LET THERE BE COAL
A father hands a sledgehammer to two boys outside Window Rock.
The older goes first, rams a rail spike into the core, it sparks—
no light comes, just dust cloud,
The boys load the coal. Inside them, a generator station opens its eye.
A father sips coal slurry from a Styrofoam cup, careful not to burn.
kneels to the east
Spider Woman cries her stories coiled in warp and wool. The rug now hung
in a San Francisco or Swedish hotel.
We bring in the coal that dyes our hands black not like ash
but like the thing that makes a black sheep black.
This is a retelling of the creation story where Navajo people journeyed four worlds
and God declared, "Let there be coal." Some Navajo people say there are actually
Some say six.
A boy busting up coal in Window Rock asks his dad, "When do we leave for
the next one?"
His dad sits his coffee down to hit the boy. "Coal doesn't bust itself."
is Black Streak Wood, born for Water’s Edge. He is Diné from Vanderwagen, New Mexico. He holds an MFA in poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Skeets is a winner of the 2018 Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Contest and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Skeets edits an online publication called Cloudthroat and organizes a poetry salon and reading series called Pollentongue, based in the Southwest. He is a member of Saad Bee Hózhǫ́: A Diné Writers’ Collective and currently teaches at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona. He is the author of Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers.
See this poem in Anthology (Berglund, Topohonso, third from University of Arizona Press, 2020).