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Put on the KTNN


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My mother was raised on Patsy Cline 
and Hank Williams country 
that bounced in on her father’s radio.
Even today, I know I am nearing home
when the pop music crackles 
into KTNN, licks 
of fluent Navajo flitting between
Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash.
They are interludes, too, 
for drumbeats and throaty covers
of well-loved tunes put on 
by some local boys’ gas station
banjo and hot-rocket guitar, 
a strong woman that sings
the seasons over a hand drum.
Then it is back 
to more Loretta Lynn. 
All contradictions
find a home in the body, the insect-skin
of the car sluicing the Arizona desert
as the cicadas pick up their grand

instruments. How else to know
you enter monuments, not 
a wasteland, loved by radio waves

and peach trees
and silly dogs that bridge
the distance between a chapter house

and the nearest Sonics in a city.
The moon rocks darken into pine,
pine into slickrock,

and the whole world remembers
what it once was– 
grand ocean: sun, plankton, pearl,

blood, ancestor, cloud. Radio rainbows
the most violent parts of the land
thrashed by thunderstorms and sea

as the rattles pick up their backing track
and Hank Williams rolls in
all over again, easy and easy

and blue.

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KINSALE DRAKE (Diné) is a winner of the 2023 National Poetry Series for her debut poetry collection THE SKY WAS ONCE A DARK BLANKET (University of Georgia Press, 2024). Her work has appeared in Poetry Magazine,, Best New Poets, Black Warrior Review, Nylon, Teen Vogue, and elsewhere. She was named by Time Magazine as an artist representing her decade “changing how we see the world,” and is the founder of NDN Girls Book Club (


Where Flagstaff fades into Coconino National Forest, the houses fade out at the end of town; there are just rocks and trees. Navajo Mountain is up through Cameron then Tuba.

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