Coat of Arms
By Stephanie Lane Sutton

my family’s crest is a catalyst       two bucks back to back
blood red       golden rod       ivy grows year round

there’s a painting of pontiac’s rebellion hanging in the kitchen
it floats behind my father’s head when i bring my boyfriend
of cherokee descent home to meet him. my father bullets his eyes
at the apple swelling in his throat       his car                and salary
since my blood is a dowry       a thread of unmentionable horrors
(i haven’t spoken to my father in almost a year)                    there was land
then people      then blood        just to live hand to mouth feels like a
monthly    conquest    pockets taught from rent   my hips heavy with
battlefields              a bed i didn’t have to make but lie in
                                                                                    in america
john sutton fought in the revolutionary war        the civil war      lived
to a hundred      could still jump over a horse                    legend claims
he died this way        taking bets and winning      and “he married
an indian princess”          (did you know the english word for “wife”
meant “slave”)    by “indian” they don’t mean indigenous
but tomahawk and buckskin    rebellion quenched    like mounted heads
in my grandpa’s office            this is why when we go from michigan
to the family reunion in north carolina we sleep at a hotel in a town
called cherokee but see our relatives in bryson           all the heirloom
family photos of john have the names of my ancestors penciled in
the names of slaves unpenciled
                                               my eyes are feral              congealed
i don’t witness        the photograph of my grandfather’s childbride
i see all the legends becoming both true and untrue

my father claims our blood conspires with warriors          but not
with names franchised forgotten      even in family photos
we’re told to remember        all we ever shared was the bed

Stephanie Lane Sutton is a poet, performance artists and educator. Her work can also be found in elimae, The Bakery, and Vocation:Vacation. She holds a B.A. in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago and teaches poetry in Chicago Public Schools.