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Simon Joseph Ortiz (1941-)

Long House Valley Poem


                                                                         the valley is in northeastern Arizona
                                                                    where one of the largest power centers
                                                                               in this hemisphere is being built

              1Sheep and woman.
              2The long brown and red land
              3looming unto the horizon.
              4                         Breathe in so deeply.

              5Tsegi,
              6a canyon.
              7"Hello" and "Goodbye,"
              8but always Hello
              9and smile.

            10The old rocks, millions of years old.

            11A Mohawk camper trailer
            12pulled behind a big white Cadillac.
            13Tourists,
            14the crusaders.

            15A cop car
            16flashing frenetic orange.
            17Slowwww down. I can't
            18even remember my license plate number.

            19And then, suddenly
            20the Peabody Coal Company.
            21Black Mesa Mine.
            22Open pit.

            23Power line over the Mountain,
            24toward Phoenix, toward Denver,
            25toward Los Angeles, toward Las Vegas,
            26carrying our mother away.

            27A sign reads: Open Range.
            28Bulldozer smoke and dust rise
            29from the wounded Mountain.

            30A PLAGUE ON ALL YOUR DAMN HORSEPOWER
            31A PLAGUE ON YOUR KENNECOTT COPPER BLIGHTS

            32The old rocks, millions of years old.

            33Horses grazing, quietly.
            34A skinny black one throws his head
            35at the sky, at the wind.

            36The Yei
            37and hogans and the People
            38and roadside flowers
            39and cornfields and the sage
            40and the valley peace,
            41they are almost gone.

Notes

5] Tsegi Canyon, Navajo Indian Reservation, Arizona.

21] Black Mesa and Kayenta mines, operated by Peabody Energy (the world's largest coal company) on Navajo and Hopi lands in Arizona. At present Peabody Energy claims to restore exhausted mined lands to traditional uses.

31] Kennecott Utah Copper Mine, near Bingham Utah, now owned by RTZ Corp. The company has committed itself to cleaning up the blighted canyon.

36] Yei weavings (Navajo, from New Mexico) depict healing ceremonies.

37] hogans: homes of the Dine Navajo People, used specifically for ceremonial worship.


Online text copyright © 2004, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Ortiz, Simon J. Woven Stone. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1992: 237-38.
Publication date note: Ortiz, Simon J. A Good Journey. Tucson: Sun Tracks and The University of Arizona Press, 1977: 109-10.
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2004
Recent editing: 1:2004/6/30


Other poems by Simon Joseph Ortiz