The Place Where White Skies Are Formed

After Ofelia Zepeda
I
When my mother was a little girl, she told me the snow rose high
and above Hooghan walls. She wandered in the maze of snow as
helicopters fluttered above.
When my father was a little boy, he told me his inebriated father
once threw him out into the
freezing snow.
I went tubing before, and my robust cousin rolled over me and
buried me in the snow.
On one occasion, I slept at Christine Saffell’s house of Eagar,
Arizona, a Diné Anglo, who
invited me into her home because the snow was wise and
fierce that night. She informed me she was Diné ever
since she had been nineteen years old. She showed me a
photograph of herself, wearing her traditional outfit,
poised on a beautiful horse.
I took a class in Show Low once. I wanted to stay there and linger
in the winter pines of Apache land.
Tóshchíín, oatmeal, tasted sweeter when KTNN announced, “no
school, etcetera.”
My father kicked me out once, into the evening snow,
a history of “breaking the ice.” I never doubted the snow
anyway.
I could have perished into the deep white, and she
would have accepted me.
My English teacher, Ms. Holt, saved
my life that night.
I listen to the way the snow falls, a seduction to my ears.
I am content with how the snow is able to numb my body completely,
fickle.
Smoke from burning wood discerns of strong odor.
Press of snow makes a compromising sound.
Perseverance, inspiration, succeeds, ever
in the minute designs, of luminous,
clean, fresh, revitalizing,
snow.

* * *

Tonight,
I was reminded of fog and mist,
and it
was inviting.

* * *

II
She encircles and emits
ice-cool tones of Saturn’s halo,
travels with the comet’s tail, infusing azures.
Her foreshadower hovers over San Francisco Peaks,
morning skylines,
Flagstaff, San Francisco, swallowing the cities.
An avalanche, she descends,
in pursuit, irritated.
She is creative,
dressing landscapes in brilliant monotones,
her intention, peaceful and ubiquitous.

“She tells him of the place where white skies are formed.”
Coyote is joyful, traipsing in her emptiness.
She watches over the shoe game,
whispers hibernation,
so children can play lively, sprightly.
She allows spider webs to be mimicked,
stringed temporary shapes,
complements backdrop of Yé’iibicheiis, motioning movements.
She respects, does not invade,
homes, cozy,
to be disdained of ashy residue.
She bites harshly,
she is the epitome of white.
* * *
III
A cold night,
mother and son are traveling,
this pallid light.
Ahí, fog, begins to descend,
ahí.
Seven years old, the son recalls the journey,
on Highway 41,
everywhere, whiteness.
Sense of snow is part of him.
Welcome the prelude,
of intense, zestful vapor,
settle deeply, then melt,
a grand soaking of the lungs.
Sound asleep, she tells him in a dream,

“We meet again, my little one,
snow is coming,
nightly it will fall,
beautiful it will fall,
whitely it falls,
it is coming, my little one,
snow,
it is coming…”
* * *
First,
waltzing flake is reborn,
spiraling below.
Between thin space,
tin, ice, falls into his warm cheek.
The son weary and does not notice.
Silk road between Blue Gap and Whippoorwill,
remains silent, patient.
Effervescing shower commences.
The mother forgets and wakes her child.
He should have expected the unveiling.
Not having witnessed the first, he weeps, sad.
His mother tells him,
“Don’t cry, this snow shower is indefinite.”
The mother does not understand.
She does not know the snow like he does.
His tears fall, soundless, undisturbed.
This night, rubber wheels fall prey, to slick ice.
An eddying, delicate snowflake,
car is set off, spinning,
quickly, impulsive, timeless, in the quiet of night.
The mother begins panting heavily,
“This is supposed to be a front-wheel drive! This is supposed to be
a front-wheel drive!”
Instrument, beholden to thickness spins,
exquisitely, intentionally,
triple axels across untouched ice beneath.
The son bursts with laughter,
reassured, reaffirmed.
All the while his mother, still panting,
holding his chest in place, trying to catch hold of the steer.
Slowly, the car calms down, parallel with the road.
The mother settles down, regaining her breath.
The son continues, laughing profusely.
She slaps him lightly, to the back of the head,
“You do not laugh, for no apparent reason!”
“It is not funny!”
The son laughs because he knows the snow,
to be cold, twisted,
intuitive, empathetic, and unreasonable.
“See, mother,
it does not do, without purpose.
Snow does not fall, without purpose.”
She pulls him closely, kisses him on the forehead, and tells him,
“don’t be a smart-ass.”
Together, they sit in the snow,
laughing, breathing, panting.
* * *
Wolves run free, in distant forests,
howling at the moon,
a soft complexion in shadowy night.Tonight,
This night,
I am reminded,
of fog, mist, snow
and they,
are,
all,
inviting.
* * *CLAUDELL MARTIN TACHEENEClaudell Martin Tacheene (Diné) is Kinyaa’1anii (Towering House People) and was born for Ta’neesz2hnii (Tangle People Clan). His maternal grandfather’s clan is T0tsohnii (Big Water People). His paternal grandfather’s clan is N1t’oh Dine’4 T1chii’nii (Tobacco Clan of Red- Running-Into-the-Water People). He is originally from Tsii’aa[ (Pillow Hill), AZ, near Low Mountain.

When he wrote this poem, he was a sophomore at Diné College, majoring in Liberal Arts, and he would like to continue his education to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He thanks his mom and dad for their prayers, and his sisters, brothers and friends for their support. He also thanks Orlando White, who taught him a lot about literature and creative writing and also brought visiting writers to Diné College. He also wants to thank Mr. OJ Vecenti for editing parts written in Navajo. Ahéhee’!

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