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