oneword: smiled

I ran away many times, but I always got caught The evil nun always smiled her thin Grinch smile Everytime they brought me back Lips devoid of love Thin grey pink


oneword: collar

Colored wax scrubbed enthusiastically
across paper glaciers
frozen over dried stereotypic leaves.
I didn't know I was supposed to remove
the little plastic collar stays
when it was time to iron.
Sand washed over hands shoved firmly
into bell tails, containing sips of ocean.


oneword: dim

congested skies
diphtheritic clouds
infect my sinuses with a fine film
of minuscule pebbles and river silt
magically evaporated
from dams piled and affixed
by concrete shoveled in human hands
my eyes assume the dim light
means that it is bed time
and I feel like
lying down
to sleep


oneword: marble

swirled lava, items from the periodic table
mixed and smoothed, hardened geologic caramel
symmetry rolls eternally through time
flicked by the tender green thumbs
of each new burgeoning generation


Pseudo Culture
by T. Zoey Benally

Walk with my son, thirteen, Traipse across the bridge.
I retell tales of my day, Chapter House presentation, Navajo town hall.
Report in English, hold my breath, cross my fingers,
Hope the elders understand.

An older gentleman stands and says, "What have we done to our children?
We told them, go to school, learn & come back,
but now they don't know their language."

...for the first time, it was NOT MY FAULT.
My alleged arrogance, my supposed laziness – NOT RESPONSIBLE.

Lee chaii ei lizhin. Masi ei ligai.
Naa a hoohxai ei lichii.
Dine bizaad ei shil naantlah.

My daughter hears 30 minutes of Navajo words each day.
Nouns, adjective lists--even though
Navajo is verb driven--object lists, key phrases, are the core.

My son & I, both NM state public school bilingual program products
Decide to compare notes, play a game, carry on a conversation.
He can’t ask how my day was, can only tell me,
“The sky is blue.” “The car is black.”
I can only answer, “My name is Zoey.” “I am from Shiprock.”
“My eyes are brown.”

Shi deezhi tadiin do biann taa’ bi naa hxai.
To deel chxooshi t’aalai do bi aan naki yaal ba iili.
Abiinigo ashdla’ doo alnii oolkil ayoo shil ya’a t’eeh.
Dine bizaad do shil di’ in diin da.

Endangered language criteria defined by…
Total number of fluent speakers – 173,800. Mean age – 24.4.
Youngest generation acquiring language fluency –
50% of rez kids speak Navajo.
Aunts, brothers, grandmothers, fathers, sisters, uncles
Still HAVE the language, but there are only 2000 elders left,
And my friend laments that birthday parties, and family reunions
Are fast becoming the new Navajo ceremonies.

Iil whoosh! Sinida! Iiya! Noweh! Jaa’ii! Ma’ii!
Naa’ii! Bidii! Yaa di lah! Ge’sho!
Al k’I daa’ dii t’ei ya shil bee hoozin n’tee.

My mom & dad used Navajo as their secret language
To discuss going to town, the carnival, store.
My uncle made fun of the way I pronounced Navajo words,
said I spoke like the Catholic priest.
My mom REFUSED to teach me Navajo because she didn’t want me
To be punished in school, Did not want me to speak Navajo & suffer
--Knees on rice grains, beaten by rulers,
Afternoons smelling corners.
BIA boarding school matrons told MY mom
That Navajos were primitive,
Lower in the evolutionary chain, closer to monkeys.
Told MY mom she needed to give up her language, culture, identity
Take on white culture so she could progress.

Hat’ iish banina? Di kwiish beeso ne hoolo?
Haadee’ nanina? Dine bizaad bohoosha
Shika’ anilyeed.


oneword: Alarm

She croons through viscous velvet curtains of slumber
Extols how she wishes she "was the moon tonight"
Crisp snap of flint on flint
Ignites another nights worth of dreams
Intices my mind to linger
In the divine hammock of sleep.


Uncle Became Water

Spread apart, much more, but still aware
Clouds, low hung fog & mist
Deep pools explode with ripples
Suspended molecules
Amplify sight and sound
He was no longer condensed

He always liked when his sisters,
When his wife, when his neices and daughters
Proudly talked about their kids
Smiles through veils of tear sparkles
So he became those tears

He sent them smiles through tears
Different cloud colors and textures
Smeared across the sky
He dropped spectrum bands
Down the subtle blue curve
He finally understood
Paintings he saw at museum gallaries in Phoenix

He soaked tumbleweeds
That clung to fences
Till they resembled
Sponges squeezed and placed
On white enamel sink edges to air dry

He sent turbulent, jubilant, curly haired waves
Down sandy arroyos
Rushed, boiled emotion he felt
For those left behind
But also excitement at the unfurled path ahead

Finally he sent grey skies
Let it all go skies
He darkened highways and wet the sand red
He filled their nostrils with fragrant herb sage
And he washed the olive drab pollution band
That he always hated from the horizon



Voracious heat descends through
warms my lips
More evenly than hot blood
rushing up to meet a kiss
Illuminates orange whole notes
through diaphanous eyelids
Dazzle refracted off burnished jet eyelashes
Casts irregular light shards
mistaken for lightning, lasers
or petulant phantasms
Solicitous UV rays rub
sooty pink back into my cheeks
I swim up from stiff edge
sea weed wedge depths of sleep
Turn my head and relish
the mellifluous nibble
of warm sunlight on my neck.
Listen to Silver Salmon
Silver Salmon, aka, Happy Poem 2 of 2
Silver salmon leaps fluidly over lanky waves of dried grass
Green, washed and faded to lemon-straw by alternating
Rain-sun, rain-sun, rain-sun-wind, wind, sun, rain
Chlorophyll filtered and drained downhill, soaked into black earth
Color cycled out, bend-straight, straight-bend, malleable metal

Silver salmon, Athena, reflects UV rays off her lithe body, shimmers
Vaults, arcs, belly barely grazes golden upstretched hulls
Seeds, a season ago, thumped from pods and pulled by gravity
Onto coffee colored soil, Imbibed by Mother Earth
Simmer, bubble with sprouting laughter, jokes saved for next Spring

Silver salmon reveals flecks of black, copper, and white
She is camouflaged, Absorbed into a tangle of mysterious
Roots, hollow stems, stern granite rocks, dirt and iron shadows
Silver salmon pounces on scurry vibrations, slither tailed inspiration
For the Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove, conspiracy to annoy dogs

Silver salmon is an ornate kite, she ascends and plummets
Effortlessly traverses the knees and pockets of well-worn denim skies
I watch and enjoy her dance and sway to Troposphere currents
Tethered only by the ball of cotton string, rolled in my palm
Dark eyes look back, Confident that I will not let go