Outside a Small House


Luci Tapahonso

Somewhere in the north valley
outside a small house,
moths flutter powder wings
against the gleaming windows.
The windows: clear panes of death.

Inside, he paces back and forth
then slams his fist into the wall.
His buddies look up startled, then resume talking.
They are used to this: his days and his nights

are tireless blurs of stories and poetry,
careful arrangements and rearrangements
of words and pauses that erupt
as full breathing memories.
No one has called me at 3 A.M. in the last 10 years,
but tonight the phone rings and I am confused.
"Can you talk?" he asks.
He is trapped by an old loneliness -
an old longing to hear a soft voice
tell him stories he's never heard.
I listen to his urgency and imagine his knuckles
starting to bruise: first, a burning red, then light blue.
By sunrise, dark purple circles of blood
brimming beneath taut skin.
I tell him the bruises will heal in about a week.
The healing will be a reverse of colors:
purple, blue, dim red, finally yellow.
Then there will be no trace.
But for now, the moths outside the windows fall slowly.
They will lie soft and silent in the dawn.

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

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