11.28.2011

oneword: dim

congested skies
diphtheritic clouds
infect my sinuses with a fine film
of minuscule pebbles and river silt
deposited
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

11.27.2011

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

4.28.2011

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.

2.07.2011

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.

1.17.2011

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

1.06.2011

Sunlight

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
Happy Poem 1 of 1
(Written on 2010 1028)

Today I’m writing you a happy poem
Counter balance to… Well, you know.
Paper airplane armada expertly flung out
Flight plan that reads only - Far, Fast, and For a long time!
Engineered wings creased and dreamt into existence
By bare fingernails kept way too short

Today I want you to be there with me
Let’s forget all that… Well, you know.
Lying, backs pressed into grass
Under the hushed bowl of night
Identifying stars, small droplets of shining blood
Nimble fingers pricked by sharp needles

Today I wish would share a taste
Crave and hunger for… Well, you know.
Flaming sweet peach snapped off un-green twig ends
Leathery shocked oblong leaf swish, Pause
Gold fruit serum trickle across your palm
Dissolved sugar soaked into your sleeve
He must have super powers
(Written 2010 1006)

He must have super powers
Spandex suit tucked under
His t-shirt and jeans
Mask and secret identity
Stuffed into his back pocket
Not the one with the wallet
The other one.

He must have super powers
The power to see invisible people
Doctor Xavier with his very own Cerebro
Brainwaves amplified and honing in
On mutant brainwaves
Invisible folks picked out
Small pebbles in the tread of a shoe

He must have super powers
Or maybe he just doesn’t believe
In my powers of invisibility
Harry Potter cloaking device
But knocking stuff over and sneezing
It must have been the foot prints
In the snow that gave me away.

I tried to be still, to breathe
Quietly, evenly
But he detected.
A tremor in the force?
Infra-red thermal sensors perhaps?
Dang it! I should have covered myself
In cold mud on the way to class
Slid down rain soaked hills,
Wallowed in freezing puddles
Gnawed on handfuls of ice
So that I would be able
To back bend under radar limbo sticks
So that I would be able
To avoid detection

Perhaps he was just humoring me
Amused by my futile attempts
To impersonate furniture
Chameleon skills totally imagined
His keen powers of observation
Zeroing in on rough edges
As I tried my best to match the d├ęcor
Smiling while I closed my eyes
And told myself, “I’m invisible!”
Roadrunner & Coyote
(Written 2010 1006)

What is the name of the road runner,
The one on Looney Tunes
That one…
From Saturday morning cartoons,
Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon equivalent,
Back in the day
When NBC, CBS, and ABC
Came hopping into our homes
Through analog rabbit ears
Poking up from vacuum tube televisions
That one…
Purple head
Matching Vegas showgirl
Cabaret feathered headpiece
And flightless Tyrannosaurus rex wings
Periwinkle blue body, orange beak, and legs…
Legs that stretch out all the way
From Chicago,
Through Saint Louie,
OK-C
Amarillo
Alba-Koi-Key
(site of the ill-fated left turn)
Winslow
(site of the historic corner)
And on to Los Angeles
You know EXACTLY which road runner I’m talking about

For me the name of that road runner is “Mu”
I am Wile E. Coyote
And on my business card
Below my name
“Super Genius”
And true to cartoon physics
I am fanatical
Forever chasing the mean
Self-imposed quarantine
Typhoid Mary of
The Mother Highway
That held the hands of other coyotes
And ushered her yellow eyed offspring
Out of the Dust Bowl
Led them gritty eyed
Eyelashes and ear turns
Frosted with pulverized earth
Led them west to California
Bits and pieces abandoned
Baby dolls, mattresses, a chair here
Pots, spare tire, pans
A chair there, kerosene lamp, pawned heirloom ring
In exchange for a clean bed, slice of pie
Gallon of leaded gasoline
Hot cup of coffee, cream and sugar
In towns like Foss, Wildorado, Thoreau, Two Guns
Towns not mentioned in song
Led them to where their eyes
Would match the setting sun
And true to fanaticism
I have lost my aim
But continue to redouble efforts
In search of that elusive mean
Coated in synovial fluid
And armed to the teeth
With cheerful, Beep, Beep—ZOOM!-s

Anvils, Birdseed, Grenades, Spears
Rockets, Mouse traps, Rope
Giant magnets, Suction cups, vitamins
Sledge hammers, Giant springs
TNT, Black & White Paint for Targets
DIY Kits for Bombs, Giant Magnets
Huge Rubber-bands, Flight suits, Pulleys
How to Books, Cannons, Ammo, Wrecking Balls
All manner of swag purchased
Via US Postal Service mail
Delivered General Delivery into the desert
From A Company that Makes Everything—ACME!
Configured into elaborate Rube Goldberg devices
Exploiting the hell out of simple machines
Blue print plans drafted out on vellum in India ink
Incorporating deadly levers
Diabolical pulleys
Sinister Inclines
In the privacy of a sandstone cave

But in the end
Arms outstretched, fingers grasping
I am never allowed to catch that road runner
Legs flailing, trying to speed up
Defeated by my own ineptitude and gravity
I continually fall into the sandstone abyss
Crushed by boulders
Insignificant puff of dust
Humiliated Super Genius shaped hole
Stamped on the canyon floor
Not nearly 2 minutes
(Written 2010 0908)

