like amateurs

is that going in the details?
trish asks about my breakfast desert dessert
(a small puddle of
sandhill maple syrup
on plastic flower-print plate
sopped up with
grandmother’s navajo bread
cheese ration check in and the
for our very definite dec 23rd train ticket departure
neverending joke
keith jokes about me
tying my boots for
20 minutes
after i’ve slipped my feet into them
at 9 when grandmother announces
that we’ll go out at 9:30 instead

what are you going to do
for new year’s keith asks
fly to another state
and herd sheep?

we really looked like amateurs out there
i tell trish regarding our encounter with
alton (grandmother’s son)
who ran into us
and the crowd of
stubborn thirsty sheep milling about
after that trying last hour
with sheep who found no water
and how refused to listen
i suggest a power-up
(which trish doesn’t really get / like)
and then we do the rocketship, the turkey, the snail
followed by a plain old hi-five
outside the sheep pen


perched at grandmother’s side
near the stove i show her the pages
of the mesa mini
pointing to the drawings
and saying what they are
in english eventhough
she doesn’t understand
the colors/lines translate
i’m really going to make
dessert quesadillas tonight
trish says gonna turn on that propane
and do it right


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frost-covered everything

finally a sunrise

(after cloudy mornings)
orange strip of horizon sky and
quarter moon bright in the
blue-blueing above


frost-covered everything
while sparkling glow under
small moon and later
the frost remains
in patches
where juniper trees cast shadow
i hand off a spangly horse-stickered letter
addressed to arroyo seco
as the trifecta take off for
their chapter meeting
in the still-frosty morning


mesa spa i joke
me plucking eyebrows in morning sun
while trish washes her face
in the kitchen plastic basinet

i think my hiking boots and i
i say are making peace with each other


beard photoshoot (with real sheep wool)
on location (on the mesa)
picking fluffy pup up
into my arms and discovering
he weighs as much as a cat
teaching him to lap-sit in the sun he
is a quick learner


how i gasp when i find
the mountain (two striped triangles that look like peaks)


trish laughing as i prod the sheep along
saying the buffet is closed!
and asks if we should
herd cattle next year
when i offer to wash the dishes
grandmother shoos me away
and gestures to go rest/sit

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when we release ourselves

keith tells us that
hot mama and waylon jennings
slept together when waylon played tuba city
in 1975
which makes us laugh as much as
the first mention of hot mama did

all-day wool-cleaning fest
which means when we
release ourselves into the canyons
on a getting-our-yaya’s out adventure
that’s exactly what we do
(bono and cypress-hill style)

after sunset
trish takes desert dessert
to a new level
(rice hexx, grandmother’s nutella, triple spice mix,
peanut butter)
and we devour
the too sweet snack too quickly

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snow for sky

in the dream,
liana and meg day
are interchangeable
l/m is performing
in the san diego women’s (gay) chorus
at some sprawl of a church
that provides beds/recliners
so the elderly can attend and still
be comfortable
(fluffy white comforters
and bedside lamps
reminiscent of
an ikea flor)
and paula’s there too, only she’s
not drssed in the glittery showchoir numbers
because she’s not a paying member
of the chorus
and the landlord has hired out
a backhoe and is digging
an enormous trench around the premesis
and though we have to vacate (pack and move)
in 48 hours, when liana asks
if i want to slumber party
i say yes
giving myself a half-day to
pack all my stuff and get rid of
all my furniture
a lightness
coating the ground
sun not yet casting light
from my just-awakening
couch perch
i guess snow
instead of over
a propane stove burner this morning
grandmother cooks the frybread
on a mesh rack
over the open flame
in the woodstove
its glow on on the curve of her cheeks
keith asks at breakfast
where we bought the vegenaise
due to everyone’s
delectable enjoyment
of the condiment
fireside, grandmother lowering
poofs of hand-cleaned brown wool
into a bucket of stove-heated water
with soap
in this low-visibility (snow for sky) we
take the sheep south
towards the edge of the mesa where
on a clear day
on can see san francisco’s
snow-covered peak

