about the author

Andrea Vaughan’s first poems were raps about her elementary school in northern Washington State, but now she lives in Los Angeles, where the burritos are much better. She has been published in Darling Magazine and started Madrigal Quarterly, a small art and poetry zine, with some of her friends.

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The Night I Accepted an Award
for Academic Excellence

Andrea Vaughan

The superintendent sent an email to everyone
on the school board, insisting that the rez kids’ brains
are too small, that they aren’t college material,
but the rez kids know where to buy good fireworks,
the kind you could wrap your arms around,
or the sixty bottle rockets crammed into a cardboard shell
with Ammo Box emblazoned on the front like an American flag.
The rez kids know how to drink; maybe it’s all that open space,
the beach looking out over the Sound, and those wet gravel roads
in between. I watched two ponytailed brothers throw back
Dixie cups of whiskey in the dugout at a baseball game
and neither wrinkled his eyebrows. But the principal
made the rez kids fancy-dance in school assemblies for the other half
of the student body, and when the teachers passed around
sacred feathers during social studies, the rez kids knew
not to touch them while our hungry hands crumpled the tips.
In school, we learned all of the Lushootseed words for salmon,
each one shimmering through our mouths like the sharp claws
of an eagle. After the superintendent sent that email
to everyone, one hundred Tulalip Indians stormed
the school board meeting, the braids of the mothers
swaying with rage. Most of the white parents stayed home,
didn’t want to get involved in the drama, but even the ones who came
pointed out all of the cultural appreciation we’d done, wondered why
we hadn’t risen above this. The rez kids didn’t come. The rez kids
had a party on the reservation that night. The rez kids knew
nothing would be different in the morning.

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