Sweet Juice and Other Poems


Sweet Juice

They have cut all the juniper branches
for Nidáá’ tonight, have fanned them
on the ground, built a brief house
for the ceremony—a ponderosa sliced into slats,
blue tarp for the door. But this morning it’s empty,
everything eerie until Grandmother drives up
in her pickup. Having a good run?
She swings her arms like a runner.
Stay, she says, for the singing.


But I don’t. We keep things after they’re spent:
packaging for a drill whose functions we already know,
the cardboard box that earrings came in.
After you hit your head you seemed fine,
remembered where you were, your name
and mother, your job on Monday. But then
you forgot to turn on car lights,
jumped violently when someone knocked,
snapped when your niece
spilled Coke on your couch.


Though you have filled a feeder with sweet juice,
there are no hummingbirds.
Though it’s October—year’s backbone
there is no cold, and leaves cling resolutely
to branches. In Dinétah she made it rain,
standing on a bridge, praying over Navajo Dam.
The sky turned gray, clouds thundered over
and dropped male rain.
See, she said, they hear us.


The Bow Is Rainbow

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