the year of the seeker

the too-quiet, too-flat body of the
brown newborn lamb
corral-dust-covered
discovered
_______
smoke rising from grandmother and grandfather’s house
when i return from
pulling tarot cards in slight wind and strong sun
amongst the curve of boulders and
the black/dark of caves
_______
skirt rippling in sun-wind and
grandmother’s skirt rippling in the sun-wind
as we walk towards each other on the path
between corral and house and as we meet
she opens her mostly-bone arms to me
in the shape of a hug
_______
the best part about playing cards
and memory with bessie tonight is how we
eye-glimmer laugh
across vinyl table-clothed table
the second best part is
how we clear the table and put the dishes
in the kitchen but wait til after we play
to wash them
_______
how the cards, spread in the entrance
of a mini-cave tell me this
is the year of the seeker
_______
pot of chicken stock placed
on cast iron surface of
wood burning stove
_______
late night snacks on the mesa trish says
have nothing to do with hunger

big mountain’s revenge

on our retreat from the canyon trish notices
how the brown sheep keeps pausing to lay down
about to give birth and once she makes it
to the corral, sure enough, she lays her wooly body down
and begins grunting
_______
big mountain’s revenge baigz says when i
give him the stomach/digestion report
_______
trish and i perched on canyon’s west side
in the cool of a cloudy sky while
the flock grazes slow below
_______
we snack on salt-sweet trail mix
and she talks about attachment
styles
how intimate partnerships bring out/push on
our parental issues/dynamics the most
of any relationships
_______
baigz, trish and i counting
thirty eight corraled sheep
at the end of the day
over and over
slightly panicked unable to find
the thirty-ninth
relieved when bessie reveals the thirty-ninth
has been borrowed
_______
pre-sunset sendoff with cell phone cord tutorial
and then it is keith and i
hauling wood, hauling water, cleaning up from dinner
and then it is just me in dusk-light
busy with the business of detail-collecting and
tending to the snack-attacks by feeding them
fryless fry bread and peanut butter
fryless fry bread and cheese
forkfuls of kimchee
etc.
________
might not be my life’s calling i say
of sheep herding and the agitation
when the sheep don’t respond
by doing what we ask
_______
the hum-crackle and orange glow escaping
the unsealed edges of wood/coal stove
plus the tick-tock of living room clock
marking time in the solar-powered flourescent lamplight

small compared to the looming

we always sprinkle corn when we cross
this river for safe travels and
good luck
alton says before opening
the window
what river is it trish asks
in english he says the little colorado
but we just call it the female river

_______
when the oak leaves are yellow he says
it means the deer are fat
_______
majestic which is rarely a word i use
is all i can think upon encountering
the scale of all this gorgeousness
grand canyon style
_______
we all have different languages
but our laughter is the same
our laughter is medicine

he says while we curve back down the
spiral of the staircase of the lookout
_______
i dig my finger in the tin
to scoop out a sample of wildcrafted
sage lavender juniper salve
_______
and then there i am
small compared to the looming canyon walls
rising around me
taking in the distant tumble
of the colorado river waters
something like meeting a celebrity
you, river, who i’ve read so much about
carrying on as if i haven’t been waiting
for this moment for so much of my life
and perhaps i have crossed your path before
but now that i know, or think i know, who you are,
everything that makes you means a million times more
_______

passing through stands of ponderosa
how i want to get out of the car and press
my nose to trunk after trunk
of orange/pink tortoisey bark
_______
driving through the canyoned curves and straightaways
we are in the gold
unable to take in the panorama
i absorb the light-soaked edges of
desert road (which, at this time of day,
lasts only minutes)
something about the color
the quality of glow looks like
sheafs of wheat rising
up around us
_______
mama o’clock: stopped road-side we
take turns passing the phone around
dialing our mothers numbers as the sky dusks
and the air cools
_______
from seat to seat in the parking lot
we pass around the croissants
and layer on the queso, avo, hummus with
some sides of tyler’s kimchee
_______
we recognized those pants
tihpini (with pauletta) says
referring to the floral denim
as we path-cross outside
the tuba city grocery store
where i drop 25 cents in the machine
to receive the ring i’ve been waiting
for the desert to give me
the ring that says
i am of the universe
and the universe is of me
_______
intrepid i say to trish
that works as a knuckle tattoo
_______
“cautious” really hits on something i say
parked next to the flames raging in the stove
and say i like to contradict it
with “courageous”

________
when i’m traveling out in the world
there’s this sense, because i’m not partnered,
because people aren’t checking up on me,
that i could just blink out,
poof

i explain in the back seat

small compared to the looming

we always sprinkle corn when we cross
this river for safe travels and
good luck
alton says before opening
the window
what river is it trish asks
in english he says the little colorado
but we just call it the female river

