then and now
by t. zoEy benally

there was a time, clock hands pointed
at 2 hours and 23 minutes past midnight
black dew suspended, damp hands
caressed my cheeks & forehead
minutes when I would have followed you
through the stickiest mud puddles
with my best shoes on, crashed through
tumbleweed thickets in silk and polyester
I wonder if you even realized
the power that you wielded
sternum cracked open, rubbery heart
muscles pumping furiously
did you know, that they were all yours
every jumpy muscle thread
never have I been so close to total
destruction, voluntary annihilation
if you had just leaned forward
mist from your warm breath
would have been enough to send me flying
silver weather balloons
released to me, my weak forearms flooded
with lactic acid, mouth dry, sugar thirst

now mostly I am perplexed, not sure
whether I should wipe my brow in relief
having dodged a bullet, you unaware
that you had even pulled the trigger,
and sent down polished chambers
or whether I should feel the wet
cardboard weight, rejection stench
perhaps I am just a lucky mouse, fortunate
to live out my brown haired days
survivor who can relive the day she felt
the tabby’s claws retract, and a paw
batted a sparkly toy, pinball bounce
off bumpers, flippers flail, but missed
down the drain, into the hidden tunnel safety
I have descended, patchwork earth becomes clear
I see homes, cars, trees, I see the whites
of everyone’s eyes again; I see finger nail moons
and you have become a mere form letter
reply to all, blind courtesy copy
black Times New Roman 12 point font,
full justified, not italicized, not bold


by t. zoEy benally

his feet don’t really match his personality
man poured into size eight running shoes
mother earth replica perched on a spindle
i am impressed at the engineering of his ankles

she loves the secrets that he shares with her
spores released, snuffled out, truffle hints
she smiles eagerly into his face, and nods
watches for crowd reaction to his revelations

he used to hang out by Turquoise, Hogback’s
other side, zigzagged south & north, scared
many tourists, a good boy taking his medicine
stumbled through the Kachina’s dark mouth

she found him out there, moisture and color
dried out of him, mineral crust stains
forgotten doll, she cleaned & oiled, folded him
into a sitting position, placed on her shelf

Navajo sabbatical years he chortled, laughed
until it made him cough, snot bubble threatened
from his nostril edge, and that’s the only thing that
makes him stop, research finally complete, not put off


be it known this day...
by t. zoEy benally

we do not support women going to school
and we reject anything an "educated" woman tells us
because everyone knows that addled brained "little women"
don't really know what they are talking about

we do not support women working outside the home
and we do not recognize any contribution
made by these women, and any donations
will be accepted only from what the man earns

we do not support men micro-waving their own dinners
and we will comment at every public forum on the wane,
sickly pallor that thin children have, and we will
praise mothers whose children wear husky

we do not support children learning to sort laundry
and we will loudly inform them that this is not right,
advising them that when we were children our mothers
never asked us to do any of these things--your mother is lazy

we do not support atheists that watch television on Sunday
and we know that these heathens will not reach the same zenith
that we will, because we do good things
just in case, Jesus or God is in disguise, watching

we do not support instant mashed potatoes or soy products
and we will make faces when served beans with no meat,
because our heritage is based on stew potatoes, potato salad
Bluebird flour frybread, and Don Juan Onate's roasted churro sheep

we proclaim these things by virtue of the power
vested in us as defenders of the family unit, as upholders
of truth, light and wisdom, and as those actively working
to promote harmony and happiness everywhere


air traffic, no control
by t. zoEy benally

conversation waves disrupted my lunch
tuna salad sandwich, torn from thick plastic
preservatives sprinkled and stirred to keep
mold, fungus and other spoilers in check

digital exchange beamed along sight lines
towers squint at tower flashes perched on hills
skeletal cyber gods, fierce chitchat balls hurled
binary games of catch across red sand valleys

she told him about her day and asked him
if he paid the bills? NTUA money order provider
purchased from a trading post not the same
another, containing a whole other tuna sandwich

ma-yazh says it was probably a fax sent
from Chinle to Salt Lake City that messed up
her pancreas and mutated the insulin
a contract for carnival sewage, cotton candy thieves

acid reflux, heard about it on television
esophagus erosion, gully eaten, sand drops away
dirt road oxbows, trail thrown wider and wider
but i know it's all the internet chat room traffic

he said they don't need line of sight anymore
satellite beams can bounce, sift through yucca
inner-space, Navajo model code grasshoppers along
grazing land, zero-one, yes-no, on-off, stick-circle, earth-sky


finally tomorrow
by t. zoEy benally

my friend...
has a Magic Eraser
wipes oil abandoned by former tenants
but i wonder--where?
does it all go?
matter never created nor destroyed
human grease morphs, atoms shift
someplace skids are waxed
algebraic units bounce across equal signs
negative signs hitched
on their hips
fat babies gurgling for milk
alchemy removes what harsh
chemicals and words
Bureau matron hen screech
"what's wrong with you?!?"
Indian left behind
Affairs rubbed away
spit on a thumb
microscopic ink rolled with epithelial cells
message expunged
from a brown-pink palm


never fathomed by me...
by t. zoey benally

i can see into the future
through a Bisti crystal chunk
hoodoo shaded, untanned, cool

i look through 9:40PM eyes
still cold from the outside
ears still frozen, i listen

i see him still sitting there
unhurried, unworried
only my children watch clocks

i try to peel this future
dried Elmer's glue, cloudy film
pick edges, curl, from my hand-print

shared laughs & smiles, a separate world
bile pools at my jaw hinges
stomach growls, no leftovers

wrong pill, wrong rabbit hole
cut ropes won't let me go, unfree
i told him, don't bother, i'm no big deal


one word: grade
by t. zoEy benally

black asphalt dumped
mountain side cinched
black zig zag ribbons

white dashes dribbled
drool blips centered
chopped tape worms

asphalt frosting crusted
magma pools, 15% grade
8 meters per second squared


one word: mold
by t. zoEy benally

mold grows inside me
on spaces that should
be coated with red latex
love, black fuzz shoots
spores, seeds more rot

