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Waking Up

In recognition of Indigenous Peoples' Day, today's poetic offering is "Daybreak" by Jake Skeets from the Navajo Nation. In small ways, we are "waking up" by honoring the past, present, and futures of Native peoples throughout the US. The Indigenous Peoples' holiday recognizes the legacy and impact of colonialism on Native communities, and it also celebrates the cultures, contributions, and resilience of contemporary Native peoples.

Jake reads this poem in his interview with the host of Poetry Unbound, Pádraig Ó Tuama. "Daybreak" includes Diné, a Navaho language. You can hear the poet read "Daybreak" in the Poetry Unbound interview here.


by Jake Skeets

“abíní hoolzish

(translates as "it's morning" in Diné, a Navaho language)

: the low-moon horizon turquoise serenes pink-lit from the pulp and fray of whorled milkweed summer cypress turkey-feathered struts stark pebbled through the sheep corral and shade house beneath the horse trough star thistle and nine-awned grass reflect night storms and rainbow through the morning the sun’s rays darling through narrow shoots of cloud, vapor, or maybe morning fog


(translates as “the afternoon-time”)

: above a passing plane or marsh hawk or maybe a crow casts its wing on the sweet yellow clover and field weed on the rubble of rust tin can and car axle and wheel barrow a basketball backboard crafted from sheet metal and piping the ground crickets beneath moths telling a story as butterflies they flail and flare through two-needle piñon and ryegrass cottontails squirrel into the culvert under the main road now wash-like, parched, its flow sands really memory for water

i’íí’ą́ k’ad

(tranlates as "I am eating")

: salsify and velvetweed overtop a broken fence its twine, slat, and barbed wire cloaked by dusked sod dirt road mud walls, tumbleweed, and maybe sunflowers bow-pulled arc by the metal windmill watering faint wind the mill echoes awake with each rock thrown at its face, back, or the bend of its opened arms bįįh níléíjí da’ayą́*—clouds drop their shoulders into rain, into the coral evening, into the evening’s evening”

* (bįįh níléíjí da’ayą́ translates as “deer are eating over there”)

*Jake Skeets is the author of Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, winner of the National Poetry Series, Kate Tufts Discovery Award, American Book Award, and Whiting Award. He teaches at the University of Oklahoma.

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