Friday, December 21, 2018

They Were Alone in the Winter

photo © Mark Butkus 2014
A poem for the first day of winter.

Each night, I braid my daughter's hair.
My fingers slip through the thick silkiness,
weaving the strands into a single black stream.

"The air feels like something will happen,"
she says. "Maybe it will snow."
The moon outside is a silver arc in the cold sky.
"In the old stories, they say the moon comes as a beautiful horse."
I tell her. From the bedroom window, we look out
                                                             at the glistening night sky.

It is outside the house: the frozen night.
It glimmers with her pleas for snow.
It glimmers in her night dreams: a fusing of music, laughter.
                                                     talk of boys and clothes.
It glimmers here in the fibers of my bed sheets,
                    there above the old roar of the Kaw River.
It glimmers in the western sky where he thinks of me and smiles.

In an old story, a woman and her daughter were alone in the winter
and the mother said, "Tomorrow, if the sun rises,
                                    it will come as many different horses."

— Luci Tapahonso

They Were Alone in the Winter is from the author's 1993 volume of poetry, Sáani Dahataat The Women Are Singing. It's back cover reads, "In this cycle of poetry and stories, Navajo writer Luci Tapahonso shares memories of her home in Shiprock, New Mexico, and of the places and people there. Through these celebrations of birth, partings, and reunions, this gifted writer displays both her love of the Navajo world and her resonant use of language."

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