Colorado Plateau, Spring 1999

This place comes from a time where no formula exists
Its measure of time courses through my veins
If I choose to observe the plateau like my grandfathers before . . .

My color reflects the land
My shiny Oakley sunglasses are lost in the mass of
related pigments
Natural vision is best in the peak hours of observation
I take companion in my reptile relations
I breathe in the dry heat and
my soul is quieted once again.

It feels good to leave my hair in the crags of this sandstone
My sit-bones are planted into ancestral land
My early spring fly calls attention to the forecast
Whose home do I snuggle?
The impression of my bones are not new to this landscape

I learn to acknowledge the unsaid and
I learn of its presence
both are possible
variables exist
to sit at this place of emergence . . .

I have not told you how the extensions of my brain
wander aimlessly
along the path I leave
My lack of discipline places me
again

There is a place
Sandstone grit can filer pollution accumulated from birth
Is it only my body that resits such solid a foundation?

It is the memory of my origin
existing in the grooves of my finger tips
and canyons of my blood
and the twisted curves of my skull

I will be swatted as a pest at your ear
I remain gripped by my tongue
My landscape nursing a thirst
like rocks in my pocket
sand in my shoes
transporting my home on my being.

— Esther Belin

 Artist and poet Esther Belin grew up in Los Angeles and describes herself as a U.R.I., or Urban-Raised Indian, “one of the myriad indigenous peoples on the planet to survive in urbanized areas.” Her parents were relocated from the Diné (Navajo) country (father: Birdsprings, AZ; mother, Torreon, NM) in the 1950s as part of the U.S. Federal Indian Relocation Policy.

The Account of a Recent Travel

The road is in constant digestion. A continual bowel
movement in sync with my recent pattern of being
behind the wheel of a car — cataloguing each roadkill
into my database, each scrap of litter, each pocket
of whispers like the garbage trapped in the barbed
fence barriers. My travels to the reservation filter

like a giant kidney. Congressional ink flittering, like
tattered American flags, reformulates nourishment.
A recalculation like a coyote trickster inserting road
signs on my path. And I am left pattering along
like distressed platelets bouncing and bumping,
pressing and pinching along fatty fluid. My travel

is acute like the early morning songs of a Blessingway
ceremony. My travel renews as the white dawn.
My travel satisfies like beauty all around me, like
a King’s longing for the sweetest water drawn from
the well of Bethlehem.

— Esther Belin

Artist and poet Esther Belin grew up in Los Angeles and describes herself as a U.R.I., or Urban-Raised Indian, “one of the myriad indigenous peoples on the planet to survive in urbanized areas.” Her parents were relocated from the Diné (Navajo) country (father: Birdsprings, AZ; mother, Torreon, NM) in the 1950s as part of the U.S. Federal Indian Relocation Policy.

[Research note: this poem came from Liberation, a poetry collection edited by Mark Ludwig and published by Penguin Books in 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nazi concentration camps.]