The Sandpainting


“They find joy in motion, which transforms their lives into unending odysseys. Their souls are brightly burning streaks of light across the universe—constantly traveling in an endless dance across space and time.” – Zita Steele

We are two chums in the high desert, out near the dump, near the dragon!  We are here to paint the sand to seal our destiny, and to travel far away, on this long dark night. On this long dark night.

From the center out, we brushed our way through, colors of the earth and sun, with our own different hues. A painting under constellations that gave us clues. While first man talked, first woman brought us through, to the other side, on this long dark night. On this long dark night.

One by one we turn to two, dark filled Ravens by a cobalt blue, folding dragons our wings non flew, an ark from heaven, my friend me and you. Desert stories while young men sleep. We paint the colored sand from deep, to deep, drawing lines between our times, closing out the devil and the evil eye, on this long dark night. On this long dark night. Bended shoulders to what may come, the better we are, when we count as a sum, first the planet and then the sun, drawing a labyrinth where we may run. When time has ended and the world has stopped, we will step through the doorway, where our painting plots. To a new galaxy, a different moon. We will draw our new lives to escape our doom, while there is still time, and the sand is cold, on this long dark night. On this long dark night.

The mesa vultures, and the scorpions too, came and surrounded us while we drew. All dead creatures of things to come from the twenty-first century, when time is done. Dark angels, and soulless men, depraved demons in the craft of sin. All the past and the future too, hovered nearby but could not come through. Our seal of lines, on this long dark night. On this long dark night. First the pollen and then the corn meal, the San Juan sand, and the gypsum to heal, the universe of layers within us we seal in a turquoise bind. His brown eyes open, mine open too, we chant then we sing of the bridge on through, to the other side. To the other side. Boys translucent to the dead of night, a new moon existent, it will be all right, on this long dark night. On this long dark night.

From the center out, we brushed our way through, colors of the earth and sun, with our own different hues. A painting under constellations that gave us clues. While first man talked, first woman brought us through to the other side, on this long dark night. On this long dark night.

We are two chums in the high desert, out near the dump, near the dragon!  We are here to paint the sand to seal our destiny, and to travel far away, on this long dark night. On this long dark night. – 10.18.2020 – דָנִיֵּאל

Nenahnezad (Navajo Moon)


When I was a child, I saw as a child, all things beautiful all life bright. Colors, especially at night, those moving shapes like dancers under the high desert rite, and there was no dark valley, in that world where a boy dwelled, laying in darkness, where the moon fell, listening to voices, at last for you I’ll tell….

Under the spells of the harvest in September, it could be October too, the smell of sand waiting for winter, the tide of the sky rolls out the moon. And see there a boy that looks kind of awkward, that wishes he lived what he knew, walking outside his house in the desert, the reservation around him so new. And spirits they fly in ever endeavor from up off the river to bring him clues, to inhabit his soul and tell him to look up at the Navajo moon. He walks on into the night of November, colder frost from mesa’s in view, if his parents knew he was wandering out in the darkness what would they do? What should they do?  A car with lights it comes gliding so slowly, down the dirt road, rolling by, its faces in view, dancers their faces reeling, for some sing of healing, their faces painted, they do what they do. They leave that boy alone by the pathway, that road, that leads straight up to the moon.

December’s a dream, and on into winter, it could be he’s crazy, but what should he do. Walking around the school, and the playground, at Nenahnezad under the moon. That Navajo moon.  And time and again when he’s going solo, out on the dirt road, the desert in view, he hears a car, driving so slowly, right by his elbow what should he do. Those yeibichai fellows, ghostly eyes staring, silent in wisdom, drive by, and disappear into the hue.

When I was a child, I saw as a child, all things beautiful all life bright. Colors, especially at night, those moving shapes like dancers under the high desert rite, and there was no dark valley, in that world where a boy dwelled, laying in darkness, where the moon fell, listening to voices, at last for you I’ll tell….

Over a period of five months in the fall and winter of 1969 and 1970, near Nenahnezad, New Mexico, I saw on three different occasions the same dark blue car full of Yeibichai dancers headed into the full moon. What I was doing wandering around in the dark by myself, on those various occasions is known only to that younger self that was me. Maybe I’ll learn more as time goes by, there might even be a part II. – 01.29.2016 – דָּנִיֵּאל

The Silversmith (1969)

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Well, good thoughts aren’t miracles, and prayers not an art, belief’s for the living, who live in the dark. In silver’s a dross that falls into waste, on a sunny September the 9th, the stripes came.  With medals shiny, and grim faces wrought, they spoke of the timing his sweet Jimmy fought.  A flag they left folded, a flag he did not want, a silversmith crying, his future blocked.

