TONGUES

Ninety-six years ago today
Women gained the right to vote.
It would be another five
before those who preceded
the lot of us were blessed with citizenship,
the least we could offer, after
our prior gifts of disease,
alcoholism and down sizing.
Who, our forebears must have imagined,
wouldn’t want to live somewhere
they had a reservation in their name
we had given them, their land
taken with their language,
no longer useful in our shared world.
The King of France allowed
only the Jews to be moneylenders,
reserved space in each town for us as well,
for which we are still told
we should be thankful, but
you have no idea how to say so in Navajo.

MIND THE GAP

The difference between love
and lust is as thin as the blade
of a fine razor, as broad as
the Rio Grande Canyon outside Taos,
so how can you tell one from the other?
Some will say it is an impossible task
others will take the “I know it when
I see it” route leading nowhere.
There is no easy answer, certainly,
but those who have tasted love
will tell you the difference is
monumental and elemental.
I have wanted a woman deeply,
cared for her, missed her in her absence
but when my love, my lover, is
not here I am incomplete, and
that is an abyss into which I dread falling.

ANCESTORS

He clearly remembers standing on the edge
peering down into the almost bottomless canyon,
listening to the narrow river slide across the rocks
thrown down by its walls over millennia.
He was a visitor here, knew he would stay
only briefly, then leave, his spirit hiding
among the rocks in the nearby mountains,
staring down on the mesa for eternity.
He remembers listening for coyote, begging
the wily one to tell him the tales of its ancestors
with whom he will soon share this canyon.
All he hears is the wail of the jackrabbit,
coyote’s message in a foreign voice,
as night engulfs the mesa and he
stares up at the galaxies and stars
which barely notice the small orb
hanging in the distant sky.

LONE STAR

The oddest thing about Texas
isn’t that nothing is
really bigger, other than
the imaginations and wishes
of those who have spent far
too much time there, no,
the oddest thing is that
we outsiders actually look
to see if things are bigger.
Well that and the fact
that the locals can so easily
get into our heads and have us
doing things we would never
even think of doing at home.
Bigger, indeed, and yet I look
and glancing down, wonder
why in the world I
am now wearing Tony Lama boots.

OF THEE I SING

My ancestors stole your tongue
and left you mute in a world
you could not grasp.
                                           Now
as I search for words of forgiveness
I can find none, for my voice
is clogged with foreign phrases
that once told of your ancestors
who lived amid these rocks.
We schooled you, stealing
your spirit, which whispers to us
as the sun climbs slowly
over the great stone set deep
into the endless desert.
When the wind comes down
from the north, it sings a song
which cuts through our coats
and deeply into our bones.
There is no one who will claim us
when we are plundered for display
in some museum, no one to sing
a blessing to ward off the spirits
that will haunt us into the next life.
The ghosts of your people walk
among us and we can, at last,
hear their whispered entreaties
carried on the wind
deep into the canyon.