Bojan Louis is a Diné poet, essayist and fiction writer. He grew up in Window Rock and Flagstaff, attended Northern Arizona University and is now a professor at Arizona State University. He says he puts pen to paper “… to remember, recover and reclaim … to reconstruct and resurrect family and ideology …” Bojan Louis has the final reading in our series Poetry Friday, honoring National Poetry Month. Here he is with “The Nature of Mortal Illness."
As a kid skeptical of pollen plumes making my skin ash, mind migraine heavy,
and nasal cavity a sanctuary for deformed crustaceans seeking terrible refuge
in a false moisture I wanted to believe this question:
are my brothers and sisters debris humming because they’re what’s left?
I’m no oceanic world, no fossilized imprint subject to excavation, but a man
sickness has left well enough. Common cold; chromosome infection; viral
ethnography; Southwestern desert lung fungus.
If there’s safety within the earth then I’ll go there. Otherwise, where do I find me?
Is it clear Gila Monsters border extinction? You endangered or enamored with this
Flint, the sacred bolt of thunder, the syringe end of lightening can turn body to ribbons,
quilt it mosaic again. Can burn a thirsty land. Can armor one against the ill world and
suffocate today’s protective notion of tomorrow.
In our history the Gila Monster might tell you, get your sickness away from me. But it’s
only to teach you to ask questions correctly, offer the necessary smoke, dispel phobia
and the impatience for curmudgeons with wandering syntax.
Lesson: if it kills you spit at it for sure, kick dirt its way. If it reminds you of your ways,
your doubts and regrets, and that shitty relative who molested you, curse it. Shake its hand,
which is the hue of your hand, with black magic
ground fine from a loved one’s bones. Remember? An agreement with death for Death?
New tract home subdivisions explode from an imploded aquifer crusted with alkaline
shaped like a brontosaurus. We’re headed there right? A studied, imagined subterranean
being/thing explicated, sited as superfund. That earth great once like a marauder/murderer
but more Billy Ray Cyrus than Prince.
When prospectors and pioneers sweated this tierra, this nahasdzáán they feared the toxic
breath and bites of damn near every living thing, see? See, this now. The earth and its things:
medicinal/panacea/antipsychotic whatever the fuck, labeled illegal unless pharmie.
As a kid, when I think of it now, I was stupid; Grunge trodden and late-blooming bony I wanted
to breathe the confidence to say nice things, to experience keggers. However, I was opposite the
decorated locker and shower room. If I possessed venom I was built over and unable to relocate. But this isn’t about high school, which doesn’t matter.
It’s burial. In tradition and home.
Beyond the urban-heat of this concrete desert on land as barren and at times hot, piles of yellow
cake decorate Dinétah like the tempting skin of Dart Frogs. Nature’s governance: protection.
When we fail our hearts the blame is inverted like ice caps for summer
a crucifix for clean water and flowers. It can’t end this way: the wind, exterminator, a great prop
plane dusting the world. A heart so un-heart it forgets itself.