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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.

Earth

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—
all digging fire from shallowing rivers.

 

Translated into English from Diné by the poet.

 

Nahasdzáán

 

Amá yaa nitséskees:
Ałtse’ ałghaadiit’aash aado hazhóó’ógo yiit’ash doo.
“T’áá’ádzaagóósh yaadeeltí ahił hwilne’ó?” nihiłné.

Aadóó nihigi’deezį´į´’ígó `ahóót’įįd,
`i`ii`ą´  hayííłką´
t’áá `ał sto’ bita’ doo yá’á’hót’ééh da,
abíní biwoo’naaniigá’
jį´į´go  łeezh bee hahalkaadi doo deení’igíí bik’i’dindíín łéh,
t’áá `ałtso
tó áłchį´į´dígó niló˛ó˛ yits’ą´ą´doo’ko˛`hadéézką´’.

 

From Shapeshift by Sherwin Bitsui. © 2003 Sherwin Bitsui. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press.

From Shapeshift by Sherwin Bitsui. © 2003 Sherwin Bitsui. Reprinted by 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
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
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

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