the hum, something like a highway
we’ve never heard before
where the mesa ends
and the other great open space
we”ll never know trish says
due to low visibility
rest/shelter under
juniper bush/tree
which drips
on waterproof layers and
unfolded pages
the swish-swish of trish and i’s
rainpants all afternoon
across the mesa
sips of warm miso
from silver thermos
while snow flakes make
a slight sound landing on raincoat
it’s the first time i swore out there i tell trish
pink-faced upon return
(goddamnit! in response to
my mud-collecting
ten-pound [each] boot feet)
because we’re outlaws i say to trish
at the stove-side perch while
eating my desert quesadilla dessert
(frybread in coconut oil
chocolate chips and triple spice mix
melting inside)

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wash your hair

there’s a lot of names in tuba city
keith says, listing a few:
black widow
navajo jesus
20dollar woman
hot mama grandmother of sparse english chimes in
and trish and i and grandmother
laugh so hard
our eyes shine
orange flameglow on
grandmother’s face while she
slides the top of the living room stove
over and drops
a hunk of coal in
lightning keith says the people
who do the lightning ceremony
don’t eat chicken
just like you
trish’s wild rice pilaf and
grandmother’s frybread for lunch
and grandmother’s frybread
for second lunch
warm and puffysoft in our hands
heard through the window
from inside to out
radiosound: have a holly jolly christmas
it’s the best time of the year
pasted into the expanse of
all that desert wind and silence
two tutorials
in water siphoning
from the 55gallon blue barrels
into 5gallon buckets
first under the dusty dawn sky
with grandmother
second with grandfather
and a 2″ diameter hose
from barrel in truckbed to barrel alongside the house
each time a matter of trial
trish and i laughing at each
wash your hair demand/request
first from keith
then from grandmother
pointing at me
across the table
we grab handfulls of wool
while seated along woodstove
plucking burrs, thorns and other deserty dried vegetation
from scraggly strands
shaking sand into the garbage
first stop-by in the days i’ve been here:
white pick-up, dogs barking and the red-hatted
man anouncing himself from
the hopi land comission
and the word relocation is
discernable (because there is no word
for this in diné)
chomping a bite off
juniper tree just like
the sheep do
for a texture (surprisingly tender)
and taste (expectedly strong) experience
to see what it might be like
for the sheep

near/far foreverness

6:40something a.m.
the moon is small
but still bright enough to cast a shadow
(as evidenced by my
first journey of the day
to the outhouse)


horse-hobble is today’s word
in diné on morning radio
through fm crackle
morning sun filling quart jars
(of missouri corn relish and sauerkraut)
on breakfast table
with desert light

oh where oh where can my
baby be keith starts singing
the lord took her away from me
trish and i reply


paused on desert dust/dirt
plucking cactus spine
from puppy paw
something about this

all the space
this canyon is made of
expanse enough
to hold presence/stories/histories
of a new us
sweeping stretch of what was once sea
(and still resembles it = without water)
how it allows for sitting
and taking in light, texture, sound, sand, wind, sky, near/far foreverness


winter sport trish names
the cologne-like smell
of the chemical cleaner
emanating from the dust-cleared house
so strongly that i can smell it
outside when one simply opens the door
to enter


they were kindof in lines trish says
of the sheep, once they’ve returned to their pen
making them easy to count

left to our lunch/dinner preparations ourselves
trish prepares frybread quesadillas
(with onions and garlic that are not cooked softly enough
for those without upper teeth to eat)
we soak in the glory of
sauteed vegetable flavor


