Bending, I bow my head
And lay my hand upon
Her hair, combing, and think
How women do this for
Each other. My daughter's hair
Curls against the comb,
Wet and fragrant, orange
Parings. Her face, downcast,
Is quiet for one so young.
I take her place. Beneath
My mother's hands I feel
The braids drawn up tight
As a piano wire and singing.
Before the oven I hear
The orange coils tick
The early hour before school.
She combed her grandmother
Mathilda's hair using
A comb made out of bone.
Mathilda rocked her oak wood
Chair, her face downcast,
Intent on tearing rags
In strips to braid a cotton
Rug from bits of orange
and brown. A simple act,
Preparing hair. Something
Women do for each other,
Plaiting the generations.
"The Motion of Songs Rising" in RealAudio format
Luci Tapahonso is from the Navajo Nation, her tribal home in New Mexico, her first language Navajo. She began her schooling in the local Navajo Methodist Mission. She holds degrees from the University of New Mexico and has taught there as well as at the University of Kansas and the University of Arizona.
Her Daughter’s Eyes
Leona looked into her daughter's face
knowing they breathe the same memories, the same blood ---
dark and wet circulating
forever into time and others
who would have thought?
who would have thought ten years ago
this same woman who seemed destined
to a reckless crazy life: senseless days and
crazy nights could live so calmly?
remember? remember in 1975?
she hitched a ride with that harry tso gang
they were drinking speeding to cortez
for no reason but to get chased by the cops
she jumped out when the car stalled in a sandhill
and everyone ran
all nine of them scattered in the night
she ran -- stumbling over bushes
crushing the doorways of prairie dogs
as the 6 police cars surrounded them
running, running in the moon desert
she fell--heart pounding, breathing in the dry dirt
sweating and crying in the moon night
sour wine breath in the sand
as the yellow searchlights criss-crossed above
the moon saw her heaving with fright
bits of brush in her hair
the police left, she got up breathing heavily
when the red tail lights faded into the horizon
she started west to home
on a narrow, rough road
Leona was left alone in the summer desert
never, never again, she said
gritting her teeth.
She might have forgotten that night except that
her daughter had eyes-- dark, black, clear
like a warm summer night
around midnight or so
Leona had to tell her and she said:
Once, a long time ago, I was running
from the police late at night . . .
I know Mom . . .her dark-eyed daughter said
I was watching you for a long time and so I know.
it was a common history long before
she came upon it ten years ago.
they shared the same memories and
who would have thought that
that one night would become
her daughter's eyes?
From Seasonal Woman by Luci Tapahonso, Tooth of Time Books.
© 1982 Luci Tapahonso