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About this poet

Natalie Diaz was born in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California. She received her BA and MFA from Old Dominion University. She is the author of When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press, 2012). She is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Award, Princeton Hodder Fellowship, a PEN/Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship, and in 2018 was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. She is enrolled in the Gila River Indian Tribe. She teaches at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, where she directs the Fort Mojave Language Recovery Program. 

Why I Don’t Mention Flowers When Conversations with My Brother Reach Uncomfortable Silences

Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing
flowers home.
         —
Wisława Szymborska

In the Kashmir mountains,
my brother shot many men,
blew skulls from brown skins,
dyed white desert sand crimson.

What is there to say to a man
who has traversed such a world,
whose hands and eyes have
betrayed him?

Were there flowers there? I asked.

This is what he told me:

In a village, many men
wrapped a woman in a sheet.
She didn't struggle.
Her bare feet dragged in the dirt.

They laid her in the road
and stoned her.

The first man was her father.
He threw two stones in a row.
Her brother had filled his pockets
with stones on the way there.

The crowd was a hive
of disturbed bees. The volley
of stones against her body
drowned out her moans.

Blood burst through the sheet
like a patch of violets,
a hundred roses in bloom.

Copyright © 2012 by Natalie Diaz. From When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press, 2012). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Copyright © 2012 by Natalie Diaz. From When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press, 2012). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz was born in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California. She is the author of When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press). In 2018, she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. 

by this poet

poem

My river was once unseparated. Was Colorado. Red-
fast flood. Able to take

       anything it could wet—in a wild rush—

                                 all the way to Mexico.

Now it is shattered by fifteen dams
over one-thousand four-hundred and fifty miles,

pipes and pumps

poem
He sat cross-legged, weeping on the steps
when Mom unlocked and opened the front door.
     O God, he said, O God.
           He wants to kill me, Mom.

When Mom unlocked and opened the front door
at 3 a.m., she was in her nightgown, Dad was asleep.
     He wants to kill me, he told her
poem

I have gazed the black flower blooming
her animal eye. Gacela oscura. Negra llorona.

Along the clayen banks I follow her-astonished,
gathering grief’s petals she lets fall like horns.

Why not now go toward the things I love?

Like Jacob’s angel, I touched the garnet of her wrist,
and