beaded trout

At The Stomp Dance

Cars, trucks, all day coming.

First the leaders and their helpers

set up the cook shed,

clean, rake the ball and dance grounds,

refurbish the seven brush arbors

circling the dance ground-

helpers from each clan do this.


The women bring hot and cold dishes

from home, begin to cook and cover tables

while men build the sacred fire,

centered in the dance grounds circle

to reflect the sun.


The crowd grows.

Flirting, catcalling between young men and women

turns into challenge. Head for the ball ground,

men grabbing ballsticks, women hands free-

all the better to rest on a hip while calling a sassy retort.

Game on, men against women,

each plays by their own set of rules

to much laughter and hooting.

The sad-eyed carved fish swimming through the air

on top of the pole in the center of the ball ground

watches benevolently

while the ball whizzes past

or-success!-strikes it.


Older women and others not playing call out

encouragement and laughing insults.

So do the older men, sitting in their lawn chairs.

All the while, final preparations continue

` for the main event, the dance.

Women work on old cowboy boots,

making sure their turtleshell rattles

handed down the chain of daughters,

are securely fastened to the split-open tops of the boots.

They try them on and stamp their feet hard

to check the sound of the pebbles in the rattles,

to make sure they won-t come loose.


Children are everywhere underfoot,

watching ball game and sacred fire,

sniffing around the cook shed,

playing tag and hide-and-seek

outside the ring of clan shelters.

The elders of each clan-

Ani-Wahya (Wolf), Ani-Kawi (Deer), Ani-Tsisqua (Bird),

Ani-Gilahi (Long Hair), Ani-Sahani (Blue), Ani-Wadi (Paint),

and Ani-Gatagewi (Wild Potato)-

settle into each brush arbor

as the cooks call out that the food is ready.

Clan members bring food to the elders,

join them or eat with families, friends.


Now, the food is eaten and dishes cleaned.

Now, the turtledoves are calling as they nestle in to sleep.

Now, the fireflies are taking to the air with children chasing.

Now, the sun has set and the sacred fire brings back its light.

Now, the women put on their rattle-sewn boots.

Now, the old lead singer calls out the beginning,

Now, his brothers and nephews echo their response.

Now, his sisters and nieces step into the circle beside them.

Now, the women set the rhythm with their fast turtleshelled feet.

Now, the circle spirals out from the fire.

Now, the dance can begin.

first published in Coal City Review

Linda Rodriguez


contents of issue 4

A Tip From the Butterflies
Nicole Savage

At The Stomp Dance
Linda Rodriguez

Gone Dancing
Deborah A. Miranda

Solstice
Linda Boyden

Time of the Circle Dance
Mary Jean Robertson

Un-Dance
Nazbah Tom


Linda Rodriguez Biography

Linda Rodriguez's novels, Every Broken Trust and Every Last Secret, and poetry, Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration, have received many awards, such as Malice Domestic Best First Novel, Midwest Voices & Visions Award, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award.


Permission to publish poems in this one context was granted by the authors, who unless otherwise specified, hold copyright on these works.