The Americans lined up the Navajo,
one hundred and twenty-three in all, and shot them.

There was no trench made for burial.
The crows and coyotes feasted that afternoon and night.

The Navajo did not rise up.
The songs of their distant loved ones were not so strong.

The Navajo dead lingered and watch the crows and coyotes
disperse their earthly substance.

The one who survived, rose the next morning
and walked the meandering arroyo to my home.

With visible red wounds,
she stood on my doorstep and related her story

so it would become my story as well
whether I joined the story with courage or cowardice.

After tending to her wounds and thirst
we walked the wide dry land blown clean of foot prints.

The gravity of the event drew us straight to the site.
We arrived at the end of the day when all was near shadow.

Nature cleared all signs of the massacre.
Then again, we saw in two lights.

A tree rooted in sorrow grew at the edge of the arroyo.
Its bark was the color of bone. Its roots exposed.

The tree’s leaves sparkled like stars.
There were one hundred and twenty-two.

The woman found a hollow bone with holes pecked by crows.
She picked up the bone and played it as a flute.

She blended into the shadows, the tree roots and the arroyo.
Water sprang from the sandy soil and flowed toward the sea.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


One of my pleasures in writing is creating myth or mythic images. The first draft of this poem arrived about a month ago. I had recently finished reading Blood and Thunder, by Hampton Sides. The portions of the book dealing with the Navajo were fresh in my mind.

I know the myths I create will not be long remembered, because they (most likely) will not be adopted by an entire culture and form a basis of the culture, like the Norse myths did for the peoples of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. This does not stop me from writing them for the simple pleasure of the act.

Is it fair for me to add other cultures into my myth making? That is a question I ask myself from time to time. During the act of creating the piece, I do not think about it. The poem simply comes out. Because that seems to me a very organic process, I feel the other cultures incorporated into my writing are fair. I am aware others may (and do) disagree.

Love & Light


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