i wonder why i stay?
only to wish & cry for
something that has long
since collapsed, absorbed
by jungle, eroded rio banks

to die, decay, amputate
another small heart chunk
zombie fingers claw air
allegiance memories fade
and i need kisses no more
one word: claw

moose claw
by t. zoEy benally

tightly wound cat paw extensions
DNA probably instructed to change
hair weave patterns on the underside
he used a different knotting pattern
steadily decreasing number of knots
sha'shin, to make the basket neck curve
a comfortable slide up to female softness

tabby striped stretches, they say ants stretch
when they wake up, they said on the radio yesterday
i've never looked at ant leg ends, always assumed
flat table legs, but perhaps they have hands, fingers
spread apart, suck grease into chitin connections
then squish, and finger ends, perhaps armed
curl into dirt, soft decaying leaves, old cheetohs

"Moose" the official Navajo cat name
yelled most often from hogan and unlevel
trailer doors, unless you're yelling "Giddi!"
Moose's smooth muscles inhale, then
release, hydraulic oil drains back, underground pools
her thick unsterilized needle hooks, KOA cactus talons
iced with mouse blood, kitty litter traces, affectionately


scrambled eggs, November 5th, 2004
by t. zoEy benally

four-four beats, bubble gum
framework propels stupid cupid
shrilly waves bounce off aluminum walls
instant restaurant, just add water

bleached high five, thin pink grins
sport Halliburton, blue mechanic collars
chew thick steak slabs, smeared with egg
"...everything alright honey?" pours coffee

Patsy yodeled crazy ensconces
perm frizz mopped waitresses
Route 66 kick memories, Elvis
pre-pelvis, 1950's Americana

Mama's starched checked curtains
cherries and milk, blood and Elmer's glue
her children are immune again, cure purchased
resistant to carbohydrates, cholesterol and bovine madness

man kind has risen again, adrenaline Rush
adipose filled bellies ascend, wax USA pride
shoulders broad from signs raised, hosannah
return of our king, bump-bump-bump

Manson morphs back to Monroe
black fades platinum, breasts fill
androgynous sci-fi horror lam
milk suckled, drilled and pumped

In God we Trust, global manifest destiny
cause you gotta have faith-faith-faith
they watch us with mirrors, rosy reflections
wonder when we will climb back down


muse, can you hear me now?
by t. zoEy benally

i regularly fall into monkey traps
closed fist an iron vice
greedily attached to delicious
nothings, raw brain on a half-skull
lured by my muse

i dutifully wallow in swamps
emotional misery mire
congealed oatmeal gradually crusts
hardens around subtle teaspoon waist
just for my muse

i eagerly jump into cinnamon volcano
flames, liquid hot magma
denatured DNA
life screamed out
beckoned by ambrosia eyes of my muse

just to feel

just to ride beside

my forever loved
forever hated


i need feedback on this one... i was told it felt unfinished. so i took another whack at it...


Low Expectations

I condone bad behavior
Thieving shoe prints dust my jeans
Boost tweed sport coat sticky fingers
Into greasy lint lined ventilation ducts

I have settled with defeat
Imagine brown calves backs
Drained into Nikes, Adidas, Pumas
Noses thrust minutes before mine

I agree, with your decision
Lopsided cakes I bake, disintegrate
Under heavy-handed butter cream swoops
Sunken, uncooked centers tempt bacteria

Now I depart, bundle only water and a moment
one small morsel slipped into silk
embroidered pockets, blossom fragment--FINALLY
stand at chasm edge, foreign lands for you
I only knew you then


carmel lady
by t.zoey.benally

wandered isles
stainless racks
no high fructose here

she would like this salt
shaker, lady bug in reverse
with armed pepper grinder

i know where everything is
in her house, home even to me
cornflower wal-mart bags saved

wicker baskets, metal mesh
flowers explode
around her private cafe

gentle oasis, lets me think it's home
i order what she would order
but subtitute soy for milk


he plays with dolls
by t. zoey benally

smooth stained wood floors were best
his favorite spot to play with dolls
he pretended it was a great mansion
he felt his mother's smile quiet
approval rained down from her face
cleansed his child soul

he had his favorites, lined them up
around him, the royal guard
he loved them most, smooth nylon strings
named them Babette & Colette
he like their first names to rhyme
with their last, Marionette

he often wondered, if he had a sister
would he be less devoted to Marionette sisters
would Barbie and her hot rod, glittered
knee socks and predisposition for cherry stilettos
lure him away from his wooden puppets
leave them in a tangled Pinnochio pile

sometimes he wished they would talk
arms ached, shoulders burned, mind
often tired from constant motion
and pretend required of him
but they never let him down, they were
flawless, prefect wooden cheeks
bright painted smiles


aftermath shiprock fair
by t. zoey benally

cocoa flavored greasy sugar spread
filled concrete pores with sticky sand grains
two weeks ago the cousins had all dove
risked slip & slide through fresh green manure
dropped by undersized council delegate steeds
ants chipped tootsie roll crystals from sidewalk badlands
dissolved and carried to underground lairs

she dumped kerosene over the pile of trash
she didn't want panty remnants to blow flaming
across the harvested fields, start dried cornhusk fires
saggy darkened balloon three days after a birthday party
is how she felt, starved, not having eaten
nothing since that cooler full of burritos
systematically eliminated, stomach rumbles
started soon after, then squirts from both ends

extinct mini arroyos identified by stained soil
source long since towed away, perhaps to Tuba City
prairie dogs finally brave enough
crawled out of burrows, summer remnant snacks
rotten shish-ka-bob stink clung to tan fur
despite technologic tunnel advances
deeper tunnels, drains for sewage
to keep sleep chambers & food storage dry
historic fair trauma, a decade minus seven


two years ago today
by t. zoey b.

