Cold air slows molecule vibrations
Snowflakes with jazz hands
Water plods into ice formations
Crystallized into a
Clean flavored candy shell
Ice Floats at first
Then slams shut
A vertically clawed adamantium prison door
Liquid incarcerated
Not quite ready to be stilled

Cold air annihilates cell walls
Expands liquid into a solid lattice
Squares explode
Ninety degree corners become chaos
Triads joined at the electron
Harness the power of the atom
Then everything dies
Green, red, purple, pink, white
All fade to flat yellow
Bright sunflowers fade
To that same hollow yellow

My heart fades
Hollow yellow
I count the seconds
Until snow falls
I count the seconds
Until I am frozen
Seconds until
I can sleep and forget.


Drama at the laundromat

The laundromat is not the place to have emotions.
At a laundromat, any emotion is interpreted as drama.
Sit silently and watch the rotating metal drum spin your clothes.
Slosh. Wash away memories. Whir. Rinse away pain. Bzzz. Spin away heartache.
It's best to quietly admire and acknowledge the water jets flooding the detergent tray.
Minutes digitally ticking down to zero.
The centrifuge slows, reverses, slows, reverses, slows, reverses, slows, reverses...
Until you are no longer interested. No longer care. Gaww-dammit!
Build a callous around your soul and other tender parts because...
You don't need the cumbersome baggage of drama
to weigh you down while you're fighting for dryers.
You need to be clever, calm, cunning, and quick like crinkly aluminum foil.
Drama is a big ol' bag of 50 gallon water.
Suppress your emotions.
The folding tables know too much.
Their hard surface can no longer absorb your drama.


Dead Gray Bird

My ears heard it last week.
And my eyes widened,
and my pupils dilated with fear unconsciously.
Ice shards crystallized instantaneously through my heart.
My trachea and esophagus spasm-ed, shuddered.
My lungs steeped in warm saline.
Sodden tea bags, flavor faded and washed from the desiccated leaves.
My ears heard it,
but my brain refused to believe it.
Override. Override. Override.
Not until yesterday did my neurons register and process the horrific information.
And I know
and understand now
what my skin felt last week.
Damn my brain for stupid optimism
and silly idealist notions,
no better than thimbles.
It's my heart that has kept me safe and alive.
My heart that feels the struggle in fingertips, earlobes, knees and lips.
My heart that deciphers, in an instant, heart beats like Morse code.
My heart that tries to warn me with arrhythmias that make me cough.
My heart that adds, 3 + 8 and verifies that, no, they don't equal 13.
Verifies that the shine in my hair is no longer beautiful.
Verifies that it is increasingly blinding and migraine inducing.
It is my heart now that must bleed, while my bumbling brain watches.
Giant thumbs that cannot peel the covers off the bandage adhesive.
A loathsome dog,
my brain,
all teeth and paws...
Disappointed that the fragile gray bird no longer flies,
but lies limp on the ground.


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