|At the Royal British Columbia Museum|
MODERN NATIVE (for the Penalakut Coast Salish tribe)
- by Andrea Grant
The bones of my ancestors burned beneath my ankles, and there was a certain amount of regret. Their lost tales ignited the air: “Speak for us, for we have no voice”. All the things documented, but never written down. Their blackened eyes, cheekbones carved into the stone of forgotten prayers. Eyes. The eyes always tell the truth, and silence is also an answer.
I found a way out of cultural abandonment through a spell that would impress any Grimm brother…swift of foot, I drugged the guardsmen of our house with plum wine, so sweet, so adamant. He slept for years.
Dancing shoes threadbare (only the young & ambitious can stay out all night) and there were several handsome princes with flawless complexions lingering in the bliss-dream of those who have not yet learned cynicism. Trees with golden branches, silver, diamond flowers. The land itself seemed repaired and decadent.
Reality transformed into the dreams of a fairy tale that held more meaning than the illusions of daylight. Headdresses of golden eagles, patterns graffitied upon the walls of museums. It’s difficult to calculate the consequence of shed blood, but every horror requires redemption in the ambivalent dreams of elders, sparking through the eyes of the next generation.
As for me, lulled, my viewpoint has altered: colors are bathed in translucent hues. My skin grew one-piece metal like a fish. I walk half in dreams. So here I am, with holes in my heart, wearing feminine accoutrements as my armor.
Red lipstick. Another kind of war paint.
So tell me which one is fairest of face?
Faces interest me now that I have one.
Girl transforms into woman, and a mask is required for that ritual.
Sometimes it’s a case of spherical eyeliner, narrowing the eye-shape to resemble a wolf in an attempt to connect to animal origins. Feathers are woven into hairline by way of decoration, melting upon the edges of forehead, under pretext of a costume party or some other celebratory evening. When a mystical feathered-girl exits a taxi, the ravens hover around the bearer of their talisman, winged shadows…and new myths are born.
The fairytale castle is an ornate illusion; the Park Avenue penthouse contains the same stone walls as any other prison. Kill me for a crown, the weight of gold & emeralds press against brain-edges like a migraine headache. Dollhouse, doll-girls; my friends and I could never sleep after sitting properly in the dollhouse all day, dreaming princesses, experimental eye make-up streaking as we suppressed our pre-teen heartaches.
Nowadays, people like to talk about nothing and dream of the things that used to be true. Where is the magic?
Dreams. Nightmares...where is the in-between?
My nightmares are vivid paroxysms of blood & death. I don’t know how to draw the line between night-vision & reality. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and see the eyes of a wolf, and fire, fire, everywhere, as the city disappears. But a castle I recall from the lands of the in-between stands firm against the skyscrapers.
Modern Native, mixed blood.
Let’s not forget the men who took white women so that their children would be free. For all the mothers who gave their offspring new names and whispered, “Hush, everything will be okay now…” Those without soul, who don’t notice details, have tried to steal my ceremonial necklace and sell the beads. They have tried to tear my drum skin.
But the strength of my ancestors flows ever on. The undercurrents of moon and water flow in my timeline, & Raven speaks tricks through my mouth.