Poem-a-Day - "Navajo Mountain" by Norla Chee

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November 14, 2022 
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Navajo Mountain

Norla Chee

If you close your eyes
and take a deep breath
you can hear the green sage sing

The gray stones beneath you
feel young again
The breeze watches
it all with her Mona Lisa smile

Naatsis’áán takes it all in

The thunder of a hundred hooves,
whoops and hollers of the crowd,
the intensity of the riders
as in the day of wild warriors 
on the warpath.

There are chicken pulls, children’s foot races,
Navajo cake, kneel-down bread, drum songs

K’é shakes the roots of the mountain,
which gives the people her blessing

as does Sun God
with gentle warm breath.

The story I heard
was that the people
returned from Hwéeldi
and found strangers in their home.

Ashiih Litso just a boy, risked everything
on one horse race
and was blessed by the Holy People.

Another story goes that the mountain protected the people,
keeping soldiers away
and they never had to make the Long Walk.

Whichever story you live by,
the mountain remembers.
Eehaniih celebrates her,
head of the earth.

Copyright © 2022 by Norla Chee. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 14, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“‘Navajo Mountain’ was born of an article published in the Navajo Times about the annual Eehaniih Day Celebration at Navajo Mountain. Coincidentally I had been hearing a lot of talk about K’e, mostly how it wasn’t being practiced. K’e is basically just being a decent human being, which we seem to be lacking a lot these days. In the poem, the camaraderie of the people is like the heart of the mountain, giving it life. It is implied that without the people and K’e, the mountain would die.”
Norla Chee

Norla Chee
Norla Chee is a Navajo and Oneida poet. The author of Cedar Smoke on Abalone Mountain (UCLA American Indian Studies Center, 2001), she lives in White Rock, New Mexico.
Cedar Smoke on Abalone Mountain
Cedar Smoke on Abalone Mountain
(UCLA American Indian Studies Center, 2001)


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Thanks to Jake Skeets, author of Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers (Milkweed, 2019), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Read or listen to a Q&A about Skeets’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year
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