Roberta Schultz

Thicker Than Blood

My dad had the Blackfoot blood,
so I reasoned he’d value the lesson,
from my hands, it is sacred.

As a boy, he tagged after Grandpa Price,
asked all about his journey east to Ohio, all about
indentured servant papers, all about the roustabout life.

I signed him up to make native drums with me.
He nodded as our teacher went over each step—
why these drums could not contain metal.

He sang along with the AIM song. He sang along
to the vocable chant of “Amazing Grace.” He laughed
at the punchline to “Gaggleshawn” when drummers from Leech Lake

explained Ojibwa words. How a brand new car might find its way
into 21st Century powwow songs. When it came time to lace up the drum
in the intricate weaving tradition, my dad let go of his rope

to the gene pool. He tumbled head-first into a deep end,
splashed and thrashed hard, kicked away from the rescue of ritual.
Drum-making was taking too much of his time.

With two days to go
in our week-long workshop,
my dad showed our teacher his shortcut—

so proud of his staple gun pattern through elk hide.
All done. He smiled. What now? Next workshop,
I signed up my white-from-Kentucky mother.


Roberta Schultz‘s poems and song lyrics have appeared in Women Speak, Vol.7, Sheila-Na-Gig, Panoplyzine, Riparian, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Kakalak and other anthologies. Three of her chapbooks are published by Finishing Line Press. Her latest chapbook of poetry, Asking Price, was accepted by Workhorse Writers for their 2022 series. Her first full-length collection, Underscore, was just published by Dos Madres Press. Learn more at