Refugees in Our Own Land

The night is busy with the growth of stars.  Above us peaceful.  Shiyáázh, my son, fusses in his cradleboard.  The protective rainbow shaped by his father arches over his face to protect him.  In the dark sand below Monster Slayer’s archenemy rises again to pull us off this rock where we’ve taken refuge since winter’s approach.

The wind stops.  Clouds drift across the moon.  We pull water silently from below near the soldier’s feet.  Silence is our cover.  I pull my son close and place my hand on my baby’s cheek to quiet him.  “Shhh, shee’awéé’, shiyázhí, shhh.”  Hush, baby, my beloved, hush.  With my finger I circle the pulse just above his ear.  He makes tiny lapping sounds with his mouth and turns toward my breast for the comfort of my milk.  But my breast is a sieve from which the enemy drinks.  I am dry.

These hands that mixed bread dough for the evening meal, that planted corn and gathered pollen from the tender shoots.  These hands held my husband’s kisses and caressed my baby’s soft bones as he grew inside me.  We sailed the river that led us to the ocean of all beginnings.  The night cries like an owl.  My beloved son’s eyes are full of stars.  A drowning breath in his throat.  Take this map of rainbows and fly, fly, child.

Copyright © 2004–05 by Laura Tohe. This poem was first printed in Ploughshares, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Winter 2004–05). Used with the permission of the author.