These Long Drives


Luci Tapahonso

between Cuba or Grants
fall short of the usual comfort.

My younger brother, shisíli,
made a beaded ring for me -- yellow daisies with black centers.
He was a rough-and-tumble third grader
and I was in high school: intent on being the best western stomp dancer,

and maybe snagging a tall Chinle cowboy.
Years later, his interest in mechanical objects
kept my car running well. On trips home from various cities,
he filled the tank, rotated the tires, and changed the oil
as easily as I changed boots. After each visit, I left assured
my car would run another 5,000 miles or so. At any hint of car trouble,
I rushed home to my younger brother while my car could still make it.
This brother died at 22. One day he was
driving his trusty old pickup, laughing
and joking, then he turned silent,
a thin figure beneath hospital sheets.
His slow death entered my blood.
I breathe it with every step.
The middle brother is a few years older than I.
He is a father, master mechanic, and stern uncle.

Once when I was at his home, his little son came inside
and whispered into his shoulder, "Daddy, the rabbit won't talk."
My brother laughed and hugged his son.
"The Volkswagen won't start," he told us.
He held his son a while, then they walked over to fix the stalled car.

His sons will grow up to be good cooks and fine mechanics.
They will care and abide by the wishes of the women
in their lives as my brother does.

Sometimes he curses the long desert miles between us
when he senses I may be in danger. This city protects crazed men
who are freer than I. My brother finds ways to console my anguish
and fear over distances of telephone wire and urgent visits
to medicine men. His steady voice calms me on dark evenings.
My oldest brother: such vivid images I have of him.
He Tarzan-like and I a skinny, dark child swinging on his arms.
He was tall and girls giggled around him. We wondered why
they called him and then turned silly at his approach.
He was killed by a preacher's son, and at 13 years old
I was stunned to find the world didn't value
strong, older brothers and that preaching
the gospel life could be nothing.
I am remembering my brothers tonight
and during a strange spring snowstorm, my mother calls
and tells me about some little thing she remembered from years ago.

Laughing into the phone, I see outside the wonderful snow,

seemingly endless, warm and cold at once.
No one could have predicted this storm.
It is all strange, beautiful, and we will talk of this
for years to come. This storm, and I will think of how
how I missed my brothers just then.

From Sáanii Dahataal The Women Are Singing by Luci Tapahonso, University of Arizona Press.
© 1993 Luci Tapahonso

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