Two Standards


Elise Paschen

At "Returning the Gift" 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. She tells me,
"You wouldn't find any Indians
here if not for the conference."

Like the cigar-in-hand
van driver on the highway
from the Will Rogers Airport,
leaning toward me, confided:
"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 this light haired, East Coast-
educated outsider
whose mother, Betty Tallchief,

is Oklahoma's pride.
"At that table are some
Osages you should meet."
An only child, I'm glad
my family has grown.
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." I would pretend, when young,
my name was Tallchief Paschen
(like my mother). In school
I proved my heritage
by demonstrating how

Indians danced in our play,
"Peter Pan," until I was silenced
by my teacher and asked
to sit down. My grandmother
Tallchief once shared with me
a photo of my mother

and aunt when they were twelve,
eleven wearing Osage
dress, dancing at a powwow.
My mother said her father's
mother had taught her the dances.
"Tall, dark and quiet," my Osage

grandfather died before
I turned one. My grandmother,
Scots Irish, Dutch, lived out
the next twenty-two years
in their house on the hill
overlooking the church

where she'd go Wednesday nights
for Bingo, Sundays to mass,
and where we held her funeral.
I haven't been back to Fairfax
since her death. They've restored
the house to honor her

daughters, sister ballet
stars. I always answer,
when asked, I never wanted
to dance, but in this bar
with the jukebox repeating
the Beatles' "Twist and Shout"

all I want is to dance
and so adopt my mother's
Osage name "Wa-Xthe-thon-ba"
which also means "Two Standards."
More than the quarter in me
wants to tell Angela,

yes, but New York is half
a continent away.
I try to see my grandfather
as he lifts me in air,
months before I will learn
to say my given name.

© 1997 Elise Paschen. Infidelities, Story Line Press

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