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Winter 1999, Volume 16.2


Luci Tapahonso   photo of Luci Tapahonso.

Luci Tapahanso is a member of the Dine` Nation (Navajo) of New Mexico and is an associate professor of English at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.  She is the author of six books including
Blue Horses Rush In: Poems and Stories published by the University of Arizona, which was awarded the 1998 Award for Best Poetry from the Mountains and Plain's Booksellers Association.  Professor Tapahonso's work has appeared in many print and media productions both in the U.S. and abroad.


The Canyon was Serene

Tonight as the bright moon fills the bed, I am certain I can’t rise
and face the dawn. These dreams of Chinle and the mountains urge me to drive
back to the rez. My family knows why I left. But my husband’s gentle horses
must wonder where he went. Since it happened, there has been no way to weave
this loneliness and the quiet nights into that calm state called beauty.
Hzh. Maybe it doesn’t exist. These days it makes me sad and jealous

that some Navajos really live by hzhj. Yes, I am jealous
of how the old ways actually work for them. They wake, rise,
and pray each morning knowing they are blessed. For me, the beauty
way is abstract most of the time. At dawn, I rush out and drive
to work, instead of saying a praying outside. They say we should weave
these ancient ways into our daily lives. Do you remember the horses

his mother gave at our wedding? They’re traditional people, and brought horses
to my family. Such strong and exquisite animals. We heard people were jealous,
but we dismissed it. Back then, I rode horses for hours, and used to weave
until sunset each day. Once we went camping in Canyon De Chelly. The moonrise
was so bright, we could see tiny birds in the brush. The four-wheel drive
got stuck in the sand, and two guys helped push it out. That night the beauty

of the old canyon, the moon, and the surprise rescue proved that the beauty
the elders speak of, does exist. Late that night a small herd of wild horses
came to our camp. They circled and sniffed the worn-out four-wheel drive.
It smelled of gas and sweat. The canyon was serene. It’s easy to be jealous
of the people who live there. How much more substantial the sunrise
blessings seem there. During those summers not long ago, it was easy to weave

that story and many others like it into my rugs. Back then I used to weave
and pray, weave and sing. The rhythm of the batten comb meant that beauty
was taking form. Nights like that and his low laughter made my rugs rise
evenly in warm delicate designs. Once I wove the colors of his horses
into a saddle blanket. He teased me and said my brother was jealous
because I had not made him one. Sometimes memories of his riding songs drive

me to tears. Whatever happened to that saddle blanket? Once on a drive
to Albuquerque, the long, red mesas and smooth cliffs showed me how to weave
them into a rug. I was so happy. Here I was sometimes frustrated and jealous
of older weavers who seem to live and breathe designs. I learned that beauty
can’t be forced. It comes on its own. It’s like the silky sheen of horses
on cool summer mornings. It’s like the small breezes; the sway and rise 

of an appaloosa’s back. Back then, we drove the sheep home in the pure beauty 
of Chinle valley twilight. Will I ever weave like that again? Our fine horses 
and tender love caused jealousy. He’s gone. From his grave, my tears rise.


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