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Bringing Hannah Home

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We brought Hannah home today
in afternoon sun with a crisp chill in the air
on a hill overlooking the bay.

Two women with a child and a shovel and a frozen placenta wrapped in aluminum foil placed in a red plastic bag.
Hannah was brought into this world
some say fourth others say fifth
five days before.
Before we brought her home.

The weekend of rain softened the earth
but the cold discouraged the shovel from denting more than the surface.
I dug into the earth.
The ground weakened beneath the strength I put into the shovel
pounding the ground
smooth and moist at first
then cold and solid.

Pounding the ground
warmed my arms.
I thought good thoughts for Hannah and her mother
and prayed for us all.
Remembering those who have passed on and those to be born
and I thought of my children to be born
and I thought of my father who has passed on.

Breaking into the cold ground
I thought of the day we brought my father home.
Dinétah winter had frozen the ground
and the earth chipped like ice, slivers of crunchy cold beneath our feet.
Our bodies warmed by our work
and the earth chipped like an old tree being chopped, taking hours to finish.
Our bodies tired from our work
and the earth piled high beside the hole like the clouds and just as fluffy.
Our bodies natural returning to the ground.

I dug into the ground
digging out earth that would nourish Hannah
digging out life that would embody Hannah
and soon a small hole appeared four feet deep.

There we stood
two women with a child and a shovel and a frozen placenta wrapped in aluminum foil placed in a red plastic bag.
The frozen mass of
tissue and blood and life
was placed in the small hole
by Hannah’s mother
and I felt her heat
tissue and blood and life
squatting with bloodied hands and cold earth
bringing Hannah home.

Esther Belin, “Bringing Hannah Home” from From the Belly of My Beauty. Copyright © 1999 by Esther Belin. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.
Source: From the Belly of My Beauty (University of Arizona Press, 1999)
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Bringing Hannah Home

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  • A Diné (Navajo) multimedia artist and writer, Esther Belin grew up in Los Angeles, California. She is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of California, Berkeley. Her poetry collection, From the Belly of My Beauty (1999), won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.
     
    Belin’s parents were relocated from the Southwest in the 1950s as part of the federal Indian relocation policy, and her work reflects the experience of a Native American living in urban Los Angeles. She often addresses the attempts to assimilate Native Americans into mainstream American culture, as well as larger themes of racism, alienation, and substance abuse. 
     
    In a 2000 interview for SAIL (Studies in American Indian Literatures), Belin stressed the connection between writing and the oral tradition. She elaborated: “I see myself as an interpreter of what happened in my parents’ generation, and...

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