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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). His latest collection, a book-length poem, Dissolve, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in October, 2018. He is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a grant from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, and a Whiting Writers’ Award. He teaches in the low-residency MFA program in creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 

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).

by this poet

poem
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
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
There’s a way out—
walk the dirt road into cerulean dawn, 
tap the windows of cars and trucks 
rattling down highway 77 
with clear fingerprints, 
and clasp the nine eyes of the desert 
shut at the intersection of then and now. 

Ask: will this whirlwind 
connect to that one,
          making
2