two years ago today
baboose first laughed
i was exhausted then too
and couldn't find the energy
didn't care if anyone went to school

sister left to wash her face
she took the rose pink towel
and walked to the old house
of course she slammed the door
rattled all 40 feet of white trailer metal

10 o'clock sun heated bed exposed to glass window
brother and i stretched out, a nice contrast
hot sheets & blankets soaked in ultraviolet
cool autumn air welcomed by yei bi cheis
a week earlier, chilled our hands & noses

how many other october 10s had there been?
10-10s without baby, without her chubby feet
waved in the air, brother & i made goofy faces
jumped like monkeys, smiled like spiders
but it was sister who leapt from behind
the clothes, pouncing tiger, playful kitten
who finally made baby laugh


the fair

thi past weekend was THE fair. i grew up here in downtown, oldtown Shiprock. the parade has always been down the hill from my house.

i worked all weekend. i'm tired. i have lots that i could potentially say, but i am tired. i am tired and uninteresting. i want someone to tell me stories. i need time for my battery to recharge.


only three things
by t. zoEy benally

only three things keep me here
three things that three people do
three needs that three people have
three small strings that tether me here

she complains when i
make her run slow
but when i give her the lead
she squares her shoulders
and leaves me coughing dust clouds

he laughs at all my silly stories
and jokes, i laugh at his stories, jokes
he runs beside me, keeps me going
the reason i took up running
in the first place

she sings all the time, used to cry
when Ella skipped her skat
she pretends she is everything
from monkey to me
i kiss her little feet, she tells me
"i lub you mama."


watch the socks
by t. zoey benally

every now and then i would hold my breath
silence lung bellows, ducts near ear quiet
tilt my head like my dog Pointer to hear
catch a stumbled foot placement
tumbleweed crackle, sun waves disrupted

mama said lay out the socks
heels and sole to the sun
it made my feet tingle warm
to see those white socks hung
from the garden fence to dry
i knew the rusty spots, orange octagons

i caught one once, heard his labored lungful
ran out and yelled like i yelled at dogs
bent on killing rabbits, chickens, kid goats
droopy eyes & lips, saggy chin & stringy hair
silver paint had dried on his upper lip
surprise no longer a reaction, burned neurons

sniffers daddy called them, they laid
on the hill where the rocks were smaller
skin colored dirty penny by solar rays
bright acrylic specks splattered
spilled from stolen socks
white socks, primary colored splats


by t. zoEy benally

sometimes i wonder if i really made it back
if i just imagine that i am here
not really calling out spelling words

i feel myself wander streets
San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, Phoenix
streets i tamed alone, braided hair, wild hats

part of me now sleeps in cardboard boxes
curled in dank darkness, covered in newsprint
black & white that contains illusions of warmth
keeps chill from blowing under my skin

all the wrong people call me "baby", ask
for my number, offer rides, but all i wish,
block out light reflected on glass doors to night,
all i wish is for that one ride missed
that time that i never really came home


one word: stereo
by t. zoEy benally

copper wire coated
lucent plastic snakes
under furniture, around plants
puffed with dust
blown northeast to Alamosa
east sacred mountain
(i mistakenly thought it was North)
connects two backwards ears
high fidelity, beats exactly reproduced
in imperfect, human, 4/4 time


drowning in potential wealth
by t. zoEy benally

he has some really good qualities
he sits staring at the tv chewing, plate of potato salad
cold chicken & bread slice perched on his belly
under the right circumstances...

this City Market plastic bag is still good
she rolls it into 5ths, carefully tucking ends in
not wet with hamburger blood, no holes clawed
if i ever need a plastic bag i will think of this one...

these cars are really valuable, i'm lucky i found one
the frame is not bent, the chairs are pretty good
all it needs is a new transmission, engine and tires
one of these days i'll get some time....

these pants only have one hole in the knee
if we patched them, maybe your sister could wear them
we could give them to some poor family
they might like to patch them...

keep that can of bathroom cleaner
put it next to that can of hairspray
all they are missing is the nozzle
we can use the nozzle from another can...

you might need these instruction one day
put it in that pile over there, careful so it doesn't fall
these letters are important too
somebody might ask...


here you go Kim. thanks for coming to the reading.

under the bridge in Shiprock
by t. zoEy benally

Part I

the sun was going down
the kids ran ahead
on the bridge
their heather shadows bobbed in the distance
the full moon was reflected
yellow on the San Juan River waters
its glow lit up the river bed
illuminating the muddy mucky depths

a dark shadow slowly paddled through
the moon's reflection
obviously enjoying the cool night air

"LOOK!" i shouted
everyone stopped and looked into the water
the bulky figure turned expertly in the current
and made it's way to the tamarisk and russian olive thickets
at the banks of the river
we watched for a while
in hopes that the creature
would swim back to bask in the moon's reflection
eventually we grew tired of swatting mosquitos
and made our way home

Part II

on my walk home after work
thoughts of leftover soda sealed in plastic bottles
and discarded in the landfills
filled my mind
sutry antibalas' orchestra
afrobeats in my ears
i remembered and looked over the edge
the sun was still up
and i could see it!
it swam slowly out
to the middle of the river
dark brown coat glimmered in the sunlight
sensing my presence
it tilted its head
looked at me
(obviously not the eye placement of a predator)
sighed with annoyance
dove under the muddy water
and dismissed me with a tail slap
i laughed out loud
a boy on a bike passed, glanced at me
and probably wondered about the status of my marbles

