Moths circle the kerosene lamp
on the floor that
sheds a dim light on our night work.
My cousin and I keep carding the wooly clumps.
Twigs and dirt that clung to the sheep
from their wanderings among sagebrush and thistle
drop into our laps.
We card and card to transform them
into layers of soft clouds for Nalí’s spindle.
Iich’ąhii says Nalí, almost in a whisper,
like she was afraid to stir the name,
like the name might release something formed from night.
Iich’ąhii, the word flutters
in the shadows and cautions
against all that is unbalanced in the Glittering World,
the reckless, the violators, the amoral,
evil floating all around
that must be righted with songs and prayers.
Baa’hádzid! She exclaims, no longer whispering.
Harsh caution against a suicidal jump into the fire.
I would learn what it means to yearn
for the fire burning in a stranger, the coup de foudre,
that matched my own moth madness.
Nalí’s spindle tilts, like the earth’s axis,
she places against her thigh
as she transforms clouds of wool
into layers upon layers of streaks
for her canvas that becomes her world.
She calls the earth and sky;
She calls stories of female mountains;
She calls stories of male mountains;
She calls geometric designs to her
to balance the world against
the moth madness.
Baa’hádzid–used to denote something fearful
Copyright © 2020 by Laura Tohe. This poem was first printed in The Massachusetts Review, Vol. 61, No. 4 (Winter 2020). Used with the permission of the author.