A Whispered Chant of Loneliness


Luci Tapahonso

I awaken at 1:20 then sit in the dark living room.
Numbers click time on silent machines.
Everyone sleeps.
Down the street, music hums, someone laughs,
It floats: an unseen breath through the window screen
My father uses a cane and each day
he walks outside to sit in the southern sunlight.
He reads the National Geographic, the Daily Times,
and the Gallup Independent.
He remembers all this and minute details of my life,
Sometimes he tells my children smiling.

His voice is an old rhythm of my childhood.
He reads us stories of Goldilocks and the Three Bears
and a pig named "Greased Lightning."
He held us close and sang throaty songs,
and danced Yei bicheii in the kitchen.

His voice is a steady presence in my mothering.
Some years ago, he handed me a cup of coffee
and told me that sometimes leaving a relationship
was an act of abiding strength.
He told me that my children would not be sad always.

Tonight I want to hear him speak to me.
He thinks I look like my mother did at 38.
Just last week, I heard her laughter in my own.

This winter, my life is a series of motions.
Each morning, I get up and shower,
have breakfast for my daughter,
drink a cup of coffee, then warm the car for five minutes.

I continue. My days: an undercurrent of fear,

an outpouring of love,
a whispered chant of loneliness.

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

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