Part III

i thought of dj kumquat
...how we once found him
leaned over the rail
poetry pouring out of his pen
i ran all the way back
across the steel and concrete
to ask him
if he would
come dance with us

i leaned over the water edge today
to see what poetry i could find
perhaps floating in the waters
there it was again, a beaver
swam against the current
through the thick brown water
color of coffee i made as a child
half milk, half caffeine
i saw it's perfect round ears
sparkly black eyes

quiet morning swim
while cars & trucks
zipped over
not knowing what poetry flows beneath


one word: awake
by t. zoEy benally

water splash word awake
slaps me with two hands
on each side of my face
yes! i am awake. up!
please shut off alarms
no more beep-beep-beeping
turn off that infernal orange sound
i am awake!


by t. zoEy benally

my friend just called, the ringer set to alien stun gun
the original saaniidotcom is gone, taken away
you just never know when wind is going to lead you astray

she took care of my friend when her knee twisted
the wrong way and ligaments severed from bone
she was there for chats lit by silver moon lamp light

the shower chair was brand new then, had yet
to morph into a computer chair, an extra
dining room chair for the inevitable welcome guest

"see the shower chair my mom got," our injured friend said
"my saanii chair." we laughed, laughed and then called
each other saanii, until saaniidotcom was born

then it stuck, static clung like light plastic
grocery bags, fit because it rhymed best with her name
saaniidotcom came to life, always in t-shirts, jeans

i can still see her low key smile, hear her sigh,
content from steaming pasta plates topped with spaghetti
sauce from a jar and microwaved for 30 seconds, hot

i can hear her calling us, "hey, saaniidotcom!"
ronniedotcom, i can hear her laugh in the aisles
at Albertson's carrying bags of green leaf lettuce

i didn't want to look, was afraid to look, afraid
that i would forget her saturday afternoon grin, that
i would not remember how her hair curled out of ponytails

buy flowers for me today she always said, and wear red, never black
red the color of peppers sliced on salad, "see my daughter?
see how well she has done? she is your daughter now."


cold shower
by t. zoEy benally

you know what will come out
thunder out from silver plated spigot
you wish you could change it
but everything is closed
everyone asleep, nothing can be done
butane canister empty & you must
confront the cold shower

your skin reacts even before
water gurgles from the tap
goose bumps rush
from shoulders down to toes
teeth chatter, jaws rattle
breath staggers
you try to calm yourself
but you know how that chill blast will sink
to your bones and red marrow gel

some say turn on the water and jump right in
be brave, face your demons
i say, take your time, strategize, use science
your head loses heat the fastest
if your head gets cool first
then the rest won't be so shocking

wet your hair, wet every strand
shampoo was designed for warm water
so you must be sure that every strand
is completely wet, totally ready for suds
lather and rinse, but be gentle
it's easy to injure your scalp when it is numb
from cold, and you won't feel it till hours later

soap up your wash cloth, bath mitt, what have you
i always wash my arms, then legs & feet
rinse, then move on to my chest & belly
i've found that cold water is most painful
causing me to gasp and shiver
when it rains down my back
i move slowly, deliberately
wash more sections until finally
it is time

time to step into the shower & rinse
everything again
time to finally rinse your back
time to rinse the junctions between
arms, legs, torso free of soap
boundaries between front & back clean
time to rinse shampoo residual
from your hair until it squeaks
it's time--you're finally ready
to face the cold shower


uncomfortable peanuts
by t. zoEy benally

squeeze my foot to the right
press it as close to the side as possible
force some room so that there will be room
for the pebble to slide inside my shoe
to an unfurnished area, unoccupied by cells
it merely rattles, jangling back & forth
then snuggles into another tight place
imposes on another patch of skin

poked though my sock cuff, catching a ride
doing the job, but i am still annoyed
knit purposely loose to stretch around
odd ankle bones protruding delicately
only as a bone corner can do
it finely crafted point, genetically honed
scratch, furrow plowed in my first skin layer
seed tip reaching capillary beds
unfertilized, inactivated by dead end host blood

don't rub your eye
lacrimal flow washes arroyos clean
the way she says my name, wrong
glommed letterers fall continually
down that final stair flight
but what can you do?
unless you accept
permanent safety goggle marks
circling your eyes everyday


on becoming furniture
by t. zoEy benally

eight months
since i greyed into background
formatted as a watermark
40% bright, 45% contrast
excluded from text & plot
this chapter his; no longer ours

32 weeks
almost enough time to create
another person, squirming to be free
tangy lemon wedge of me
is left on dusty window sill
lemonade potential evaporates
leaves bland cellulose next to chitin husks

over two hundred days
feet impressions emboss carpet fibers
bent and smashed to root fibers
mapped lint showers, cosmic fuss
i feel certain sections of fabric
being faded another grey shade by sun


i want...
by t. zoEy benally

i want...
"i want" is a meteorite
hurling through space vacuum
craving more mass
desires a sun to revolve around
ends up burned
in friction flames
in atmosphere
of a real planet

"i want" is a weird word
more bizarre
with each utterance
chewing gum
stuck on your nose
toilet paper
adhered to shoe tread
furled out kite tail


need a ride
by t. zoEy benally

hitchhiking is a lot like clubbing
take only bare essentials
picture i.d. is good, but
for morbid reasons not mentioned

water, comfortable shoes
shirt & pants that you can run in
billowy skirts only catch wind
high heels will sink into soft shoulders

at first you might be embarrassed
remember what you've said about hitchhikers
equating them with bums & hippies
just get that thumb out there

it never happens immediately
cars, trucks, motorcycles, semis
will pass, many times too full
often only one person burning all that fuel

keep going, listen, listen for rubber on asphalt
smile, let them see their potential passenger
aim for humble, but not too skuzzy
i too have left potential psychopaths

admire the roadside
if you're not a regular
you might never see
the road from this perspective again


safe mode
by t. zoEy benally

running in safe mode
a bare minimum of drivers
loaded, non-essential devices
illegal operations search
pinpoint program interference
operation errors


sweet night
by t. zoEy benally

packed for a month, fibers crunched
together, sardined, entubed together
she only burned through it tonight
tonight she could concentrate on dessert

