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About this poet

Sherwin Bitsui is a Diné from the Navajo reservation in White Cone, Arizona, and the author of Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press, 2009) and Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press, 2003). He is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a grant from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, and a Whiting Writers’ Award.

Apparition

1.
I haven’t _________
since smoke dried to salt in the lakebed,
since crude oil dripped from his parting slogan,
the milk’s sky behind it,
birds chirping from its wig.

Strange, how they burrowed into the side of this rock.
Strange . . . to think,
they "belonged"
and stepped through the flowering of a future apparent in the rearview mirror,
visible from its orbit
around a cluster of knives in the galaxy closest to the argument.

Perhaps it was September
that did this to him,
his hostility struck the match on handblown glass,
not him,
he had nothing to do with their pulse,
when rocks swarmed over
and blew as leaves along the knife’s edge
into summer,
without even a harvest between their lies
they ignited a fire--

it reached sunlight in a matter of seconds.

2.
It is quite possible
it was the other guy
clammed inside my fist
who torched the phone book
and watched blood seep from the light socket.

Two days into leaving,
the river’s outer frond flushes worms imagined in the fire
onto the embankment of rust,
mud deep when imagination became an asterisk in the mind.

In this hue--
earth swept to the center of the eye,
pulses outward from the last acre
held to the match’s blue flame.

Mention _________,
and a thickening lump in the ozone layer
will appear as a house with its lights turned off--
radio waves tangled like antlers inside its oven,
because somewhere
in the hallway nearest thirst,
the water coursing through our clans
begins to evaporate
as it slides down our backseats--
its wilderness boiled out of our bodies.

Poem from Shapeshift, reprinted with permission of The University of Arizona Press

Poem from Shapeshift, reprinted with permission of The University of Arizona Press

Sherwin Bitsui

Sherwin Bitsui

Sherwin Bitsui is a Diné from the Navajo reservation in White Cone, Arizona, and the author of Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press, 2009) and Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press, 2003). He is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a grant from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, and a Whiting Writers’ Award.

by this poet

poem

Mother thought:
First we will run, then we will walk.
She asked, “Do we ramble when we speak in tongues?”

Her lack of supervision made this happen.

The dusk, the dawn, everything in between: a mistake.
The morning,
her aching tooth,
the shovel dulled in daylight—

poem

In a cornfield at the bottom of a sandstone canyon,
wearing the gloves of this song tightly over closed ears;
the bursting sun presses licks of flame
into our throats swelling with ghost dogs
nibbling on hands that roped off our footprints
keeping what is

poem

He was there-- before the rising action rose to meet this acre cornered by thirst, before birds swallowed bathwater and exploded in midsentence, before the nameless began sipping the blood of ravens from the sun’s knotted atlas. He was there, sleeping with one eye clamped tighter than the other, he looked, when