Skip to content →

Cloud Watching

Betsy Ross needled hot stars to Mr. Washington’s bedspread—

they weren’t hers to give. So, when the cavalry came,

we ate their horses. Then, unfortunately, our bellies were filled

with bullet holes.

Pack the suitcases with white cans of corned beef—

when we leave, our hunger will go with us,

following behind, a dog with ribs like a harp.

Blue gourds glow and rattle like a two-man band:

Hotchkiss on backup vocals and Gatling on drums.

The rhythm is set by our boys dancing the warpath—

the meth 3-step. Grandmothers dance their legs off—

who now will teach us to stand?

We carry dimming lamps like god cages—

they help us to see that it is dark. In the dark our hands

pretend to pray but really make love.

Soon we’ll give birth to fists—they’ll open up

black eyes and split grins—we’ll all cry out.

History has chapped lips, unkissable lips—

he gave me a coral necklace that shines bright as a chokehold.

He gives and gives—census names given to Mojaves:

George and Martha Washington, Abraham Lincoln,

Robin Hood, Rip Van Winkle.

Loot bag ghosts float fatly in dark museum corners—

I see my grandfather’s flutes and rabbit sticks in their guts.

About the beautiful dresses emptied of breasts…

they were nothing compared to the emptied bodies.

Splintering cradleboards sing bone lullabies—

they hush the mention of half-breed babies buried or left on riverbanks.

When you ask about officers who chased our screaming women

into the arrowweeds, they only hum.

A tongue will wrestle its mouth to death and lose—

language is a cemetery.

Tribal dentists light lab-coat pyres in memoriam of lost molars—

our cavities are larger than HUD houses.

Some Indians’ wisdom teeth never stop growing back in—

we were made to bite back—

until we learn to bite first.

from When My Brother Was an AztecFind it in the library

Copyright © 2012 Natalie Diaz
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Published in Natalie Diaz Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.