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mud/sand foreverland

lumbersome trish asks
if that’s a word as we
make our way on the
curve-smooth stones
around the canyon
towards a view of
the snow-capped
san francisco peak

trish on the couch next to mine
giggling out loud
to the book lamb – the gospel
according to biff, christ’s childhood pal
while keith chews on frybread and
teases: you two could live in that trailer
as he gestures out the
west-facing window


today we head south
through mud/sand foreverland
along boulder/rock formation lined canyons
that one looks like a muffin
i say pointing westish to the brown/gold/red poof
rising off the ridge


moving out of sight on
swift hooves
what are they doing
trish asks about the
herd of 38 who’ve broken
into a run towards the patches
of water
(yesterday’s snow
sunmelted in blonde canyon-rock divits)

these dogs i say of the
red fox-looking one and the
five sheepdog creatures
make me like dogs

since i already have two i say
i think each day (we’re out sheep-herding)
i’ll take selfies with a new dog

baking soda trish asks grandmother
about the poofiest frybread yet
baking soda shi mahsahnah responds

in the last lick of light
keith and i at the
blue water barrels
(55 gallon, plastic)
where he shows me
his siphoning technique as we
fill the 5-gallon buckets
that serve as the kitchen faucet

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navajo cheese

you can just tear off a piece
trish leans in to say
from her seat next to me
about the frybread
at the breakfast table
grandfather (shi che) at the head and
grandmother (shi mahsahnah) across from us
just before they sample the
sandhill sauerkraut
(the me inside me jumping
around with excitement saying
i grew that cabbage!
trish fermented it!
we made that!)
with blackened gloves
i carry coal hunks
shining and dense
(sun’s energy condensed)
from bin to building_______
one time we took the train
to mexico city
keith says
first class
there were people with their goats
and he laughs and i laugh and he laughs and i laugh
(how our not-quite-howls
feed the other’s)

trish and i flanking
shi mahsahnah at her
stove-side perch while we
the carding of wool
and the laughter that carries across language
at our many efforts

they’re all for you i joke
about the half-plate of
peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal cookies
trish and i made


navajo cheese keith jokes
peeling off a slice of
orange american from the stack
the table of us laughing and
grandmother repeats
navajo cheese


the moment sun drops
between cloud and horizon
arizona big sky
dipped in gold
blue/gray storm brewing
to the south


i can see your glittering
rhinestoneish self shining
from here and
it is glorious


gratitude for the perfect warmth
wool cashmere
last minute


on the floor after dusk
mucho macho and barbara
8-minute abbing
en español
we take turns counting off
in our best monster truck
(sunday sunday sunday!)
radio commercial voice

galloping across the openness

bands of orange-red pink
layed across eastern horizon
as seen through four-paned window
joseph lifting out
coals (some still glowing)
from last nights fire
before starting up
this morning’s
the pat-pat of grandmother (something like shi masahnah in diné)
‘s hands forming frybread
in the kitchen while emory
peels potatoes
mucho macho and barbara
reunite complete
with costume change
(floral jeans [which supplies laughter
for a good portion of the day] for barb
and much-mach in all black)
five sheepdogs and a sixth that looks
like a red fox tearing off
across the mesa in hot pursuit
of a jackrabbit
glinting coats of wild
horses in the not-so-distant distance
first standing watch
than galloping across the openness

sound of sheepbells
cling-clang ringing
carried by desert wind
shimmer of silver
windmill to the
north marking water
where sheep stop for a drink
every other day

trish talks about the sound
of crunching that surrounds us
(sheep teeth meet juniper branches and berries,
sage and dry yellow grasses)
neither of us ceasing to be
amazed at what these
creatures sustain themselves on

soup and silence sometimes
punctuated with english
or diné

in the duskysunset
heavy/light with the exhuastion
of a day of desert wind
and evil hiking boots
i’m starting to feel the sadness (of leaving)
i tell trish
kindof crumpling
on the floor next to the heat
of the humming woodstove
in lantern light
we decide
who’s on water duty tomorrow morning
and who’s on fire
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black mesa-bound

dear readers, comrades, friends, lovers, humans…

i am headed to do support work through black mesa indigenous support at black mesa, arizona.
by support, i mean mostly herding sheep, chopping wood, cooking food, etc, to support the eldest of dineh elders while they resist forced relocations and ravaging of their homes/land/sacred places by peabody coal.

here’s a related article about it that was recently sent my way. and here is an old but still relevant film (though it is long, even just the first 10 minutes are worthwhile and informative).

i will be off the grid until december 25thish or so, but will be with  you in sun and spirit.