A Song of a Navajo Weaver

For ages long, my people have been 
     Dwellers in this land;
For ages viewed these mountains,
     Loved these mesas and these sands,
That stretch afar and glisten,
     Glimmering in the sun
As it lights the mighty canons
     Ere the weary day is done.
Shall I, a patient dweller in this
     Land of fair blue skies,
Tell something of their story while
     My shuttle swiftly flies?
As I weave I’ll trace their journey,
     Devious, rough and wandering,
Ere they reached the silent region
     Where the night stars seem to sing.
When the myriads of them glitter
     Over peak and desert waste,
Crossing which the silent runner and
     The gaunt of co-yo-tees haste.
Shall I weave the zig-zag pathway
     Whence the sacred fire was born;
And interweave the symbol of the God
     Who brought the corn—
Of the Rain-god whose fierce anger
     Was appeased by sacred meal,
And the trust that my brave people
     In him evermore shall feel?
All this perhaps I might weave
     As the woof goes to and fro,
Wafting as my shuttle passes,
     Humble hopes, and joys and care,
Weaving closely, weaving slowly,
     While I watch the pattern grow;
Showing something of my life:
     To the Spirit God a prayer.
Grateful that he brought my people
     To the land of silence vast
Taught them arts of peace and ended
     All their wanderings of the past.
Deftly now I trace the figures,
     This of joy and that of woe;
And I leave an open gate-way
     For the Dau to come and go.

Related Poems

The Caravan

The city’s neon embers
stripe the asphalt’s blank page
where this story pens itself nightly;
where ghosts weave their oily hair
into his belt of ice,
dress him in pleated shadows
and lay him fetal
on the icy concrete—
the afterbirth of sirens glistening over him.

We drain our headlights
on his scraped forehead
and watch the December moon
two-step across his waxen eyes;
his mouth’s shallow pond—
          a reflecting pool
          where his sobs leak into my collar.

One more, just one more, he whispers,
as he thaws back into the shape of nihitstilí
bruised knees thorning against his chest.

We steal away,
our wheels moan
through sleet and ash.

Death places second, third,
and fourth behind us.

At home on the Reservation:
Father sifts dried cedar leaves
over glowing embers,
Mother, hovering
above cellphone light, awaits:
          He’s okay,
          never went out,
          watched a movie instead.

But tonight,
my speech has knives
that quiver at the ellipses
of neon Budweiser signs
blinking through the fogged windshield,
and I text:
          I’ve only rescued a sliver of him,
          he’s only twenty-five
          and he smells like blood and piss,
          his turquoise bracelet snatched for pawn,
          by the same ghost who traded his jacket
          for a robe of snow and ice,
          before inviting him
          back into the Caravan
                    for one more, just one more.