror in the school bathroom

Looking at her own big red face and big red hair

Wondering if it might be true

Who would she be if she was White?

She knows White People and even likes some of them

But they don’t think like she thinks

They work from a different set of assumptions

Might as well live on a different planet sometimes

They are strangers to her

Even the ones she loves


Even the white father

She didn’t meet in person until she was 5 years old

And afterwards only saw once a year at most

The cousins she sees every day don’t even know her last name

And assume it’s the same as theirs

So she is dyeing her hair

When she first started her mother would help her

Now she is covering up nearly as much grey as red

Never forgetting the time at The Indian Hospital

A little brown nurse came into her room at 2 a.m.

To tell her she didn’t deserve her name

The name for a woman so powerful men stand up

When she enters a room

Shouldn’t be hers because she was white

“I’m not white,” she said

“My great grandmother gave me that name, after her sister.”

Five minutes afterwards the doctors came screaming into her room

Taking measures she has no memory of

Except the sound of running feet and the wail of machines

Her blood pressure dropped to 32 over 48

She secretly believes she was witched

That nurse witched her

Though it might be closer to the truth to say she didn’t want to live

If she couldn’t be herself

And she couldn’t be herself if she couldn’t have her family

And what kind of White Person has a family of nothing but Comanches?

So she is not checking the mailbox for bills

She is not changing the oil in the car

She is dyeing her hair

Just herself alone in the bathroom

With a dog towel and a kitchen timer

And she wonders if it makes her more lovable to her family

The dozens of cousins and aunts and uncles she’ll share


She has with

Who will bring her USDA commodities

When she runs low on food at the end of the month

Or watch her kids at a moment’s notice

Or sing the Adobe Walls Song at her uncle’s funeral

And make her knees buckle

She is dyeing her hair

Even though it makes no difference to anyone but herself

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