excerpts from Flood Song

I sensed the knife in your past,
its sharp edge shanked from the canyon stream-
a silver trickle between the book jacket,
nihízaad peeled open inside a diabetic mouth.

The waters of my clans
flash flooded-
I fell from the white of its eyes-
our fathers had no children to name their own
no baby's cry to place between argument and arguments.

The commercial flashed a blue path
across the lakes of our veins
the bluest glint, a rock in the ear
told our tongues entwined,

that I was reaching for the corn field inside you,
that I was longing to outlive this compass
pointing toward my skull
gauzed inside this long terrible whisper

damp in a desert canyon,
white-washed by the ache of fog lights
reaching to unravel             my combed hair.

excerpts from Flood Song

The song spilling seeds into your mouth
sunflowers a yield sign
crawls onto the roof pinching corn meal,
flickers green
            and quakes into a babble of crows.

It then speaks splintering from a polished clay bowl,
drifts onto the lake's shore-
            apostrophes attached to its hemline.

Obsidian slides over the starling's nest
            backhoes nearing the coal shed sputter awake,
a pebble splinters the tribe into half brothers;

                        the pass shrinks to a black dot behind us.

excerpt from Shapeshift


It came whispering in broken English
a stutter
a twig tweezed from the small of the back.

He reached to pull the apple from her mouth.

Was it asphyxiation?

Should she have leaned away
and not let her hair slip through the cracks in the book?

Was it just theory?
            An inflexible aperture?
Nazbas and zero
            not to be part of this conversation;
two mirrors reflecting faces waking inside a snow drift?

The beginning is always the argument:
            Arrangements, patterns,
                        Who gets this portion of lamb,
                        Who gets to speak English as a second language.

Dogs lap rain water on television during conversations of drought.

This first cycle begins with an erosion of memory –
voices within voices pecking eyelids with velvet beaks
one knee down,
            the other, filling its veins with damp white earth.

Sherwin Bitsui is originally from the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. He is the recipient of the 2000-2001 Individual Poet Grant from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, a 2006 Whiting Writers' Award and, more recently, a 2008 Tucson Local Genius Award. He is the author of Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press 2003) and Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press 2009).