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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.

Atlas

Tonight I draw a raven’s wing inside a circle
	measured a half second
		before it expands into a hand.
	I wrap its worn grip over our feet
		as we thrash against pine needles inside the earthen pot.

He sings an elegy for handcuffs,
	whispers its moment of silence
at the crunch of rush-hour traffic,
and speaks the dialect of a forklift,
	lifting like cedar smoke over the mesas
		acred to the furthest block.

Two headlights flare from blue dusk
	--the eyes of ravens peer at
Coyote biting his tail in the forklift,
	shaped like another reservation--
		another cancelled check.

One finger pointed at him,
that one--dishwasher,
he dies like this
	with emergency lights blinking though the creases of his ribbon shirt.

A light buzzed loud and snapped above the kitchen sink.
I didn’t notice the sting of the warning:
	Coyote scattering headlights instead of stars;
howling dogs silenced by the thought of the moon;
constellations rattling from the atmosphere of the quivering gourd.

How many Indians have stepped onto train tracks,
	hearing the hoofbeats of horses
	in the bend above the river
		rushing at them like a cluster of veins
scrawled into words on the unmade bed?

In the cave on the backside of a lie
	soldiers eye the birth of a new atlas,

one more mile, they say,
			one more mile.

Poem from Shapeshift ©2003, reprinted with permission of The University of Arizona Press.

Poem from Shapeshift ©2003, 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
Point north, north where they walk
in long blankets of curled bark,
dividing a line in the sand,
smelling like cracked shell,
desert wind, river where they left you
calling wolves from the hills,
	a list of names
growling from within the whirlwind.

Woman from the north,
lost sister who clapped at rain clouds.
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