Onion and Fried Potatoes


Nia Francisco

My grandmother, my Nali
she always made us herd
our sheep and goats
before the sun rose high
over the highest mountain peak
We herd them towards
the mountain slopes
Cool summer mornings
birds chirping
goats nibbling at leaves
along our trail
My grandfather
he would hitch the dark horses
to his working wagon
I remember the dark horses
they were his best working team
They haul wood drag timber for him
He named one horse Bidi
and the other Liil'zhiin
Some summer morning
My nali man he would hitch them
and say we are going to lumber jack
up there in the mountain
where the pines are tall and straight
Those mornings
my grandmother     she gathers
her pots and the food
Our grandparents would designate
where they would be
and we'd herd to that place
when we're getting close
grandfather's steady chopping
echoed into the mountains
When we're getting close
the smell of the spicy aroma
of onions and potatoes frying
and in the distance
the cooking fire
would welcome us
My grandmother patting out
goatmilk bread over red hot coal
My grandfather he'd be sharpening
his axe     sitting on pine needles
in the lacy shadow of oak leaves
and blue spruce trees
there beside him
he'd have several feet of pine bark
He'd diligently scrape the thin white
lining of the pine tree bark
and give it to me to chew on
the sinew like strings
tasted sweet
I'd chew it herding home
walking behind
the slowest ewes
I'd chew until I fell asleep at twilight

From Blue Horses for Navajo Women by Nia Francisco, Greenfield Review Press.
© 1988 Nia Francisco
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