Back space erase, Back space erase, Back space erase
My thumbs holding down the left lying pentagon harboring an X
Obliterating fugacious text message evidence
Before it has time to submit a request
for “real boy” status from the Blue Fairy Send
Allowing it time to effervesce
and volatilize back into unposed queries
Before it is hurled through
the ether of time and space by the lurking Send button
Before it answers yes and no questions
created by innumerable virtual realities
You’ll never know how many times
it was on the tip of my thumbs
To invite you to be my Clyde
To abandon your streak free picture window existence
For a momentary life of crime.
Spring Snowflakes
(Written 2010 0404)

I tried to catch spring snowflakes for you today
Held air in my lungs, as though not breathing
Would decrease my temperature from ninety-eight point six
And allow me to sidle up, undetected, and capture wild frozen water for you

Thunder rumbled through the skies last week, lightning flashed mute
But I still tried to catch spring snowflakes for you today
I wanted you to see, how each crystal is a unique representation
Three dimensional model of the thistle-down labyrinths of love

I tried to catch spring snowflakes for you today
But their structure proved as ephemeral as love
Melted on contact, persist only in recollection
Tiny freckles of glistening water on my skin
Blown into time by tempestuous winds
Need
(Written 2010 0220)

It’s a burgeoning sneeze
Celery stalk ribbons sprouting
Serious series of square knots
Crowned by a leaf flurry
Tickling turbinate scrolls
It’s a long overdue stretch
Gargoyles crouched and arched
Liberated—finally—from
Imposed gape sentence
Do you EVER need to fall in love?

It’s the sticky, thick requisite
for soothing, placid water
glittering into your mouth
and shimmering down your throat
and curling into your belly.
It’s melatonin sedated squirrels
Time traveling from fall to spring
Third eye sensitized
and scanning for light
Do you ever NEED to fall in love?

Some days, I need to hear a new song
Your favorite song, even if it’s not
the type of music that I usually listen to.
I want to know why it makes you sing while you drive
Let that song’s beat and energy convince
my muscles that the only recourse is dance!
Throw open windows in blistering, stagnant rooms
Fancy the clatter and clamor of extraordinary winds
Some days *I* need to fall in love.

Lean back onto the grass, picnic table, sandstone
Ten o’clock PM, swathed in sable
Crisp splinters of ancient light
Star fires ignited, crystal torches blaze
Illuminate eternal space.
Systematically tag and name points together
Puzzle and decipher constellations
of wishes and dreams.
Do YOU ever need to fall in love?

Poised on praying mantis legs
Anticipation clicking across nerve nodes
Will it be a slight finger brush? Hands colliding? Arms tangled?
Increased gravity as distance between celestial objects decreases
Marshmallow spontaneous combustion
Forgotten too long over campfire embers
Disoriented by intricate iris patterns and distinctive eye color
Or perhaps it will simply be a deviation from an embrace
Slight pause incited by tantalizing friction
Opposition of smooth and rough
Resulting in an abrupt oblique turn...
Do YOU ever CRAVE the thrill of discovery?

Some days, I need to wake up
Snuggled up to oceans, dew on my eyelashes
Strong arms draped across, wrapped around
Sheets stripped of fevers by glaciers
Some days, I need to wake up
With one leg thrown over mountains
Ear pressed up to the earth
Listening to the heart beat of volcanoes
Some days--I NEED to fall in love.
Four days of sunshine during an Inland Northwest winter
(Written by a Navajo, born and raised in 320 day Southwest sunshine)
(Originally written 2009 1227)

The sun crawls over the horizon
Claws slowly forward, muddy earth sticking under its nails
Tangy window reflections on the opposite building
Fill and brighten with voluminous light
The sun clears the horizon & launches itself into this sky that I now call mine
My sky that has decided for the fourth day that it is blue and not shrouded pensive grey
For the fourth day I will go out and spend my day with the sun

The first day I thought it was a fluke
—full sunshine and sky unblemished by suppurative clouds
The morning had started out with a choking fog
I ran four miles, each step hitting pavement, Vitamin D, Vitamin D, Vitamin D
I periodically checked to see if the sun was indeed there, and not just a desert rat hallucination
Scanned the horizon for migrating or accumulating clouds — pessimist
Admired shadows with pressed edges dropped by skeleton trees and bushes
Stared, mesmerized by migrating water fowl organized in mammoth arrowheads
I felt a moment of panic when the exhaust from the physical plant obscured the light

The stars were clear and bright against blue-violet sky the second morning
I watched them fade as the sky bleached white
I concentrated on the eastern horizon, watched the band turn yellow, then gold, then orange
Then the widening grin of sun, first orange, then gold, then yellow, then white
I ran four miles again, but this time with my child, and this time a different direction
I allowed myself to enjoy the sun this time, to not worry about its departure
I admired the snow and ice melted by the sun’s heat
We took pictures, tourists relishing the sun

Yesterday, the third day of sunshine, I watched a patch of sky fringed by tree branch tips
Started with sparkling stars and stoic planets nestled in cobalt skies
Blanched white, then eventually settled back down to the characteristic sky blue
I ran six miles alone, and flirted with the sun the entire way
Winds kicked up and blew ice crystals onto my hair
The ice was not melted on this northwest side of the hill
I’m not sure if it amused or worried the sun to watch me slip and slide down the incline
Full sunlight on the south side glinted off the ice on my eyelashes and momentarily blinded me