Category Archives: Memories of the Rez

Triptych [smallpox blanket]

Three little girls lined up in
A row. Their father
Towers in terrible wrath.

“Did you do it?
Or you?
Or you?”

The girls, near-mute,
Look sideways at
Each other. Who

Did it this time?

“Swear on the Bible.
Put your right hand
On the book,
And swear.”

We all swore
Our innocence
Though one of
Us was always
Lying – usually
The youngest
Difficult child.

But we all knew
What would follow
The lie. One by
One, the girls
Were ordered
Face down –
The oldest sister had her
Own room, so
Her bed was most convenient—
For their beatings.

But everyone
Was fully clothed,
So it was decent
And the neighbors
Could safely
Ignore the screams.

I always screamed loudest too.

See, he wanted
Sons, so
I became his son
And fought him back.

Yes, I broke the comb.
Yes, I was playing
With your shaving cream
In the bathroom
Where you keep
The Playboy magazines.

Of course I need a beating. And sorry,
Sisters, I’m just too scared
To confess.

by Karen M. Seeley,
copyright 2014


blisters answer prayer

we are all fighting for life, people.

at work and home
in love and war

step by step we go into the dark

the journey itself is the only meaning

someone said that someone said

that Ingmar Bergman or was it Ingrid Bergman

said that

but it’s apocryphal.

Still, it’s true.

Dad’s Poetry: Landscape

This emptiness we call a world,
swept edge to edge by aimless winds
is rubble built on ashes, where
six dancing shadows follow faith
and blisters answer prayer.

The counted moments of the clock
are stacked in crates upon a plain
besieged beneath a clouded sun,
beaten by incessant rain.

If landscape cannot make a refuge
nor memory a place to stand
yet you and I on this high rocky
pinnacle are met, and touch, and know
the realms where mind alone can never go.

– by L.W. Seeley, Jr.

Tags: dad’s poetry

Memories of the Rez: Bilagáana

Here’s a fact that was the saving of me: I heard that word a million times, over about five years. Try living among — or as close as you can get to — the Diné for several years and not having your assumptions challenged. Not to mention, developing a pretty keen interest in figuring out what people are saying. In my days on the Rez — in high school and the year after — you didn’t hear English in the hallways.

You can hear it pronouned here:

Also the source for the below. I’ll be back after the definition.

“The idea behind the origin of the Navajo word bilagáana is not entirely clear. Its meaning is, though. It’s the Navajo name for white people, or people of Caucasian descent. Irvy Goosen, an author of Navajo language teaching texts, posits the idea that it evolved from the word “Americano.” Since spoken Navajo has a history of adopting words, and since it doesn’t actively use “m” and “r” it’s plausible that it went through an intense adaption process to get the word we have today. The English language is referred to as “bilagáana bizaad” in Navajo. Pronunciation: “bill-la-gáa-na” with the tone starting high and falling through the long vowel after the g.”

Me again.

Late add: in my day, there was a bit of a rumor that the word might have evolved from the Diné phrase for “smoke eaters.” But The People like to joke, so one can never be too sure.

In my white-girl understanding, and after a fair amount of study and reflection, here’s my take: the Diné are traditionally [though their traditions evolve rapidly; that’s part of their success] sheep herders, farmers and artists [spinning/weaving, silversmithing, painting … basically whatever they turn their hands to], with some distant hunting traditions that in the stories didn’t work out too well. They are loosely — though within a staggeringly complex clan structure — matrilineal, matrilocal and matriarchal.

That’s the briefest of intros. But I will be writing more about the Rez, because, I repeat, it was the saving of me. To my old friends among the Diné: Yá’át’ééh. Ahéhee’. Háázhó’ógo bee ádíní.

I’m trying to remember …