birth of this poet
by t. zoEy benally

1998, i was rear-ended by a pumpkin volvo 1977, counter-clockwise into a ditch
smeared bumper, mangled long bed, broken back window and the new
driver side rear tire of our brown 1979-80-82 Ford F-150 shredded
temporal lobe traumatized, neuron chaos ensued

day after morning, anonymous to myself, no one, a stranger
human being in a bed, regarding window frame silhouette
creep up pastel plastered wall, no previous shadow memories to compare
placid sheets, Speed Queen bouquets, stretch muscles, turn over and back to sleep

sepia film strips played, projected to the screen at optic nerve end
chronicled yesterday activities of three females, 28, 15, and 2
it started at 4AM with a metal trailer door knock, we boarded the brown truck
in Bayfield there was that doe, risked her life, leapt in front, third messenger

a bird in Beclabito was messenger two, ogling me from long, high windows
Red Valley coyote, messenger numero uno, ignored for my friend Lewis
one last chat, only jolts of nitroglycerin kept his striated cardiac muscles sliding
vessels relaxed so blood gush pumped from chamber to chamber continues

film cropped, edited to the final fourth warning, two vehicle slammed together
loud clap of fiberglass, metal on Colfax and Pearl, pause then scurry away
reflector crumbs left behind, crop to three females in a brown truck--LOST
parked at a payphone, buying a liter of orange juice for the toddler in carseat

the film ends here, broken, reel spins, film fish tail, slaps, flaps, flicks
melon hollow whack of my skull, no head rest engineered to cradle
bone on metal, grey matter on bone, capillaries burst, neuron arms
and fingers stretch, mozzarella, until they reach snapping point

math super powers lost, my new identity as a mere mortal more apparent
with each reopening of my eyelids, no longer able to recognize number faces
the taste, touch and smell of numbers eliminated, memorization impossible
and in it's place, repeated verses, droned, keep me awake until i download
scribble verses on a paper scrap, receipt, with a cheap Bic pen, eyes covered by dark

deals with the devil, make me fly
take these ridiculous, futuristic, wooden wings
wings that make me crash & yearn for lightness
give me wings of metallic vapor
flailing through the atmosphere
ruddy face, germless gut, fuming at the mouth


plants, mines and me
by t. zoEy benally

nineteen-sixty-one, only one of my best friends was born
but she was too young to attend, not connected enough
to receive an invitation to the ground breaking, spray painted gold
shovels pushed into sandy earth with hogback looming across the river
wonder which politicians pushed that spade with their cowboy boot?
promised jobs, money to help us evolve to the 5th world

i remember in Kindergarten, 1975, remember at career day
i snuck away from the nurse and secretary exhibits long enough to hear
secrets told to the boys about scrubbers & bag houses to clean clouds
whiten steam billowed out of tall black stacks, hidden ships
trying to wend their way away from Navajos, coffers packed with coal
carefully dug from around graves, silent protesters ignored

she lived at east low rent, was able to afford tiled floors, sidewalks
a roof that didn't leak, she had no weeds to pull, squash bugs to pick
from the undersides of large dark triangular leaves, eggs to smash
i have to admit i never saw her push-start her family's vehicle, and
she always had nice shoes, never had to patch with tire patches
sole holes, her dad worked at the power plant, an electrician maybe

i'm not sure when it started, but it would wash away with strong rains
then gradually would build up again, stretch it's scrawny fingers
across the skies, fondle the southern skies, rub the western horizon
drum finger tips north to Ute Mountain, dangle it's dirty nails above the sunrise
my uncle said that the beautiful pink sunsets were actually a by-product
resulted from polluted air rising up from the deceptively pure emissions

i took my hard hat the first time i visited, not really a tour, a survey
part of my job, look at the water, 0.05 microns of conductivity, so empty
they had to add catfish water back in for humans to drink, and avoid cell lysis
those clouds were still white, but black soot rained down, flooded,
covered faces, shoulders, sidewalks that i walked across, i inhaled a good
lungful of fine dark particles, stolen coal burned making it's way back to me