dreamsicle, sticky paper pulled away
tangerine syrup stretched, so used to holding on
she licked sunsets, orange sherbet splashed
across, metal girders, her hands, legs, concrete

he made her lips coral submerged in ocean
made her walk slow and lazy
creamy grin poured, dandelion puff
explosion, fairy glitter bug commotion

she loved him, would always love him
first lick, water based sunshine
inhale fresh herb, seconds suspended
arms tightly wrapped, heart beats heard


let our feet be free
by t. zoEy benally

let our feet be free
pick their own path
through ant hills, prairie dog burrows

let these bones find a stable spread
unconfined by shoes that reflect
desires & goals of another culture

let us feel journeys, relearn earth features
so that we might define our exploration
travel four dimension within four mountains

let us find freedom, courage to walk away
from definitions handed out, small pox
blankets, syphillis filled cups, given out at forts


potential wealth
by t. zoEy benally

untapped energy covalent double bonded
into rez rides shelters mice; vermin solace
diverts metal & paint flaked water to weed roots
overflows eye wells, cascades over normally smile hills

roller coaster apex, inhalation held, still a little oxygen left don’t let it go
nose back closed, on pause until CO2 wind rolls through pipes
yellowed “olds” paper stacks, untangled & wound
flour sack string balls await needles

shoes & pants too big, linger, potential room
for potential days when feet are bigger, legs are longer
oo joo ba’i, poor untapped potential wealth
mangy three legged dog with one ear flopped over

washed plastic sandwich baggies clouded, air drying
trailer covered hills, plywood window black chimney poked through
uncles, grandmothers & brothers held hostage
by corneas, lenses that unfailingly identify untapped wealth

what if... today... this potential wealth converted
balance restored between creation and degradation
deep lungful of air—released—exhaled
Wavoka’s vision realized, distorted world infinitely rolled

potential wealth is all that keeps
this door between us
from slamming
in your face


the pants
by t. zoEy benally

worn sun bleached fibers fuzzed
it was Monday, they were there
this pair, crumpled at chain link feet
tired from Saturday, Sunday
and, who knows, maybe Friday night

Thursday the pants scared her
brazenly stretched out across the path
they dared her to step across
she thought of stories of love potions
purchased by lonely old Navajo men
half a herd for a pretty young girl
she detoured 50ft to the right

Wednesday, next week, broken hearted
pants, balled misery, curled around
tumbleweed and goat head thorns
she walked quickly past, fear lingered
she half expected a leg to dart out
wrap around her ankle, dragging
the unwanted denim after her

Tuesday afternoon the wind blew
chased the jeans towards the fence again
she caught a glimpse of a stripey sweater
left behind, almost pretty
she was half interested, and considered,
as she would in a mall, if it
would look cute on her

Friday the pants were making their way
towards the highway
weeks for them to get the hint
even one day strung up on the fence
for everyone to gawk and laugh
denim had finally got a clue
soft blue inched its way slowly
to the road formerly known as 666


by t. zoEy benally

feeble “$5?”
don’t look! don’t turn around!
pyramid divided, you & me

electric trolley cars
roll, crash into midnight circuits
up legs & down arms

shadows touch
wander asbestos & lead streets
sunlight abandoned

tumble through glass openings
24-hour rigatoni & fry diner
waiter laughs

hug pillars
lion eat Christian coliseum
jell-o kisses stick

Las Vegas marquee lights
fringe & blink cosmic beats
distracted by cold hands

biggest liar on earth-->ME
unidentified aliens park at Alpha prime
pick me out of a line up


squish nemeses army
by t. zoEy benally

wicked crickets, tubeless tire black
lurch & lumber down hallways
randomly lunge at innocent humans
gleefully chirp deadly psalms
hearken & herald delicious demons
conjure dark secretarial forces
hairspray & nail polish fumes
waft from deep Hades fingers


reality outside your reality
by t. zoEy benally

today a can
label pulled off
shiny tin ribs run halo to halo
mysterious cylinder fallen from
Lazy Susan’s shoulders
rolled to a far corner

i exist outside your reality, dimension
forced to concern myself
with cobweb structure
applaud ominous suspension bridges
spider engineered
urge insect prey to stick around

silvery tin conceals
japanese gardens guarded by superstition
koi swim, feather fins
fan music made by tickled rocks
my seams intact, there will be
no nibbles to mandarin whorls
tender smiles remain untouched

tomorrow a shower curtain,
a lamp, then tomorrow’s tomorrow
will incarnate me as the tv remote
then maybe a book referenced once
back on the shelf, then cool sheets
warmed 98.6 degrees F


moment of silence
by t. zoEy benally

i want to be
spring after hollow dried winter reeds blow
a hazy cloud that drifts across
obscures you from UV’s searing eyes

let me be
sips of water
to dilute crusted salt
cornered on points of your smile

touch these water smoothed sandbars
cradled in river’s arms
bury your fingers in wet sand

i am the unmuffled smirk, embodied
i will be engineered raptor wing tips
deep green pine needle silence
my range from sunlight licks to
first crunch through frozen snow crust

90 degrees where three planes converge
ladybug slurping sticky lime aphids

my hands stretch out
ache for the moment
our fingers intertwine.


by t. zoEy benally

this afternoon i crossed curly haired river
river bottom normally smooth--
heavy ribbons unfurled, ropes dangle
past a young waist
girl stands beside a magenta automobile
--is today curled

twirled & spiraled like secret sam's
beard that hides his slow smile
that sips hot coffee on even hotter days
from pliant styrofoam cups

spins on grapevines
chartreuse, fushia & teal turns
for the special occasion of today
money spent, mandarin oranges served
for the party of now...


go ahead
by t. zoEy benally

look up at 5AM
and you will see
that the sky is vast
enough room
for all the love
that you feel.


