- The gentle motion of her broom glides across the linoleum
in short movements
Shi nawinilne' (she begins a story)
"Nibééhozinísh T'áá Biich'ídiidi'nihik'éí hól?
(Did you know we have relatives in Aneth, Utah?)
Áld aadi nihíkéyah nt''
(A long time ago we lived there)
Those relatives wanted to stay there
While the rest of us came down this way."
In slow, gentle whisks grandmother
sweeps the dirt on the kitchen floor into thin gray lines.
"Nimá ajítsísí y d ákó naayá.
(Your mother went up there when she was a little girl)
Tsinabs bee ák ndajizkai
(They went up there in a wagon.)"
She moves the bristles along the wall under the cabinets
and brushes out crumbs and lint.
"Aoo', éí béénashnii. Shimá shi holne'.
(Yes, the story comes back to me in my mother's voice:)"
"We went by wagon over the dirt road
only great-grandmother knew,
stopping at relatives' homes along the way,
and how we were all well fed
until I asked in my child voice
why we had to eat each time we stopped
not knowing it was the Diné way."
She too remembers that story because she smiles.
Then in her slow, methodical way she sweeps the lines closer
until her movements mesmerize me like a child's lullaby.
"They said we moved from Aneth, to Cuba, to Torreon,
and then to the base of Mount Taylor.
Áko áádish (It was there),
they discovered the vices of the railroad men.
Doo ádáhalyda'. (They had no sense.)
They started drinking and gambling
and followed the railroad west to Houck, Arizona,
and back to where we are now."
At last the lines are one mound like a small ant hill.
Holding the dustpan near the pile, I sweep
the debris into it for her.
"They say those Aneth Navajos are rich
from the oil on their land."
She replaces the broom in the closet and says
"K'ad daatsí Cadillac nideilbs doo nt''.
(We could have been driving Cadillacs by now.)"
"Shí éí Lincoln Continental naasb"aacunas."s doo nt'.'," adds Grandfather,
(I could have been driving a Lincoln Continental by now)
as he takes another sip of coffee,
He has been listening from the kitchen table.
We laugh as we visualize ourselves driving shiny Cadillacs
and Lincoln Continentals instead of the dusty pickup parked
Shimásani y nizhóóóónigoo nahasho' nt''.
(My grandmother-who-was swept in a beautiful way.)
From Fever Dreams, Leilani Wright & James Cervantes (Editors), University of Arizona Press.
© 1997 Laura Tohe
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