Dine’ poet Luci Tapahonso’s “Dust Precedes the Rain” seems appropriate for both a tip of the cyber hat to April as National Poetry Month –and to focus on the joys of water, especially rain–water that falls from the sky.
“The water from the sink is no good for making pottery.
It just ruins it,” my children’s Acoma grandmother would say.
Thereafter she sent the kids to replace the full bowls of rainwater
that had filled since it began to rain.
Her son said that when he was a child, the rain smelled
and tasted so good–he and other kids played outside,
laughing and running around–and they stopped once in a while to lick
the cool adobe walls . The sides of the smooth houses were
fragrant and nurturing. From atop the mesa at Acoma Pueblo,
it is possible to see almost seventy miles in each direction.
It is the same on the reservations surrounding Phoenix.
Long before the rains come, the gentle desert wind
carries the scent of rain, wild plants flutter anxiously,
and pets frolic, acting silly. To the west, the thunderheads
loom dark and full. Thin waves of dust precede the rain,
rolling tumbleweeds and bits of paper, and the children run and skip,
allowing the wind to push them along. They yell and laugh.
The lilting sounds ae carried eastward by the blowing slants
of rain–their laughs and shouts caught in the leaves of sturdy trees.
They linger in the crevices of small hills and arroyos
and finally swirl into the slopes of the purple mountains nearby.
It must have been the same when the Hohokamiki lived here
where the expressway crosses over. The children played
in the dust- charged breezes, shouting and running in circles,
and when the rains began, they paused, their faces turned upward
to taste the cool clean rain.
Their quiet gratitude for brimming pots of water remains
now in the crumbling re-buried walls fo their small homes.
The still concentration with which they painted pottery
remains in the small toys and tiny woven sandals that are unearthed:
their spirits remain in the dry grains of dirt
that were dug up by shovels, backhoes, and bulldozers.
This is evident in the persistence of the bright wild plants
that push their way out of the dry ground.
This is evident in the new growth that springs up
along the arroyos and streams following sudden rains.
This is evident in the island of peaceful silence
that the museum cradles amid the city’s frenzy.
This is evident in the restless energy of the busloads
of children who visit the old homes of the Hohokamiki today.
They recognize the old history that is theirs.
They recognize the old history that is ours.
@Luci Tapahonso, “Dust Precedes the Rain” from Blue Horses Rush In, University of Arizona Press
Link for Luci Tapahonso at University of Arizona:
Child of Water video uploaded by outtayourbackpack, Camille Manybeads sings.