baby's day
by t. zoEy benally

it was time for a visit
they wanted her to visit
so i took the day,
spent the day with baby

we walked along the river banks
under cottonwood, beside chil chin berries
she was quickly lulled to sleep
by water rush & sun dapples

butterflies & moths welcomed us
they soon spread the word
hop flights took the message
forward to those wondering
about this special child

sunlight glinted off crinkled saran wrap
covered dark brown gravy river
thanksgiving leftovers wildly flow

fish slipped silently beneath
thick water, watched baby pass
slick beaver matched our pace
paddled close to hear her even breath

duck & geese ventured close
swam against currents
some dared to fly onto the path
to watch, first with right eye,
then with left, baby nap late in the day

spiders hung from webs threaded through brush
eye & leg octets noted baby's growth & progress
dragonflies, bumblebees & wasps
buzz, hover & we pass

speedy hummingbirds zoom
hearts & wings race, love quickly
red robins flit slower, tree to tree
scoop up crumbs from baby's sweet dreams

fat squirrels sling their tails
fuzzy boa arced over their backs
shiny prairie dogs wait, wait until
we are upon them, then squeek down burrows

two tall lithe deer look up from meadow graze
green fiber between their teeth
they chew thoughtfully & watch
sleeping baby pass

trees applaud at the conclusion of
baby's visit, they've all brought
peaceful thoughts to nourish baby's
bouquet dream & to send blessings
may she visit again soon.


i am not beautiful
by t. zoEy benally

i am not beautiful
by white picket fence standards
i do not fit within edges
of die cut Grable doll
paper wardrobes

i am not golden sunshine & blue skies
no, not milk swirled
with pink strawberries
nor am i wasp, ant or spider

i am curled clay risen
through mud and dried,
crisped in hundred degree plus

i am chei horned toad
i will bring you luck
when you are brave enough
to rub bellies with me

i am pushy winds
to keep you going
when Barbie's clothes gouge
your waist and excess fabric bags
in the front & butt


it's the beat--the beat--the beat
by t. zoEy benally

"bass in yo face!"
she screams as she nuzzles up
crawls inside black fuzzy beat wellspring
fine vinyl tracks amplified, tossed into the air--FLY!
thump through her and onto the next

wonky trance was in his pants
he jumps, kicks & sweats beats
leaps over intelligent light traces
shakes trance dance out into warehouse night

soulful house was their groove
outside desert, inside close club booths
their arms wave, enery courses to the last leaf
high tree boughs moved by long loving
breezy sighs of hot house music


your ship leaves today
by t. zoEy benally

take a baby to brazil
lush leaves drown in flattened crayon
tip rounded by repeated scrubs
across bleached tree fiber
grease pencil outlines contain festivals
parrot blues, brown soil reds
dirt drenched with decayed vegetable matter

wait, let me write this down
scribble it on my hand
before i turn around
else, when i turn--red sandstone
canyon cheekbones & chin
doused in indespensable radiation
that powers The Solar System
--i will have forgotten

Gaia dances, twirls
ocean skirts and terra buttons
hey man, your ship leaves today


sonar mammal haiku
by t. zoEy benally

pollen claws stucco
bat-a-licious snap sheet wings
black leather wizard


say thank you please
by t. zoEy benally

sunlight excites water molecules
jiggle, twirl and dance off into
bantam chicken blue egg skies

and we cry, OH WHAT DID WE DO?
forgive us gods, remember us gods
we are evil and our thin dirt cows are thirsty

Peromyscus maniculatus numbers
are low and still we wail, pull hair from folded
tsee-yelth bundles, until heads droop in shame

pushy winds sand blast our eyes till muddy tears
blow away into hazy tan skies
tangled and knotted in whirlwind thought strands

and we yell, WHAT CAN WE DO?
save our topsoil gods, we are weak
we cannot farm if our land is blown away

paper or is it plastic? tumble and bound
race east to where San Juan County begins in some minds
pass non-native tumble weeds and we still scream

say, "thank you gods,
for protecting your children."


empty building
by t. zoEy benally

adobe crumbles
clay, sand, rock mutiny
seek out similar species, familiar fractals
to rub surfaces with
they abandon communal block ideas
unified rectangles bound by dreams
of residing high above the ground
bigger than mountain mud

they have all gone, all birds
and most gregarious insect factions
i have been formatted as a background
watch them pass with eyes eroding
every wider with each wind or rain storm
eventual face crash, splash of dirt rubble

empty pews will be revealed
seating bones bleached by sun
connections weakened by repeated
swell-shrink, freeze-thaw, absorb-evaporate
far beyond trendy weatherized wood
straight to interesting trash
bound for the landfill

my zenith come & gone
my parting remarks, farewell gesture
only a reminder
black & white still life
suitable for framing
of a time whose relevance
in this configuration, now elapsed


recovery is amazing
by t. zoEy benally

A dream is a wish your heart makes. --Cinderella, 1950

tuesday morning i killed
one of my dreams

followed proper microbiology flame sterilization technique
SD40 gobbled, then metal licked clean by turquoise flame tipped violet

my teeth & jaws hurt as soft #2 pencil wood stifled screams
& was embossed by incisors, canines
pocket knife blade sliced cell membranes & severed capillaries

if my eyeballs burst from searing pain
would vitreous & aqueous humor rain down
or glom out like desiccated jell-o?

