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As the North Star Does


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35.6781° N, 108.1512° W



When the tidal forces erupt the great

Anvil-maker, Vulcan, from fertile sleep,


All it takes are nocturnal dreams:

Take meaning from crop circles 

To flying capes to Ghost Dances… 


When glittering silver splashes,

Streak “Westward Ho!” east to west, 

Even beyond Geronimo himself,


We are all but pebbles in freefall, 

When all it takes is a power surge

Or when sorrow turns into an ocean,


Stick by stick, stone by stone.  Resist!

To provoke prayers before a fallen pueblo,

Wind-swept Wupatki sandstones: relics


Abiding, far and away lands stolen

With new fairy tales rewritten.

Block that crap, do not touch!


To the denizens of Kandor, Pine Ridge,

And Nogales…  We retort.  Dear:  World

Destroyers, not gonna take it anymore!


From the almost eroded peaks 

Of Gray Mountain, a silver moon

Escaping like helium, remembers.


I am not some romantic notion,

Not a conjuring of “Alakazaam,”

Not a ruler with a golden tiara.


I am not some phrase, not ennui,

Not some romantic astonishment

Of cultural appropriation or atonement. 




Desire, a murder of crows curtain the skies

Produce action at 11:59:01—strike one,


Threat of pillage, rape as valid, godless

War-painted Savage scalpings, “Massacre!” motto-

Shouts the crowd, a forger’s proverbial texts


Paint historic meetings.  Plymouth Pilgrims helped

The Indians, with a nice dinner of turkeys,

Corn, pumpkin pies, thanks, and poxes.


“Save the Man, Kill the Indian, Take the Tobacco.”

Totem poles: eagles, beavers, muskrat, 

Offering sage smudges, a camp fire, wildfires, 


Atomic fires, sleek turquoise ravens, brown bears,

Mouthy salmon, and chant prayers against evil

Polarizing hocus-pocus, politicized politics…


Polish Kingman nuggets, pull on the shiny armor, pick

The white pony, arm swing the sword, aim the bow—

Bullseye a flint arrowhead, strap a gilded shield.  


Let loose—a dominant culture: a night terror,

A zealot, even Brainiac himself, heartbroken

Over the last kiss.  Save one last breath for Taime.


I hear it again, War painted savages without 

The threat of an Indian attack.  Museum cataloged.

Your stories fall apart, your dry-walled 4 X 4 huts 


Carved at the expenditure of my freedoms.

I have paid the price of blood percentages,

Angry as a space shuttle’s razing cloudy ashes.


Atoms visible from heaven itself, upcharge

The zenith apex, gouge fortunes faster with its heavy

Taxes.  Finally, de-orbit past the brilliant doorknob.




When stalagmites calcify years, limestone,

Sinter, curses, minerals, trash, trinkets,


You’ve slept like curly-locked Sleeping Beauty

Since pre-contact colonialism in beaver pelts.

Through fire-water instinct, I am reborn.


Time inspires transpires singing “defy-ing…”

It may be a lonely mad world out there

Hell-bent on Self-destruction, brightly Tragic.


Ask the New York skyline, it’s time Kali for sleep

In the Glittering World, then wake that sky

Turquoise explosion in the caldera dawn.


Orbit 0 G to 6 Gs to 30 Gs bubble-piercing

Music orchestra horns past the exosphere:

Astonish me in Japan, tsundere you will love me. 


A confession about you said to Lazarus dusting off.

The casino jackpot cash-out shows the future 

By hot air balloon off to Oz or Vanuatu. 


Overhead guiding, a pause with a smile,

There the Window Rock Fair again ‘glowy’ 

Like random Lite-Brite pegs, always warm.


In unison remember ancestral voices, howl

At wonder.  A burning ember floating up, 

A Heartthrob, a Showstopper, a Rockstar


Blasting over a stadium intercom: become

The tornado then hurricane you are, rise

Like the dead, rise like a coup de grâce,


It’s never enough repeating uhhh Jai Hind!

Again, Geronimo in skywriting, a flare

Signaling Hooray! searing the sky as BINGO! 




It’s repetitive, but Be the Light!  A Phoenix 

In a suicidal plunge, remember that spark—


An incendiary razzle-dazzle for others to follow

From miles and miles away, farther than the 

Moon sits.  In the long-faded coals swirl, whirl…


Flickering wings, the inferno soaring ready

To burst into an all-consuming backdraft.   

Even if the world ends in kamikaze fire,


I still have pride, Seraph.  I am drench,

Vats of honey anoint me.  I gleam

As the constant North leads an army.  We Rise


In the silent whispers to the Genie lamp, 

Sparkling hope.  The round beaver eyeball 

Continues its glare from up high on a totem pole 


Towering into clouds.  From the beanstalk tops

Giants are ready to fight.  Carry hope.  See

Little People of the woods carry unbroken codes.


Call me Victorious, beyond the Apache warriors’ 

Border horizon over the brutal truth, beyond doubt 

And tragedies, beyond the rock that betrays 


My gym shoes, beyond bad US Treatises written 

Like so many over-drafted checks.  On my knees, 

Knowing a strand of Kilauea’s hair can topple 


Skyscrapers, and bring on bubbling tribalism.

So say we all! One voice “Imua!” or “Shazam!”

Synonymous to “Touchdown!”  O say can you see!


There is fire in my stars to the north.  There is fire

In our stars to the south.  So, ignite up, widely open 

Your bright eyes, my brave ones, follow the star ablaze.

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HERSHMAN JOHN is both a poet and a short fiction writer. He is Dine’—born for the Deer Spring People and the Bitter Water People. He was born in California and raised on the Navajo Reservation. Hershman received his BA in English and MFA in Creative Writing, both from Arizona State University. He has been teaching for the past 30 years. As a full-time faculty member at Phoenix College, he teaches composition, poetry, comic book writing, and American Indian Studies courses. His works have been widely published by anthologies and literary journals: When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations, The Dine’ Reader, Arizona Highways, National Geographic, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Red Indian Road West, and Arizona Republic. The University of Arizona Press published his first collection of poems entitled, I Swallow Turquoise for Courage.


The red canyons echo my family's laughter and joys. I write on my home where my grandmother and grandfather lived and cared for a large family. I remember the rain rolling off the San Francisco Peaks to drench home in a few hours. I remember the stars so bright to light a path at night among the canyons. The land provided corn and sheep constantly. My family is always happy when they are home. My words and verses constantly remember those deep streaks of rock were a beautiful reminder of our hozho.

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