(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
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.
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