I’m honored that my poem “Mrs. Francis Na Kai at the Birthday Party” is included in this incredible project, celebrating one hundred years past and one hundred years future of New Mexican poetry.
After Laura Gilpin’s photograph in “The Enduring Navajo,” 1961
You dignify the rocker, your younger children
barefoot at your skirt. Pearls secure your neck.
Your daughter stands guard from behind.
Mrs. Francis Na Kai of the woven blanket. Your boy
spoke in code. 1932 you are a snapshot with him.
The anthropologist said you showed incredible
composure at a formal dinner you both attended, especially
for someone who didn’t speak a word of English.
What piñon smoke has eaten your hogan?
What boxed diorama, spectacled theater of WWII?
The red rock of your skin scorches
the photographer’s lens. Laura earned this picture.
She saved your first boy once, gave him
vaccinations. Your boy who should’ve been standing
beside his dad. Where’s he gone in this 1950 family portrait?
Your boy in whose place, an American Flag.