_______
when the oak leaves are yellow he says
it means the deer are fat
_______
majestic which is rarely a word i use
is all i can think upon encountering
the scale of all this gorgeousness
grand canyon style
_______
we all have different languages
but our laughter is the same
our laughter is medicine

he says while we curve back down the
spiral of the staircase of the lookout
_______
i dig my finger in the tin
to scoop out a sample of wildcrafted
sage lavender juniper salve
_______
and then there i am
small compared to the looming canyon walls
rising around me
taking in the distant tumble
of the colorado river waters
something like meeting a celebrity
you, river, who i’ve read so much about
carrying on as if i haven’t been waiting
for this moment for so much of my life
and perhaps i have crossed your path before
but now that i know, or think i know, who you are,
everything that makes you means a million times more
_______

passing through stands of ponderosa
how i want to get out of the car and press
my nose to trunk after trunk
of orange/pink tortoisey bark
_______
driving through the canyoned curves and straightaways
we are in the gold
unable to take in the panorama
i absorb the light-soaked edges of
desert road (which, at this time of day,
lasts only minutes)
something about the color
the quality of glow looks like
sheafs of wheat rising
up around us
_______
mama o’clock: stopped road-side we
take turns passing the phone around
dialing our mothers numbers as the sky dusks
and the air cools
_______
from seat to seat in the parking lot
we pass around the croissants
and layer on the queso, avo, hummus with
some sides of tyler’s kimchee
_______
we recognized those pants
tihpini (with pauletta) says
referring to the floral denim
as we path-cross outside
the tuba city grocery store
where i drop 25 cents in the machine
to receive the ring i’ve been waiting
for the desert to give me
the ring that says
i am of the universe
and the universe is of me
_______
intrepid i say to trish
that works as a knuckle tattoo
_______
“cautious” really hits on something i say
parked next to the flames raging in the stove
and say i like to contradict it
with “courageous”

________
when i’m traveling out in the world
there’s this sense, because i’m not partnered,
because people aren’t checking up on me,
that i could just blink out,
poof

i explain in the back seat

where no two-wheel drive should go

driving off from the begay’s
means busting out the boombox speaker
and donning sequinned rainbow tigerstripe hat
and cranking some kidsize ass-shaking tunes
and stopping in the middle of the sand-dirt
middle of nowhere road
for an out-the-sunroof photo shoot
cackling our asses off and
eating square things
(cheez-its and chocolate)
in the HoTerra company vehicle
and cheering every time we
make it across a wash
(wash! we call out)
without getting stuck and
watching the mesa/canyon/sagebrush/juniper grand sky landscape
roll past as we move through it
and the brilliance and tingle of the light and
sound and the moment that is telling me i am
exactly where i need to be
and this is the only heart-dazzle i need
_______
mosquito ridge jake says first in dine
then in english when i ask him
where we’ve been
_______
rodeo queen i call trish
after we exit the two wheel drive
and jordan with the film crew
in his truck behind us
compliments her on
driving where we’ve been advised
that now 2wheeldrive should go
_______
arriving at the top of a new canyon
to the sound of chainsaws at the woodcutting party
and the swirls of woodsmoke
carried on the air
while a flurry of sun-glowed desert faces
shuffle around food and clothes to redistribute
and those in the kitchen stir and serve
taking in the conglomeration of dusty jeans,
hiking boots, dreads, handkerchiefs tied at necks
(poland style) of elders
and the shimmer in the wind of ruffled/puckered navajo skirts
_______
the gravity/sadness that
moves in about how we can’t mitosis-ize
to give support to all those that ask
_______
we are all made of water
and calcium
and all that other stuff

danny blackgoat says
at the blessing before the dinner standing
in this windblown circle of elders and supporters
and eventually we will return
to these things

which is all it takes to feel the opening
opening further
_______

few flecks of snow
camoflauged aginst dusk-ish cloud-smeared mesa sky
as we approach blacktop on the
graded red road
boulder walls rising
(shades of yellowgold sand)
to our right
_______
we tried to warn him alton says
it’s different off the reservation
_______
we used to get woken up at five
to go running and yelling
while it was still dark
and then we’d pray to both gods (sun and moon)
and mother earth and some special stars
and then we’d start the fire
alton tells us
how it was in the 70s
_______
first shower in a week and a half
letting the seven-plus days
roll off me in the steam-wamrth
followed by a cold-plunge
the blessing of this

the feast that fills the table

talcum morning moon easing itself
swollen into horizon
while sun gold gilds opposite
with its first breaks of light
and me standing out there in
sober morning mesa cold
directly in the middle of the two
_______
agitating is the word i use with baigz
across the sage brush expanse
to describe what herding sheep is like
when we are trying to get them to go
where they don’t want to go
which is what we’ve just spent a good
half hour doing
such a different experience i say
than letting them go where they want