It’s all about smithing with silver and heat, a raising hammer, the fire and the glow, the night time upon him, his inner soul.  A small set of tweezers, a soldering poke, rough hands bright eyesight, a scriber in tote.  His Tripoli Polish stands worn by its wear, seen many a scratch now worn without wear.  A wind from the high bluff that whispers and moans, and moves his old Hogan without any hope, his hope his main action his time to see clear, he’s finished inscribing what name he holds dear.  A light above cloud line the mesa away, the one he saw Jimmy riding that day.  His uniform dancing, his stripes so in play, from halls of the Aztecs to an African bay.  A sigh of strong memory, that swoops and it smokes, by now it’s a Chindi gone up in black smoke.  He turns his face away, the silversmith, he looks so gray.

In 1950 his smithing a prayer, a gift to the blessing of harmony’s care, a child of the river his Jimmy did cry, he built the wood Hogan, under blue sky.  By the San Juan, he worked and he played, his artisan silver, he sold every day, and when he was finished his son he would take, young Jimmy Nakai, in the river they played.  You should see the log hut, the hut of belief, the one on an island, near rapids and snares.  Their poles catching rainbow and brown to share.  There by moonlight a fire, trout to taste.  Albert Nakai, would teach his boy to place, a sliver of turquoise in silver lace, a line from the heaven in shiny grace, first man and first woman in times embrace.

What ways of a nation, disrupt peaceful souls, with laws about fighting on dangerous soil, a draft for the living when eighteen does come. A silversmith a poor man, he has his one son, so Jimmy is drafted to fight the Viet Con. The silversmith working, his art and his trade, molding miracles to help his boy save. Each day he walks down to the river to see, if his islands standing with the hut of belief, the circles still open, the bad spirit released. He turns his face away, the silversmith, he looks so gray.

Well, good thoughts aren’t miracles, and prayers not an art, belief’s for the living, who live in the dark.  In silver’s a dross that falls into waste, on a sunny September the 9th, the stripes came.  With medals shiny, and grim faces wrought, they spoke of the timing his sweet Jimmy fought.  A flag they left folded, a flag he did not want, a silversmith crying, his future blocked.

The moon over Burnham, the dark mesa near, the river it’s calling the spirit is near.  The silversmith breathing, his tools in his hands, he wades the swift water through dark churning sand.  The moon over darkness, the hole in the land, the ring of pure silver, the tools in the sand.  The fire of belief, it rises so high, the silversmith watches his eyes have grown dry.  He turns his face away, the silversmith, he looks so gray.

Jimmy Nakai, died on Saturday, September 6, 1969, in Operation Idaho Canyon, in Vietnam.  His father Albert Nakai, buried his silversmith tools, and a ring he had carefully made for Jimmy in a hole on an island in the San Juan River.  Although the story is real, I have changed the names for the above piece, the island and its location along the San Juan River are also real, but the exact location unrevealed. – 03.10.2015 – דָּנִיֵּאל

Billy Yazzie and the Skinwalker

My name is Billy Yazzie, I’m retired back on the rez, it’s an anagram of living for the breathing side of dead. I live beyond Sanostee in a dry wash dried by sun, sired by four clans of a mystery, for this tale they are unsung. In my life I’ve painted pictures on the sand that holds the soul, and I’ve sung a sacred journey for the heart that goes untold. Now the greatest of my interest is the sheep I’ve hunted for, this goes back before my singing, it’s what my life was given for. There are sheep they go a missing from a thief or a wolf pack, or sometimes they are stupid, and they can’t find their way on back. So it is I get my message on the Chapter House’s door, “Billy drive on to Rock Mesa, find our sheep we’re looking for.” It has been my greatest treasure to find that bleating sack of wool, and return him to his owner, and get my bill paid in full.

So it is there is some pyrite in this turquoise of my life, and this matrix will unravel, as my fate did one night. For unto me is stated by the four peaks of my light, that as soon as this tale is related, then my spirit can leave this life. So in circles drawn around me, drawn they there to just suffice, I begin this truthful fable, from a long night of my life.

