The following poem comes to us from Dennis Tom, Navajo, and for those unfamiliar with types of poetry we'll point out that it's a sestina -- an originally-Italian poetic form that hs challened many a poet over the years. The sestina is structured around six words -- the six lines in each of the first six stanzas end with the same words, in a different order each time. The seventh stanza is three lines long, with each line containing two of the poem's central words. Writing a sestina that makes any sense isn't easy; writing one that is actually good is harder still.
It is calm and quiet here on the rez The wind is cold Yet there is plenty of clean air The grass is fresh and green The morning summer skies are turquoise blue The sky is clear and open
The door to my hogan is open The sun is rising on the horizon of the rez The water near the corral is blue And cold Colored with a hint of green A sense of peace is in the air
The pappus dances in the early morning air Wild, free and open Sage green There’s nothing like being on the rez The air that rushes into your lungs is crisp and cold A 1975 Chevy truck is parked outside painted blue
The paint use to be Navy blue The tires are no longer filled with air It sits there alone in the cold The doors are unlocked and the driver’s side remains open For the past 34 years it has been parked and silent here on the rez The crack that runs across the windshield is a thin line of green
A rough blanket covers the seat completely in Army green On the floorboard is an enamel coffee cup still vibrant white and blue Reminders that my father lived here on the rez He breathed this same air His heart pure and wide and open He never complained about the cold
Perhaps that is why I like walking in the cold The wisdom he shared is planted in my mind ever growing tall and green My mind remains clear and open My father gave me a bracelet made of silver and stones of blue I inhale long and deep this ancient clean Navajo air This is my home on the rez
This land is wide and open and has seen its share of winter cold I grew up here on the rez and climbed in hundreds of tree tall and green I now drink from the enamel blue coffee cup and breathe that same air