_______
like nailing jellow to a tree baigz says later
about getting those sheep to move with us
_______
your hands are cold says alton as we greet/shake
and i say how good it is to see him
i should warm them up he says more
with his eyes/smile than he does with his words
and sandwiches my palms
small and weathered between his own
softwarm surrounding
_______
culminating some of our ongoing jokes into a single line:
HoTerra oils, featuring: grandmother’s wintergreen,
true/false blend,
outhouse,
juniper sap,
turkey grease/dishwater
and our offical HoTerra representatives:
(dish)pan (as in half goat half man)
herm/aphrodite
and medusa-zeus (or mezeusa)
_______
how alton thanks us before we eat our portions
of the feast that fills the entire table
acknowledging that we have families too
and how meaningful it is that we are here
_______
until the clouds break themselves up a bit,
cold numb fingers, cold cheeks, and
magnificent sun-cloud streaks
contrasted against unfathomable blue
_______
that full moon milton says means it’s already december
on the navajo calender

_______
how it heals
to send my voice
on the colorado plateau
wind-singing
over and over again what words i can remember
from that sinead o’conner song
thank you for hearing me
thank you for saying baby
thanks for silence with me
thank you for breaking my heart
thank you for tearing me apart
now i’ve a strong, strong heart
thank you for breaking my heart
and including my own:
thank you for playing with me
thank you for ridiculousity
thank you for possibility
thank you for dreaming with me

_______
something about walking in from the sobering cold
into the humming heat of wood stove +
so many humans in one room
and how my face blazes
and my spirit feels welcomed
by pualette, by tiphini, by alton, by patti,
by the sun coming through the windows and
the bouquet on the table and
all the kiddos who now know my name
swirling around

the name for the right here

in the seeking of names for the place we are

alton tells us colorado plateau is the name of the great plateau we are on

and black mesa is on this plateau

which still leaves me wondering

what is the name for the right here

_______

don’t get lost milton jokes while

braiding baling twine

yellow orange white together

before we depart on a propane/mail run

on roads that aren’t the kinds of roads we know

just leave some cookie crumbs along the way

_______

off-roading off the red graded main road

(that goes by the name of mosquito)

how itmakes me cackle everytime we swoop

off and on (dip down dip up)

and how i say we should be listening

to MIA’s bad girls

(my chain hits my chest

when i’m banging on the dashboard)

________

in hottevilla a sign that says

no photographs allowed,

 snacks procured: twix

and cheezits

after i find a box to 

drop stamped letters in

________

cult of personality song playing

at the rocky ridge corner store

while trish and i drift the aisles

waiting for the woman at the register whose name

we learn is rachel to not have customers

so she can lock up and come out to 

fill up our propane tank

in the middle of this day of

brittle/brutal wind

_______

squeak/rattle of the

sheet of plywood nailed like a patch

over a hole in the outhouse wall

in teh gale-force winds

and the sway of the couch

underneath me in the sturdy stonewall structure

______

something about country music

and navajo drumming

coming through on the radio

mixed with this quality of 

gold light

________

lost a sheep while out herding

because of facebook

milton says explaining someone

distracted on their phone

_______

this altitude and this time of year

and maybe the wind and how it stirs things up

reminds me of a coin toss

this time last year

that told me no

when i said yes

which meant a month later 

on a rock along the rio she told

me she was rising into

_______

i’m working on my corn badge

i say about the amount of corn kernels

i’ve de-cobbed and you get your

sheep-herding badge i tell baigz

for going out alone and in this

sand-flinging crisp wind

_______

i’m gonna go put the milk in the tree

trish says to which i laugh and to which

trish responds remember that, franks?

_______

it’s one of my most favorite things to do

i tell chewy and tone tone

talking about how long i can go in the dusk/post-sunset light

before turning a lamp on

remembering how this has been true

for a long long time

_______

first food moment

(and celebration: that i can still have these

at age 40)

roasted pinon nuts bought from the woman

who sells them out of a small cooler

at the rocky ridge store 

eaten after dark at the begays living room table

watering the canyon

feast day danny blackgoat says

while we three pause our sheep corral

poopscavation

_______

i just want to go to the canyon and write

i say and trish forcefully removes the

dollar store plastic bowl filled with

corn kernels from the cobs i’m removing them from

from my lap and says go

_______

breaking point i say about how i only got as far

as writing today’s date and then spent

the rest of the half hour crying

(watering the canyon trish calls it)

