Your Montana Public Radio
Mon September 30, 2013
On my living room wall hangs a Navajo rug
handwoven by Virginia Yazzie. A Storm Pattern
with a black and white border, through which
the spirit line passes, a design like silhouettes
of mesas on the Colorado Plateau. Within the border
it's red, Ganado red, with black and white
figures, the sacred water bugs, the mountains
and the clouds, and the intersecting lightning bolts
that shoot out from the center to the four corners.
I love to look at it hanging on my wall.
I love to run my fingers over the wool.
Virginia Yazzie raised and tended the sheep
and sheared the wool and spun it by hand,
mixing in a little hair from her goats.
She dyed the wool and she built the loom
on which to weave it. She made up
this variation on the old pattern, and
she took pleasure in the work of her hands.
But there's coal and uranium and maybe oil
on her land, and the government says she
and her family have to move, relocate
is the word they use, to Flagstaff or Winslow
or Tuba City. Think of Virginia Yazzie
with the relocation blues. Imagine her
telling the government she'll never move.
Then remember the water bugs, the mountains,
the clouds, the lightning, the border through which
the spirit line passes, the storm pattern in her eyes.
Greg Pape is the author of ten books of poetry, including Four Swans (2013, Lynx House Press), American Flamingo, winner of the Crab Orchard Open Competition Award, Sunflower Facing the Sun, winner of the Edwin Ford Piper Prize, Storm Pattern, Black Branches, and Border Crossings. He has received two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Pushcart Prize, the Richard Hugo memorial award for poetry, the Vachel Lindsey poetry award, and others. His poems have appeared widely in magazines, anthologies, and text books, including The Atlantic Monthly, The Viking Western Reader, and Writing Poems. Greg Pape was Montana's second Poet Laureate. He has led poetry writing workshops at colleges and universities around the country, and since 1987 has been a member of the Creative Writing faculty.
Poetry and Indian Culture
American Indian Stories