Christmas Morning at the Pueblo
by Michael Cantor
This handsome Navajo
who stood and watched the line of dancers
was slim and straight as Gary Cooper –
jet-black hair pulled back
and gathered with a silver clip,
black burnished boots of buttered elk,
black well-cut pants, black shirt, a camel
coat draped loosely on his shoulders.
He did not gossip with the pairs
of tribal cops in stained gray uniforms,
or smile at the roaming teen-age girls,
did not fit with this Christmas scene.
We named him Cashmere Overcoat.
He deals raw cocaine, she said,
in from LA to visit mom.
Or maybe he’s a Stanford grad,
an MBA and poker pro.
The scene was no Nativity:
we were in a Pueblo; crumbly,
dun adobe buildings and some single-wides,
out on a mesa south of Taos;
earth, wind, dust, papers,
cigarette wrappers swirling in the grassless square,
broken chairs in front of houses,
a pair of blackboards and a single hoop.
And Cashmere Overcoat,
who looked right past the tribal elders,
old men with flat haircuts
and VFW faces, zipper jackets,
two in wheelchairs,
centered in a spot of honor
in the dirt courtyard.
He ignored the yipping dogs
and the crazy man on crutches
and the torn magazines blowing between houses
and the junked cars
and the good smell of fried bread and coffee,
and even the anglo tourists,
there to see the dancers
Christmas day at 1:00 PM,
listed in What’s Happening in Santa Fe.
Coke and meth and crank, I said.
He’s Al Pacino’s secret twin –
and then, by day – an orthodontist –
they call him Man With Braces.
The file of drums and flutes and dancers
kept snaking from a meeting hall,
the older men in front, traditional,
turquoise, silver, buckskin, moccasins,
full feathered headdresses on three or four;
stamping down their legginged feet,
setting up a beat,
and followed by a string of young and old
in every possible attire,
all intimately focused on the sound,
the beating and the rhythm,
and the ground;
precisely navigating every step,
the chanting, and the clap.
I saw him in a film, she said.
He played the Chief, the handsome one
who loved the Colonel’s daughter.
As they came around a second time,
meticulously folded up the coat,
placed it on a sprung-back chair
and asked some women there to watch it for him;
spoke briefly to an elder in a leather vest,
then slid into a space that opened in the line between
a thick and buffalo-looking man
and a teen in Keds, a sweatshirt and torn jeans.
Staring tightly at the ground he moved
into the music, danced, expressionless,
his boots in cadence with the beat,
the black pants quickly filmed with dust.