It was the fourteenth day of December, when the open sky did close, and the snow poured down like water, and our land turned so cold. I was working on a healing way, with my big brother Jim, when the east door of my hogan opened to Grandma Blackhorse’s kid. The girl her face was frozen, and her mouth could barely move, but she cried, “our sheep our missing, Grandma ask that you come soon”. The little lambs had wandered near the canyon of the sky, and her Grandma sure would pay me, if I could find them that same night. So it was I left the small child wrapped in blankets with big Jim, and I saddled up Altsoba with my journey to begin.

1967, in the twelfth month of the year, came a behemoth from the old world in the sums of all our fears. For it was upon my pony as I tread in solid white, headed west of old Sanostee toward the canyon of the sky. The snow was drifting higher, and the howling darkness came, as I stopped to check on Grandma to tell her, those sheep are on their way. In a message from my elder in our native tongue so clear, she said, “watch out for the Chindi, but bring back my lambs so dear”. Oh, I wondered about her warning, as the snow piled up so high there were times in colder weather, I had to dismount, I could not ride. With my jacket pulled up higher, and my magnum 29, I began a call of hunting for two sheep of smaller size. I called them like their mother, with a tongue of proper rise, lilting sweeter than a springtime, inviting lambs to suppertime.

Once I thought I heard a bleating, once the wind it stood stock still, near the entrance to the canyon, with the arch sky walkers built. So I urged on Altsoba, with the tapping of my heel, and the wind, became much lighter, and the snow began to still. Then I saw the lambs of Grandma, standing right before the arch, and the sky upon them bright, and the walker dead of heart. It was Chindi of a bad man, it was ghost of past in real, and between us stood two yearlings, sacrifices, breathing still. So we stood there for a moment as the sky turned yellow, red, with this crystal world before us at the dawning of the dead. Then I heard its voice in passion, crying on a dyeing wind, and he said, “This sheep of ration, is for me for why I’m sent.” For it said, “I am a savior of the dyeing and the cost, and with me they sleep in paradise, till the blessing way is lost.”

So it was before my mother, open sky upon this man that I reached for my thunder and I loosed it in my hand. For six shots that spoke between us, for six shots that kill a man, when I looked upon the archway, there the witch still did stand. In some ancient sort of journey, on some other kind of storm, spoke my Father now before me, slay this monster within form. So as the Chindi, hovered, seeking ways to kill the lambs, it was a song of beauty, that, I sang before his hand. As it was that he did waver, turning whiter than the snow, then in singing songs of judgment, round my feet a circled glowed, and in bending form of beauty did I take my iron of war, and I drew the way of blessing of the earth that I adore. In the snow there were four mountains, that surround this holy land, and between them is a people who will not give up on their lambs.

The skinwalker begged of mercy, for it was not purified, but the blessing way of mercy, in its beauty would deny. In the balance of the arches, as the circle fire would die, I saw Chindi turn to ashes, and its badness said goodbye. In my arms the lambs of Grandma’s turned to look me in the eye, for it was my hunter’s treasure, to return them from this night. Then the sky turned dark with moisture as the snow returned to fall, and I headed for Grandma’s, in the beauty of it all.

My name is Billy Yazzie, I’m retired back on the rez, it’s an anagram of living for the breathing side of dead. – 11.23.2014 – דָּנִיֵּאל

Shiprock


Picture courtesy of Mitch Dobrowner/Kopeikin Gallery

Welcome on down did you fly lava wings, did you bring the people for as far as they can see, did they descend to plant and ascend to sleep. Did the world look so different from the bridge of your peaks? Did the holy wind blow in the mist of lights, supernatural terror in a world without sight, did the fourth world open to your boat with wings, did you land in fire where the sand does sing? Was there land in water, flowing by your side, did you summon great monsters from your ship on high, did your first breath of air born in sacred sky’s, come from secret places living soil that cannot die.

Did the people sail under star and moon, fashioned constellations with the weave and loom? Were there four sacred mountains built by reformed soil, did you place your ship between them and begin to toil, did you harvest herbs of buttons and natural seeds, at the foot of your transport on a desert sea. Why, you must have climbed when your day was done, on that final day you climbed it when the lightning come. It probably came a signal from a naayééʼs teeth flowing blue electric dragon from what we can’t see. While around the ship in holding, there was quiet at last, the chʼį́įdii of the mountain was a ship turned black.

