SOMETHING SHE THINKS BUT WOULD NEVER SAY OUT LOUD
Sometimes she feels like a refugee in her own skin.
Like a Ute Indian for example, driven out in the name of God.
same as blood to his veins.
same as thoughts to his mind.
Ute sweating in the thick mountain sun, riding a Spanish pony.
The pony under him, a river.
Rain down the Ute’s buffalo skin, like sap down the flashing legs of the pony,
right into the San Juan River.
Sun rises, drying the Ute and his pony, drying their red clay tracks. Water up through warming riverside sand,
past heart-shaped cottonwood leaves,
crosses the sky which holds God, ta-koop-ah,
who once carried the chosen ones like sticks in His bag,
returns as rain
rushes down the San Juan River
into the throat of a white man, down his throat like a race
he would just as well shoot a Ute as understand him.
heathens, pagans (righteous indignation better words than greed)
Her brain was like a tribe
Here was her brain’s tribe:
A green haired tarot reader, older than money
the tarot reader would flip cards phhhllliiip and say things entirely unrelated to the
queen of pentacles or the world
buckets of leaves:
“don’t trust the hessians”
“light is like menace”
“ships fleeing, fleets flying”
Spiderwebs that held raindrops like diamonds under the sun
fences, shiny and metal and decaying and wooden
cups of all sorts, long green cups, fat gray cups with scalloped patterns, yellow cups, cups made of
cloth, cups made from maps, cups that had floated from far-away, cups inside other cups, cups
clouds and ferns
or reedy flute-type instruments separated from anyone’s lips
also circuses, their acrobats and midgets
hearts of cities, hearts shaped from office buildings and specks of bus tires
and hot dog vender’s voices
truth in another dialect
(some voices have never been heard – here was one)
And trees and dogs and red-purple flowers with seven petals
There was an ark, but no Noah.
No more people. Animals, scurrying furry ones – ones not yet discovered.
A path made of river rocks full of sunlight. It led… oh, the places it led.
there was love, of course, even in her mind. grey with dark dots.
love that color, with those dots.
it was ripped from the Ute so he was left staggering. The breezes that once carried
secrets blow through the spaces left in his body (look, can’t you see him, can’t you see the sky and
the land through those spaces; through his left shoulder, for example, or just above his eyebrows);
Sometimes, it’s a wild wind, blowing hollows into other hollows, like caves into lakes, or canyonland
into the sky.
This is becoming less common.
SOMETHING SHE REMEMBERS BUT WOULD NEVER TELL ANYONE
Like when she was small and she thought God lived in a pink plastic bucket, or maybe it was that he
would eat from the bucket, so she could save scraps of French bread and pound cake and
sometimes whole cupcakes and feed God by placing everything inside.
When she showed her father he marched her upstairs, and he told her bend over the bed and he
spanked her bare bottom. She needed to learn things like respect, and what is sacred.
Do you understand?
SOMETHING SHE SEES, BUT CAN’T FULLY DESCRIBE
It seems the Utes can never retrieve themselves entirely. Parts of cars and old washing machines
and lawnmower motors stream out from their pre-fab houses like entrails from an animal with a
The Utes she saw beneath the Sleeping Ute mountain, their bottles of Colt 45 and Jack Daniels, the
desolation of their orange and parched land, giving sustenance to nothing but withered buffalo berry
Those men, seated in shredded camp chairs in semicircles in front of their paint-peeling homes,
thirsty for something more than beer and whiskey. Certainly politicians, their circles, would never
admit that Utes are half-living for want of green freedom.
But she knows; she understands.
Dear Ute people:
When I walk on the faded red leaf-morgue of your hunting grounds, I think of you.
When my ligament leg tendons fire up, scree-field high, when I scale a peak and the wind whips my
hair back like an anthem, I think of you.
When I am invited for an elk stew dinner in a multistoried lodge, and see an arrowhead in a maple
wood frame behind the couch, I think of you.
There is so much I don’t understand, the grandfather and the cannibal-eaten grandson who calls at
the end “grandfather, I have risen from the meat!”
Let me see if I get this right.
A grandfather has two grandsons.
This is a myth, an old one, and translated from a nearly extinguished tongue.
One grandson is brave, an elk-hunter.
Most Ute myths feature brave meat-obtaining young men.
Times were hard, and food was scarce. Drought always imminent like savage skin.
The other grandson is afraid. Afraid of the elk, afraid of its rangy limbs, heavy hooves. His brother
ties him up so he’ll stop spooking the elk, so he can shoot. Survival.
This is when things get shifty.
Two giant men appear. The brother disappears.
a light show
The grandfather, alerted, goes to search for the prodigal
Drags back two dead giants.
Picks meat out of the teeth of one giant.
Tells the living grandson to pull bones from the giant’s stomach.
Makes a pile,
Prodigal rises from the meat
Dear Ute tribes (The Northern Utes, the Ute Mountain Utes, and the Uintah-Ouray):
here’s what I know:
You would leave your disabled children on the mountain to die. Born under a spell you said, so left
the child under obsidian, in the sun.
You offered your enemies to your ancestors, the ants. The owl had already marked them with his
Your last shaman died 20 years ago at Tawaoc. He was po’rat, from multitudes of the same, all clay-
colored great men who dreamed beasts and swallowed sickness back through time into the
thousands of generations of cliff dwellers whose secret bricks line the mesas all the way to Mexico.
So you die, and fall ill, and no one gathers horse urine in a vial for you, no fingers to smear skunk
grease, sagebrush only lines the road to your house, behind which you’ve erected a teepee, to sleep
how do you send your dead down straight
along song lines
when the singing and
even the sky are silenced by sound
when she was a child she dreamed of flying
always sun-swept across imaginary lands
watching her mother worship the sun
embody its secrets as it entered the pores of her skin
soaked with olive oil because she’d run out of Coppertone
the girl was digging in her sandbox
sifting fine grains into different colored buckets
smelling the sharp scent of the oil
watching rivulets run across her mother’s flat belly.
beady sweat and oil desperate to combine
but by nature unable to mingle.
Something about molecules not structurally designed to bond.
The earth is always Mother.
utes, you tiptoed across your mother, light-limbed, gentle like wind
you knew wherever you went, you’d be walking on her bones, you’d be breathing in the dust from
her skin, you could never escape the dank first-known scent of her, you wouldn’t even try
when she was covered in thick drifts, you would dig a circle and whisper reminders of spring, when
she was smoldering, her leaves low-lit, you would hiss snow.
there was never despair for long, there were only circles moving slowly
now you’re perched precariously
beneath a drought-mountain shaped like a woman prone,
with her face pointed west, as if she can’t bear to look.