I walk my hair’s length over tire ruts,
crush seed pods with thumbnails
push kernels of corn
into dove’s nests on the gnarled branches of our drowned lungs.
Mining saguaro pulp from garden rock,
squeezing coarse black hair—
I arrive at a map of a face buried in spring snow.
With a plastic cup
I scrape the enamel chips of morning songs
from the kitchen sink,
and breathe through my eyelids,
glimpsing the thawing of our flat world.
I dial into the blue skin of the map’s stiff pulse,
emeralds spill from the skull’s cavernous wail,
but nightfall is still darkest
in the middle stanza of the poem
arching twenty miles past forgiveness.
held out to the wind
speaks juniper to the wilderness,
as August slithers into September’s copper pipes
searching for the paw print of a waterfall
on the mind’s lunar surface.
Here—I thread nightfall into the roan’s black mane.
Here—I peel a paper mask from the hare’s moist cartilage.
Here—tornadoes twist into the loom’s black yarn,
but the premonition—
beginning with three masts and a cross—
still mushrooms over the groans of husbands and wives
folding their petals outward
from their salt-coated bodies
calling us home . . . nihi yazhi, nihaaneendza,
nihi yazhi, nihaaneendza.
our child, you have returned to us,
our child you have returned to us.
I wanted to swallow the song’s flowers, swim diagonally it’s arched back, it’s shadow stinging my hands with black pollen.
We were on the same surgical table waiting for the surgeons to carve us back into shape.
The drum pulsed somewhere in the dark and I heard a woman unbraiding her hair.
I felt morning songs leap from the hooghan's smoke-hole and curl outward from the roof of the sky, gliding through us like rain.
I sang, sang until the sun rose.
The shadows of my face grew into a swallow with folded wings and darted into the fire.
A cloud became a skull and crashed to the earth above Black Mesa.
The cloud wanted to slip through the coal mines and unleash its horses.
It wanted to crack open bulldozers and spray their yolk over the hills so that a new birth cry would awaken the people who had fallen asleep.
It wanted to push their asymmetrical ramblings into the weft of storm blanket, dye it hazel and sink it into the rising waters.
A city dragged its bridges behind it and finally collapsed in a supermarket asking for the first apple that was ever bitten.
No one questioned the sand anymore.
No one un-tucked themselves from their bodies and wandered the streets without knowing their clans.
Everyone planted corn in their bellies and became sunlight washing down plateaus with deer running out of them.
The phone was ringing through it all.
The line was busy when I picked the axe
and chose the first tree to chop down.