affixed to the front of my right 4th finger, this dream kept
rings from fitting properly; even a ring made from a spoon end
shallow cup hacked off, ends curled to meet—would not fit

daily this dream caught on edges, tore & bled
daily i winced in pain, & often cried

i tossed the disengaged piece high into the tree branches
so bugs & birds might be nourished
by this cotton candy fragment of myself

wednesday i started radical chemotherapy
to keep it from coming back


by t. zoEy benally

turn around & let me write poetry on your back
why wait for smooth level surfaces
when your shoulder blade planes do nicely
i promise, i won't dribble ink on your solar ray baked skin
your going provides ample space
for my words to roam & shift around
one or two might wander around side
try to hide in elbow corners
nibble on tender grass fingers
that continue to tickle stoic rock cheeks


five by seven I
by t. zoEy benally

our eyes dart to the rooster red display above sliding door
--why does everyone always do that?
confirmation that this vertical ferris wheel
has indeed scratched steel on steel to a halt
horrific reassurance that an enter button
was indeed punched & you have been entered
into a database cell of people who can
YES--raise your hand--i have been trapped in an elevator

a chasm of steel, yawns, jaws spread wide
separates us to our respective corners--ding-ding, round one!
upper class versus lower class, radical versus conservative
three million square millimeters of steel line up
between us, behind us, above us, below us
they engulf us in this stainless petri dish
floors disguised as tile and walls padded with carpet
fiber covered to deaden bangs & yowls
woven acrylic loops to dig our nails into
softness to sink teeth into when we finally go mad


by t. zoEy benally

"ar--thur, ar--thur"
splits early black grape bowl
pinches cheeks, squinchy wince
strong aunty fingers
airbrushed nails
sour squeeze
juice under tongue

"ar--thur, ar--thur"
skin shades drawn
black lash fringe
mascara free

"ar--thur, ar--thur"
dragon screams
tomato & stawberry silk
curly feather shake

"ar--thur, ar--thur"
thick cream spills
slowly covers
grape stains


pawn me please
by t. zoEy benally

i thought about her this morning
crossed & looped brown-black shoestring tubes
tightened and pondered so many
men fearlessly wearing bows

my shoe bow daintily tied i recalled
iridescent soap bubble words
blown my way on a breathy annoyed sigh
encapsulated in circular soap film
i love you--oh yeah, by the way
floats towards my face, bursts
and soapy slobber stings my eyes

i am an accessory for her
padded drawers lined with faux velvet
she made me buy for her
burgundy because it sounded
like wine & gold toe rings
to fill the cavern where her heart could be

our coexistence is a lie
this concho belt, not the one she thought
she had me pay for
it is all i can do to not clash & contrast
midnight blue broomstick skirt she wears today

i make her look fat & sallow
my look sadly Santa Fe when she desires Scottsdale or
my eggs boldly scrambled to her order of poached
my counterpart, an eight pound squash blossom
purchased with a warm ball of Santa Domingo bread
on the side last fair

i keep track of when she puts me on
and wonder if i compliment tight wrangler paint-ons
tucked into acid-washed, pre-distressed
leather that will never hold sweet
horse manure perfume


pace my cage
by t. zoEy benally

varnished earth ribbon between piles
great value, create your own, fast acting
freedom, fluffier biscuits, & pleasure promises purchased
feels friction, my daily march, no change in guard

linear clay pot polished by a lithe pebble
picked from the river fringe, reflects moonlight
it winds between things bestowed
in lieu of time, genuine interaction

items to ease guilt that shadows privilege
static echo that whispers reminders
metric tons of trash, stolen land
starving children, ozone layer hole

bars are out, but bullet proof Plexiglas is in
memory molecules blend, invisible haze
paper scraps, old report cards, important articles
pleasant smile on a clay cat's lips
i might need this some day

ancestor fitness passed through genes
slightly turned eye, able to transform empty into full
twist bread ties into tools in milliseconds
has made me wrong for this zoo

my escape plans are flawed
all fluffy cloud devoid of rain
my rude prison stares me in the face
fur has matted & eyes soon cease to blink


yesterday's rain
by t. zoEy benally

aluminum skies freckled
sprinkled with poppy seeds
seven crows leap frog east

palms break surface tension
whorls, archs & loops
carried by currents

dust particles plump with rain
remember gravity & plummet
succulent smooch on her cheek

earth softens & allows earthworm tunnels
satiated winds curl fragrant coffee & blossoms
brown & pink swirled around & over me

i step carefully over orange extension
lines drawn across my path
cross at puddle isthmus
dodge diesel tire spray
eighteen wheels lumber through our clean town


"The pamphlet is not the way."
(R.E. Skaggs, 032604, 16:56)
by t. zoEy benally

What's wrong with you?
You need to be educated.

I am here to save you from yourself
with pamphlet panaceas
of plethoric proportions.

Bequeath & bestow my superior thoughts & knowledge
unto you & your backwards existence.
Once you know, you'll change.


cranberry filled photoalbums
by t. zoEy benally

when he opens his eyes
she is his first thought
they share coffee, stir in sugar & cream ideas

he listens for her voice, low murmur
hot waxy bees
sticky with sleep, sing sweet honey

they watch movies
share popcorn paper bags
sprinkled with salt, hold the butter

later alone they re-watch
DVDs, and they are together
again, hands brush at the popcorn well

she sleeps, he listens & enjoys
the even rhythm of her breath
refrigerator cycles on, cools cartons of milk

he watches lint glide down warm sunbeams
picks up the paper
scans black letter march across the thin rough page


shoe gum
by t. zoEy benally

“Do you throw your gum
out the window?” he implores
“Uuh—No. I usually swallow.”
I stammer, unsure of his motive

Double agent spy vs spy
Search for secrets linked
to missing lynx
cage bar vacation to unknown faces

He never spoils parking lot walkscapes
casual flick of greyed-pink
Frees them back to the wild
far from all cemented trails