_______

i’m a scorpio i say watery, full of emotion

as baigz and i bench-perch side by side

in the morning northern arizona sun

and dry cool wind

plastic bowls collecting de-cobbed corn kernels

in our laps

_______

trish and baigs cackling out my name

at the edge of their canyon cave entrance

while sun slides closer

to horizon

_______

canyon rocks shaped like some 70s movie set

that takes place in outer space

and we rise up out of their arroyos

to meet the rising of the moon

one day away from fullness

in an un-dark sky

just as sun tangerines, exact opposite, 

and we stand in the magnficent middle

_______

tone tone and chewy

tossing clods of compressed sheep shit

into wheelbarrow

as trish, baigz and i 

cheer each point on

_______

the blessing of hauling wheelbarrows of sheepshit

isthe fresh-ish gulps of air i take in

best i can from behind the hankercheif

knotted at my neck

_______

danny blackgoat

upon his sampling of sorghum

says i’ve had this before-

a long time ago,

maybe when i was five or six

_______

you look like a ninja baigz says to me in my

poopshoveling getup (black rainpants and

black long sleeves and lavender hanky balaclava

plus white cloth wrapped around my hair under

sequin stripe rainbow hat)

as he lifts layers off earth with prybar

and trish is nearby, pickaxing the loosened parts

blaze against the dark parts

in the dream, the woman behind the counter says

she’s never seen someone go

from so quiet/shy to so animated when

she sees those pastries

and she packs my usual and all three

various gargantuan cookies/pastries 

with various colored frostings and

sugary ceral toppings which she leaves

on a counter behind the counter so i

must go back and fetch

in the next dream, lola/kurt stage a one-person protest against

 a restuarant/diner and i join them

and kurt’s dad is there but kurt was costumed

and he said it was a strange overlap

and lola was chanting/ calling out reasons for protest

but it was all so poetic and indirect that it just

confused the patrons

in the next dream, i am along a river and when i make my way

across (via bridge instead of wading) i encounter

two train-hopping musician girls who sing with me

and then send me on my way

and then there is trish setting up a new tent

which is huge and aerodynamicly shaped

with two little hammocks inside and emory

is in one and my tent, set up right next to it, 

looks miniscule and then the tents are in our room

and then i get upset about how their tent

is cutting into my space

_______

when trish reports that

grandma had a good sleep and i joke

about how she must have smelled

the wintergreen rub from two hogans over last night

_______

in the corral, grandmother hands me the cane/staff

(wooden) to snag the 10th of the 10 lambs

to set aside in the corral 

before we take the grownups out to graze

how i breathe through my mouth here

where the ground is soft with shit

instead of my nose

_______

wing-swish of something white/gray/glack speckled

(bird of prey) that i startle out of its branch perch 

as i walk past, lowering myself using all limbs

into what we call the canyon but is more like

a pasture/meadow in the wide gap left

where the mesas drop off

_______

faint but audible coyote calls rising

from the southeast

under pinkening sky

where morning stars still blaze

against the dark parts

_______

first canyon perch of teh day

cool of rough rock/boulder underneath me

and sun-heat radiating down from above

________

we call them chewy and tone-tone

milton says about his two sons

who are both the same age

for only one month

of every year

_______

dropped to my knees

in the canyon meadow sand

transcribing sing-along songs

from paper scraps to hand-sewn book

how my head fills with lyrics and their melodies

from eel river to when i was young

_______

trish and i trudging/staggering

through the brush on our way back

with the straggling sheep

on the subtle trail

one might call it waking and feeling run-down

or one might call it waking with the ache

of sad in my skull

sad in my blood
sad in my bones
and perhaps the sadness is what washes in
in the wake of a piranha dream and perhaps
the sadness is what this land finally trusts me enough
to share with me as i sleep

_______

used to be more people here

patti says as her sister and 

sisters’ kids and i follow her

on the subtle trail that eventually leads to the highway

_______

i love how this bread

(meaning fryless fry bread, special edition

meaning cooked over wood in the open flame half-barrel)

gets puffy i say

the trick is to let the dough sit for an hour jane responds

_______

six to ten miles patti says

when i ask how far she estimates

that one walks in a day with the sheep

_______

na dah’ grandmother tells me how

to say corn in diné which she follows with

how to say blue corn

red corn

yellow corn

_______

tomorrow i joke my thumbs are going to 

be this (twice) as big

commenting on the pain

from using their nails

for cob after cob

of de-kerneling

_______

eya and her folder of homework

next to me on the silver-threaded couch

where we scour the reader

for the crossword answers

_______

patti, jane, pualetta and i

lifting dried corn out of the rat/mouse snack zone

from under the tarps over the wooden tables 

in the shed, roofless and strung

with a web of yarn to keep out the crows

_______

lights out, fire humming,

we take turns sharing from across the quiet room

sweets/sours / thorns/roses and a thing

we are looking forward to

_______

middle-of-the-night o’clock 

something signals me awake

to look out the west-facing windows

and find the ripening moon

swollen near horizon

golden and setting