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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.

Blankets of Bark

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.
We were once there
holding lightning bolts
above the heads of sleeping snakes.

Woman, sister, the cave wants our skin back,
it wants to shake our legs free from salt
and untwist our hair into strands of yarn
pulled rootless from the pocket of a man
who barks when he is reminded of the setting sun.

At 5 A.M., crickets gather in the doorway,
each of them a handful of smoke,
crawling to the house of a weeping woman,
breaking rocks on the thigh of a man stretching,
ordering us to drop coins into her shadow,
saying, "There, that is where we were born."

Born with leaves under our coats,
two years of solitude,
the sky never sailed from us,
we rowed toward it,
only to find a shell,
	        a house,
		   and a weeping woman.

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

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

poem
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
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