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A Radiant Curve

So I bought this book at a used bookstore--shout out to Half Price Books by the Tacoma mall, I fully expect that when this pandemic is over you'll be very out of business, but it was cool while it lasted. A Radiant Curve comes with a CD of audio recordings of the poems, which is a cool idea that I wasn't able to take advantage of because I don't own a CD player. It's 2021 and all the old niche media isn't available on streaming services, while I also don't have any devices for playing physical copies. The future is very stupid.

Anyway, this is a very enjoyable read, especially if you're interested in bilingual poetry and poetic structure. I admit I love the audacity of a collection that is neither purely poems nor stories but a combination of both. Tapahanso seems only barely interested in fitting into categories, which: mood.

Here's my favorite poem, which combines traditional rhythms of Dine storytelling, as exhibited in most of the other pieces, with the modern sestina form and the timeless grinding repetition of grief. Sestinas are, generally, terrible--they're circular and winding and repetitive, and not many poems benefit from that. But in this case form and meaning match perfectly.

The Canyon Was Serene

Tonight as the bright moon fills the bed, I am certain that I can't rise

and face the dawn. 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.

Hózhǫ́. Maybe it doesn't exist. These days it makes me sad and jealous.

that some Navajos really live by hózhǫ́ǫ́jí. Yes, I am jealous

of how the old ways actually work for them. They wake, rise,

and pray each morning, knowing that 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 praying outside. They say we should weave

these ancient ways into our daily lives. Do you remember the horses

his mother gave us at our wedding? Those horses

were such exquisite animals. We heard that 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, 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 weaving 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 that his brother was jealous

because I had not made him one. Often 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 the smooth cliffs showed me how to weave

them into a rug. I was so happy. Here I was sometimes frustrated and jealous

of weavers who seemed to live and breath 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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