Hot pink mottled clay
imbedded in canyons
sandstone wind sheers
hard plastic tread corners
gum belongs on the highway


morning songs
by t. zoEy benally

birds chirp at 5AM, the first to recognize new days
specialized vision allows them to see infrared colors of fruit
and initial photons that skitter over the horizon
they position themselves strategically in treetops
prepare us for E -equals-M-C-squared, before it shatters sleepy skies
lyrically ease us into a new day, stiff line dried levis wait in the corner


no plans on coming back
by t. zoEy benally

every stride takes me further away
gravel catches on the toe of my shoe
rolls helplessly under sneaker tread
flying forward, thrown back
small crashes and crunches can be heard
by drooling dogs for miles around

though i retrace my steps, i am doubling distance between us
on hard sand i leave only a dim shadow
faint whisper that i had passed through
deep sand gently cradles the wedge left by my toes
dreamily let go with air currents
evidence released for crow interpretation

i never look back, because i know you will not follow
climb hills, run down valleys
skirt shattered beer bottles
fractured brown glass planes reach up for some change
sneak up on unsuspecting prairie dogs
they whirl around and hurl themselves down their burrows
inefficient past, educe a stronger future


sugar cubes
by t. zoEy benally

decades had passed
since i had heard those songs
i could feel the uneasiness
wrap it's dessicated fingers
around my throat

would it be a semi with jaundiced eyes
slamming into fruit trees in my orchard?
collective outrage of several thousand leaves
then almost ripe fruit pummelling to earth
angry fists, then plum colored skin

but when he put it in
and she sang those angular chords
skipped up & down steps with Bo Jangles
it was none of those things
spring winds and discovery by fresh ears
made it new again
leaving me to wonder
in which box, in which closet
does it all hide?


one word: orchid
by t. zoEy benally

her lithe body craned
over all the little plants
gathered around to hear her speak

she was the new kid in school
she could feel her words
stick in the back of her throat
a peanut butter sandwich with too little jam


welcome back, we’ve missed you!
by t. zoEy benally

lanky stands of last summer’s grass
languorously lean with their elbows
balanced on imaginary bars and counter tops
itch to recount tales, chronicles sung
occurrences transpired
since my last visit to these parts

juice story morsels, drip golden honey
tumble from smorgasbord platters overfilled
mad rush to be the first to spill
fill my ears with narratives
first hand accounts of actual sightings

furious fingers loop & cast yarns deftly
knit & purl events till a cozy information scarf
snakes forth from the grass

they crowd the path, tall, thin, yellow
occasionally tug at my pants
“don’t forget to tell her…”
“remember the time…”
chatter & jabber pile
until all i hear is a continuous hiss
which follows me the entire journey & back


nimble rain
by t. zoEy benally

her sweet perfume nimbus
melts into air, announces her arrival
ambrosia wetness softens keen borders
of his desert skin, non-slick lizard leather
desiccated crazy quilt of pentagons, triangles
octagon edge ravines filled with sand & mites

female rain glides in, shushes starlight chatter
nimble swishy satin skirts of rain
dance over mesas, absorb into distressed bark
arroyos fill & clay comes to life
squeezes between fingers, toes
slides over arms, legs & shoulders
clay chunks take refuge in comfortable curves
quiet spot behind the knee


no retreat
by t. zoEy benally

we will not retreat into shells of fear
that scientists have defined as ours
we will not soften & bend our bones
a shape already represented deep inside our ears

no--we will not give up mobility & freedom
become blame warehouses
nor will we don acid green tunics of shame

we will not hang our sister
pinned by the ears to vinyl coated clotheslines
deflected dip explained by algebra

we have smelled this coffee
brewed seven mornings
and seven mornings again

throw open the windows
blood sucking parasites make easy fuel
for ultraviolet, non-violent rays


by t. zoEy benally

she sees starlight
for the first time
“THAT!” she says
points a small, slender finger
up into ten o’clock skies

eyes and mind unsullied
by Barbie, Mother Goose,
and goddess Stewart
she receives waves sent from suns
light years before she was born

she first heard leathery whispers
from golden leaves hooked to trees
what secret message caught her
three month ear & was absorbed
by her blossom mind?

her natural mind collects ancient details
acknowledges original prayer drone
reverberated through cosmos
keys mercifully left
on the banks of this dark ocean
our manufactured world


darning socks
by t. zoEy benally

many items can be mended
welded back together
provided there exists
sufficient technology, tenacity
and a lemon drop twist of luck

rejoining a soul
bridge between supernatural & mortal
fuses sharp fractures, rock CRACKS
belts that bond rock molecules dangle
tangle in the wind
NO—not mere superglue
to keep time continuance only adjacent
but actual earth diamond creation forces
to recapture this millisecond
at this longitude, latitude, elevation
triangulated instant in time are required

other processes are simpler
water remixes readily
gregarious energy spins
grease the iron skillets of sundry interactions
interpretations of relationships

reconnection of two halves
of a heart is never quite as successful
difference being the profusion of mini-universes
solar system circles overlapping
thought droplets of water waves lap out
heat applied would fry all organisms


balloons, rocks & cigarettes
by t. zoEy benally

eleven hours a day just isn't enough
his slow march from east to west
sparkling arch through nitrogen, oxygen
gaseous fields on earth's margins
it just isn't enough

but how do you change the sun?
perhaps an organism more diabolical?
perhaps a creature more integral to the ecosystem?
perhaps if i were actually a planet?
shoot! i just need my own magnetic field

i hear there are places, though
where the sun shines, rubs fingers
of heat over earth and her children
24 hours a day
Alaska is what i heard whispered
from pine to juniper to greasewood
to sagebrush to me

so i let it all go
rubbed static sticky on balloons released
to make their way back to where their contents
are no longer lighter
wrapped it in cigarettes and gave them out
to transients under I17 and Peoria
lit and smoked, dissipate into ambient air
placed it on rocks and skipped them across the Rio Grande

i let it all go
to be the fittest, to survive
spores and seedlings released to fly wild
surf a jet stream around the world
hurled up through troposphere to stratosphere
i blow kisses to nimbostratus


concrete cracks
by t. zoEy benally

how many rubberized soles
densely packed polymer molecules
rubbed raw on ash rock squares?

aerial view of asteroid craters
crinkled and crunched rock bits
granite smashed by chain gangs

constant canyons
miniscule except to ants
fine element striations mark the eons

plate tectonics playground
slow-mo sumo earth giants
smash & push one up and over