Proclamation

By Ofelia Zepeda b. 1952 Ofelia Zepeda
Cuk Son is a story.
Tucson is a linguistic alternative.
The story is in the many languages
still heard in this place of
Black Mountains.
They are in the echo of lost, forgotten languages
heard here even before the people arrived.

The true story of this place
recalls people walking
deserts all their lives and
continuing today, if only
in their dreams.
The true story is ringing
in their footsteps in a
place so quiet, they can hear
their blood moving
through their veins.
Their stories give shape to the
mountains encircling this place.
Wa:k is the story of
water memories of this desert.

Citizens gravitate to Sabino Canyon.
The humming, buzzing, clicking of water life,
the miracle of desert streams
on smooth boulders.
Rocks, sediment older than life itself
serve as reminders.
It should be unnecessary for sticky notes
to remind us what a desert place is.
A place dependent on rains of summer,
light dusting of snow,
the rarity of dry beds as rebel rivers.
It is real desert people who lift their faces
upward with the first signs of moisture.
They know how to inhale properly.
Recognizing the aroma of creosote in the distance.
Relieved the cycle is beginning again.
These people are to be commended.

It is others who lament the heat of
a June day, simultaneously
finding pride on surviving
the heat—a dry heat.
These individuals should simply
be tolerated.

Opposed to those who move
from one air-conditioned environment
to another, never acknowledging the heat of summer.
Being grateful for November, when
temperatures drop below eighty,
complaining of the lack of seasons in the desert,
heading for mountains
to see colors—
these people—well, what can we say.
We must feel for the dogs of Tucson.
Who bark as if they belong to somebody and
who, before the rain, wish they were a color other than black.

FOOTNOTES: Wa:k is the O’odham place name marking reference to natural water sources. Wa:k is also the place for San Xavier del Bac, located near Tucson.

Ofelia Zepeda, “Proclamation” from Where Clouds Are Formed. Copyright © 2008 by Ofelia Zepeda. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: Where Clouds Are Formed (University of Arizona Press, 2008)

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Poet Ofelia Zepeda b. 1952

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

Biography

A member of the Tohono O’odham (formerly Papago) Nation, Ofelia Zepeda grew up in Stanfield, Arizona. She earned an MA and a PhD in linguistics from the University of Arizona and is the author of a grammar of the Tohono O'odham language, A Papago Grammar (1983). Zepeda’s poetry collections include Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert (1995) and Jewed’l-hoi/Earth Movements, O’Odham Poems (1996). 
 
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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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