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For Chanell
(feast day for ohkay owingeh)

Poems by Char Tourtillott

Sunlight does not tickle—  she stings,

Sunlight does not sing— she shrieks.


Bending steel backwards and unraveling cottonwood bark.


                        Rays carving in your neck

            will scar brittle folds of skin.



You’ve never had the taste of home cooked red chile stew.

This is first.

It burns the walls of your throat.

You dip earth oven baked bread into your bowl //  grease juices absorbed // press against the roof of your mouth.

New drums — // familiar but not really, tell a story.

Dancers in the plaza // swift; they cradle dreams.

You finish the bowl and wipe it clean with bread.

 The silence breaks with a friend's gleam.



Grandmothers bake under high sun,

beams do not gnaw into flesh;

                        they are equals.

Children parade with dyed teeth

and crisp braids—


the sun is soft

with her babies.


And vendors display visions

for purchase—

 accepting the sting

from noontime golds.


Belly full of red chile and fresh bread.

A fattened heart

 to combust and paint the earth.

Run fingers over shaded lines of teardrop,  //

press  //  imprint.

You decide that these will shatter swift currents //  tickle spine //

and absorb honey prayers.

CharT Image.jpg

Earring no.8

 I scrape my nails against memory wall // the artery explodes — then scabs —


Sour liquid trickles from eyelids // a human carved from copper in a world that prefers gold


Splice my hair with ribbons like them ancient ones // and rub blackberry thorns against my gums to feel home


I stored childhood inside my spine so it doesn’t rust // dowse it into a bucket of maple so it will crystallize instead


Remembering the breath of my kokoh // sacred tessellations in the undergrowth are also her


Cutting quill shaped quartz on my teeth // the blood memory spills and burns scarlet in the sky

Char Tourtillott is from the Menominee Indian Reservation located in Northeastern Wisconsin, where she spent her youth in the fields of Middle Village and inside her mother’s garage. Char began school at the Institute of American Indian Arts in 2016 and majors in Creative Writing with an emphasis in fiction. She graduates in May 2022. She resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her sister.
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