Archives for posts with tag: Navajo

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NIGHT TRAVEL
by Esther Belin

I.
I like to travel to L.A. by myself
My trips to the crowded smoggy polluted by brown
indigenous and immigrant haze are healing.
I travel from one pollution to another.
Being urban I return to where I came from
My mother
survives in L.A.
Now for over forty years.

I drive to L.A. in the darkness of the day
on the road before CHP
one with the dark
driving my black truck
invisible on my journey home.

The dark roads take me back to my childhood
riding in the camper of daddy’s truck headed home.
My brother, sister and I would be put to sleep in the camper
and sometime in the darkness of the day
daddy would clime into the cab with mom carrying a thermos full of coffee and some Pendleton blankets
And they would pray
before daddy started the truck
for journey mercies.

Often I’d rise from my lullaby sleep and stare into the darkness of the road
the long darkness empty of cars
Glowy from daddy’s headlights and lonesome from Hank Williams’ deep and twangy voice singing of cold nights and cheatin’ hearts.
About an hour from Flagstaff
the sun would greet us
and the harsh light would break the darkness
and we’d be hungry from travel and for being almost home.

II.
I know the darkness of the roads
endless into the glowy path before me
lit by the moon high above and the heat rising from my truck’s engine.
The humming from tires whisper mile after mile
endless alongside roadside of fields shadowy from glow.

I know the darkness of the roads
It swims through my veins
dark like my skin
and silenced like a battered wife.
I know the darkness of the roads
It floods my liver
pollutes my breath
yet I still witness the white dawning.
***
“Night Travel” appears in Esther Belin’s collection From the Belly of My Beauty (University of Arizona Press, 1999).

EsterBelin

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A Diné (Navajo) multimedia artist and writer, Esther Belin grew up in Los Angeles, California. She is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of California, Berkeley. Her poetry collection, From the Belly of My Beauty (1999), won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Belin’s parents were relocated from the Southwest in the 1950s as part of the federal Indian relocation policy, and her work reflects the experience of a Native American living in urban Los Angeles. She often addresses the attempts to assimilate Native Americans into mainstream American culture, as well as larger themes of racism, alienation, and substance abuse. Belin lives in Durango, Colorado, with her husband and children.

PHOTO: “Los Angeles Smog” by Benjamin Amstutz, ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

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CANYON DE CHELLY
by Simon J. Ortiz

Lie on your back on stone
the stone carved to fit
the shape of yourself.
Who made it like this,
knowing that I would be along
in a million years and look
at the sky being blue forever?

My son is near me. He sits
and turns on his butt
and crawls over to stones,
picks one up and holds it,
and then puts it in his mouth.
The taste of stone.
What is it but stone,
the earth in your mouth.
You, son, are tasting forever.

We walk to the edge of a cliff
and look down into the canyon.
On this side, we cannot see
the bottom cliffedge but looking
further out, we see fields,
sand furrows, cottonwoods.
In winter, they are softly gray,
The cliffs’ shadows are distant,
hundreds of feet below;
we cannot see our own shadows,
The wind moves softly into us,
My son laughs with the wind;
he gasps and laughs.

We find gray root, old wood,
so old, with curious twists
in it, curving back into curves,
juniper, pinon, or something
with hard, red berries in spring.
You taste them, and they are sweet
and bitter, the berries a delicacy
for bluejays. The plant rooted
fragilely in a sandy place
by a canyon wall, the sun bathing
shiny, pointed leaves.
My son touches the root carefully,
aware of its ancient quality.
He lays his soft, small fingers on it
and looks at me for information.
I tell him: wood, an old root,
and around it, the earth, ourselves.

NOTE: Canyon de Chelly National Monument was established on April 1, 1931 as a unit of the National Park Service. It is located in northeastern Arizona within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation. Reflecting one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America, it preserves ruins of the early indigenous tribes that lived in the area, including the Ancient Pueblo Peoples (also called Anasazi) and Navajo. The monument covers 83,840 acres and encompasses the floors and rims of the three major canyons: de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument. These canyons were cut by streams with headwaters in the Chuska mountains just to the east of the monument. None of the land is federally owned. In 2009, Canyon de Chelly National Monument was recognized as one of the most-visited national monuments in the United States. (SOURCE: wikipedia.org.)

PHOTO: “Canyon de Chelly” by Ansel Adams (1941)