Let There Be Coal


A father hands a sledgehammer to two boys outside Window Rock.
The older goes first, rams a rail spike into the core, it sparks—

                                      no light comes, just dust cloud,

The boys load the coal. Inside them, a generator station opens its eye.
A father sips coal slurry from a Styrofoam cup, careful not to burn.


in two

tracks rise
when Drunktown 
kneels to the east


Spider Woman cries her stories coiled in warp and wool. The rug now hung
in a San Francisco or Swedish hotel.

We bring in the coal that dyes our hands black not like ash
but like the thing that makes a black sheep black.


This is a retelling of the creation story where Navajo people journeyed four worlds
and God declared, "Let there be coal." Some Navajo people say there are actually
five worlds.

                                                                                                 Some say six.

A boy busting up coal in Window Rock asks his dad, “When do we leave for 
the next one?”
His dad sits his coffee down to hit the boy. “Coal doesn't bust itself.”


Barely-morning pink curtains
drape an open window. Roaches scatter,

the letter t vibrating in cottonwoods.
His hair horsetail and snakeweed.

I siphon doubt from his throat
for the buffalograss.

Seep willow antler press against
the memory of the first man I saw naked.

His tongue a mosquito whispering
its name a hymn on mesquite,

my cheek. The things we see the other do
collapse words into yucca bone.

The Navajo word for eye
hardens into the word for war.

Anthropocene: A Dictionary

definitions provided by the Navajo–English Dictionary by Leon Wall & William Morgan

dibé bighan: sheep corral 

juniper beams caught charcoal in the late summer morning
night still pooled in hoof prints; deer panicked run from water 

ooljéé’ biná’adinídíín: moonlight

perched above the town drowned in orange and streetlamp
the road back home dips with the earth
                                                                    shines black in the sirens 

bit’a’ :  its sails or—its wing (s)

           driving through the mountain pass
                       dólii, mountain bluebird, swings out—
           from swollen branches
I never see those anymore, someone says 

diyóół        : wind (

                         wind (more of it) more wind as in (to come up)
                         plastic bags driftwood the fence line 


            :             evening—somewhere northward fire 
                                       twists around the shrublands; 
                               sky dipped in smoke—twilight 

        —there is a word for this, 
                                                    someone says 

                                        :           deidííłid, they burned it  
                                        :           kódeiilyaa, we did this

Eating Wild Carrots with My Brothers on the Mesa

cicada wane
water and sun race every infinite evening
fall exists for the dock root to oxalate
each roof of every mouth
            each winter with its obsessed wind
                        each spring that sees storm after storm
                                                    each wild that wilds

pasqueflowers open their palms to straight rain