Sandra Simonds
1984 Pumpkin Pie

Even on their totally awesome chestnut-colored horses,

the Indians were fucked over and we knew it

so anyone who was anyone in the third grade

wasn’t going to be caught dead in an Albertson’s

paper bag cut down the middle, decorated

in red and yellow crayon “pictographs,” worn

as an Indian vest for the Thanksgiving Festival

            at Center Street School in El Segundo, CA

where, before 1934, there were four signs on the cardinal

             points of town that read:

“No Blacks, No Jews, No Dogs.”


No question that when she chose me to be an Indian, I felt

a John Wayne wild sense of betrayal

             by Mrs. Trachtenburg, who could have easily turned

                     me into a pilgrim, like Kristen with her Norwegian

            blonde hair, making me wear a paper-towel

                        white hat, simply by saying

             “Suzy Pearlman, you will be a pilgrim.”


                  I colored my vest along with Julie,

  who worked so hard in school, who everyone called

                  a “retard,” who had had a stroke

                         in the womb, who I thanked god

was a Christian because she would have never

made it through Hebrew School. Everyone

was nice to her only because they knew

that, at the drop of that pilgrim’s hat, they could be mean.


                        My “Indian name” was “Careful Dove,”

      because the class called me Butter-fingers.

Little bespectacled Indian Jew—Schlemiel—

          on a horse—fighting the white man,

                        at the Festival, in front of our parents.


We recited our Indian poems. Careful Dove

   said each line while Julie drooled:



Peaceful dove. Alone.

Fly around the town.

Oi, Vai! Careful dove. Alone.

Eat a pumpkin pie when you get home.


Then all of us pilgrims and Indians took

out our recorders (because the music

teacher had to fit a performance into the

curriculum) and played “Love Me Tender.”

     Even, Julie, who couldn’t play a C, pulled

            a plastic recorder out of her paper vest.

      We were told to play in unison but

we sounded like geese, lost in our own flock.

Found In Volume 40, No. 04
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  • sandra simonds
Sandra Simonds
About the Author

Sandra Simonds is the author of four books of poetry: Steal It Back (Saturnalia Books, 2015), The Sonnets (Bloof Books, 2014), Mother Was a Tragic Girl (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2012), and Warsaw Bikini (Bloof Books, 2009). Her poems have been included in the Best American Poetry 2015 and 2014 and have appeared in many literary journals, including Poetry,  Chicago ReviewGrantaBoston ReviewPloughsharesFenceCourt Green, and Lana Turner. Her fifth book, Further Problems with Pleasure, is the winner of the 2015 Akron Poetry Prize and is forthcoming from the University of Akron Press.