Welcome on down, to what we can’t see, in a brown painted picture of mythology, some say it couldn’t happen, for it’s not their belief, the arrival of the people on a ship at sleep. To approach it is to wonder why it cannot be, the creation of a people from another sea. For one world to another until this one four, it’s a story not so different from all other lore, for shiprock is a temple that rest on this world’s floor, a carrier of a people from another door. Welcome on down did you fly lava wings, did you bring a holy people do they hold the key? – 06/08/2014 – דָּנִיֵּאל

Growing up in Kirtland, New Mexico I got used to seeing Shiprock in the distance, looming, guarding, watching in dark volcanic silence.  For some, the Navajo, it’s presence is holy.  I believe they are correct 🙂

Grounded Feathers


Davis Begay and I never anticipated we were changing the world on our last day of school in May of 1975. If truth be known the reality of what we did probably still lays unreal in the most forgotten way for both of us. I should leave it alone. Something tells me that when you dig up prolonged goodbyes, you discover them to be neither, and somehow you discover something else. The issue here is a missing piece of a puzzle for me. A lag of sorts, a nagging, a dark spot on my soul, like when you awake to find someone has died and you don’t know why. The thought occurs, that if curiosity killed the cat, then I better seek to become a lion, because when all is said and done here, Pandora’s Box is going to be exhumed and ripped to shreds.

That blessed Navajo boy, that part of my soul that will never leave me. My immortal brother. We planned it that day. There are those of you who will read this and know us, but you didn’t know this. You would not have dreamed our dark arts, the changing of our eyes, you would not have perceived. If you think deep, if you remember, a quaking reality will occur, a fermenting of fire, terrible hearts, knowing eyes, bearing witness of what two young boys knew inside. The last day of school. That day when the well ran dry, when life turned round in the sky and we ran, played hooky just the two of us, wandering the floor above the San Juan Valley. You frolicked in your childhood, you should have. We should have, rather we didn’t, and what we did, is now in motion, and it cannot be turned back.

Time is constant, it turns in a sphere, and as it takes and spins, it changes, and so as we found it we framed it to our twin souls. Like yesterday, like I could trace it, like a cover I would hide in memorial if I could. We ran as the day dawned, we entered the plains above the valley, laughing, eyes ablaze, we passed the edge of time.

Somewhere there above the valley. Above Kirtland, New Mexico we found the abandoned oil tanker. The lone piece of Americana languishing from an era of Eisenhower and Jack Benny. The rust and the revelation of steel elemental, grounded in sand, placed like a beacon summoning two young ghost home.

Now I can feel it, cool metal, alchemy in May, perhaps the smell of ancient oil, may be the aroma of time. We ran there, undetectable we were summoned there, before summer, and just as Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon the previous September we found something deep beneath our feet that gave our childhood sins to forever.

We saw the ransom to the southwest of the tanker. It ran along the ground, although it should have flown. It had fallen through time, from the time of Enoch, untouched by giants and demons. A bird of the sea landing on the high plateau of the four corners. An omen, a gift to young prophets seeking the first vestibule of manhood, summoning the first rhyme. A temptation, to reveal the future, and seal the past from what we did not know.

Destiny dictates stories, death cannot be changed, silence stands still underneath the noon day light, and the trick of light made the fallen fowl appear human. A stone perhaps, a brilliant killing, without hesitation or planning. A fallen silence, dead, its eyes immortal and chiding. The blood that trickled like the Nile running to the North created a story that filled both of our eyes with shame. I decorated his face with crimson lines, he painted mine, and in unison we bowed in trepidation and tenderly kissed the kill. The feathers we grounded for the future, and to this day I believe they cry out summoning the spirit of Able to do away with time.

We sat in silence, watching the future, tasting our guilt and yet knowing we shared something deeper than our classmates’ only minutes away. We made prophecy and rhyme and cursed the day when our souls would no longer touch. We watched the afternoon turn empty, and laughed at a strange coldness that we began to understand. We were Sages in the beginning of an apocalyptic age that in our innocence we had brought energy and karma to. We settled a day on grounded feathers, and in this world nothing from that day will ever change. – דָּנִיֵּאל 03/01/2014

Davis and I met up for the first time in thirty-one years in August of 2007. Time had changed us only outwardly. We stayed away from the discussion of the sacrificial sea bird, and what we saw on that last day of May in 1975, until it was time to say goodbye. Only then as we hugged each other as brothers do, and the tears fell did we both admit to seeing the mist erupt from the ground over the grounded feathers, and make its way skyward.