She Says: A Poem by Navajo Poet Laureate Luci Tapahonso
[Editor's Note: Luci Tapahonso was recently named by Navajo Technical College as the first-ever poet laureate of the Navajo Nation. One of 11 children, Tapahonso grew up in Shiprock, New Mexico, and has authored several books of poetry and other writings. Below is a poem from one of her collections. To learn more about Tapahonso's contributions to contemporary Navajo literature, see these related stories. (Related: Luci Tapahonso Named as Navajo Nation's First Poet Laureate; Poetics and Politics 2011: Diné Professor Luci Tapahonso; Navajo Poet’s Work Relates Art to Life at Poetry Reading)
The cool October night, and his tall gray hat
throws sharp shadows on the ground.
Somewhere west of the black volcanoes,
dogs are barking at something no one else can see.
His voice a white cloud,
plumes of chimney smoke suspended in the dark.
Later we are dancing in the living room,
his hand warm on the small of my back.
It is music that doesn’t change.
The ground outside is frozen,
trees glisten with moon frost.
The night is a careful abandonment of other voices,
his girlfriend’s outburst brimming at the edge of the morning,
and I think I have aged so.
His warm hands and my own laugh are all we share in this other life
strung together by missing years and dry desert evenings.
Tomorrow the thin ice on black weeds will shimmer in the sun,
and the horses wait for him.
At his house around noon, thin strands of icicles drop
to the ground in silence.
Early Saturday, the appaloosa runs free near Moenkopi.
The dog yips, yips alongside.
From Sáanii Dahataal/The Women Are Singing: Poems and Stories by Luci Tapahonso © 1993 Luci Tapahonso. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press.