The Dawn of the Navajo Woman

The Dawn of the Navajo Woman Poem By Terry Blackhawk

The Navajo medicine woman gets up early
to greet the sun. So my radio tells me
and so I stay tuned, though you already showed
the way of greeting: simply to hold
this winter the hickory nut brushed free
of snow, the plain prize beneath the season’s tree.
Perhaps it’s the way your arch fits my instep,
my instep curves over your arch, but we’ve kept
at it these years, our limbs linking and unlinking
deep
in the quilting, and still a hunger for skin, not sleep,
leads me on to you, your hand on my breast or
your calm talk of death and the ghosts of our
ancestors,
all of them gone into the crowded earth. Such
comfort and ease I can almost consider
becoming mulch
myself. Or ash. And I wonder at how a rush of
heat can
disperse into something so much bigger than I am
that it leaves me pulsing, ignoring what’s beyond,
daring to dispute the frozen ground.
The predawn sky offers an arctic green
below a blanket of flaming clouds. I try to imagine
the devotions of that Navajo woman but get
only as far
as yesterday when we detoured through a graveyard
seeking, after shopping, a more quiet crowd.
The sun dazzled us: stark trunks thrusting upward
in the polar air, a batch of mallards in a bubbled
pool and all around the bright untroubled
snow. In the granite names I read the luck and
rhythm
of even this hair’s-breadth of a life, your breath
with mine,
the branches swirling by, and the bobbing
ducks, their
emerald heads flashing a green and palpable fire.

The Dawn of the Navajo Woman

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