Her Hands

Sheep by Talhela Daw of Dine College.

She herds sheep in the summer heat,
wearing her five skirts
and a scarf around her head.

In the cool mornings of the fall,
she worked hard on her weaving
to make ends meet, until the wool ran out

We go into hibernation during winter storms,
in our winter Hogan on top of the Mesa.
Fed the sheep hay, until it calmed to a stop.

In the springtime, we sheered,
and dyed the clean wool, for more rugs to come.
New baby lambs get medicated, for years to come.

How fast the seasons go by
with so much to do on such little land.

Her hands are smooth and rough,
like rusted metal in the rain.
Her heart is soft, like blue corn mush
on a Saturday morning.

Her face is lined with wrinkles,
like an old peach, but still sweet
on the inside.

One day she came home with her hair down.
Something was odd, and missing –
her hair aged with time, white and wispy,
her favorite hair pin missing, and
in her arms, a blanket formed a bulk.

She’d found a baby lamb, not far from a trail of blood,
a pack of wild dogs eating from a sheep’s corpse.
Terrified and alone, my grandma fought them off with a stick.
Now it was up to us to raise the little one.

During the night, we listen to the little lamb crying,
she cried until we couldn’t take it anymore.
Grandma held her in a blanket, soothing her wool
and shushing her until the next morning.

Making milk for lambs is nothing new to her,
during winter we took newborn lambs
in for the night, afraid of waking up to a dead new lamb.
She fed him, calling him yázhí (little one) to calm his eager tugs,
the way a mother does.

Shyrelle D. Sloan is a student at Navajo Technical University.

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