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Harris Burnette, Songs of the White Mountain Apache, Track 3 : 
"This Is Where Life Starts" 


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matthew 9:7 And he got up, and went home


yesterday i learned the phrase Gozho hilbilth' chil' woosh' ye' scuz' zho kuh' yu', which translates to good morning from Whiteriver its cold now. naturally i text my uncle shiloh gozho hilbilth’ Santa Fe ye’ scuz zho kuh’yu’. and i spend all morning wondering if there is a word for santa fe in apache. will it fit in my mouth like bi’de’yu or dishchii’bikoh?


homesickness is a blackberry. 

i spend all morning dreaming of sitting quietly in my grandma’s room, saying hello to cottonwood trees or listening to scratchy 2 step songs on knnb. i think about skipping class and hitchhiking back home- maybe my grandpa will pick me up in st johns.


i think about driving through salt river canyon- the bridge my grandpa helped build and the chocolate river. rain drops push into my body. every drop hard, almost painful, pushing my body, trying to pull me down to soft earth. i never roll the window up, fresh cold wind brushing through hair. looking in the visor austin,brandan,colten and shaniya lay into one another, faces soft with sleep. i know shaniya must be freezing, but i’m so selfish. mom says nothing and bad moon rising plays in the space between us. 

sky of mauve crushed lavender, orange crush soda and pink conch dreams. we pass the                     ENTERING WHITE MOUNTAIN APACHE INDIAN RESERVATION

sign. my phone holds at least 80 blurry photos of this sign. we are behind a grey tesla that's moving slow and scared, my mom rolls her eyes no one knows how to drive this canyon, its so annoying 
but i don’t mind the slow ride. i look at the desert spoons that are stretching themselves up, and the rocks on the side of the road. the plants are so green, the rocks are red-beige marble and the clouds a dark mauve, all invitations to pull us all the way home.


we are driving into cedar creek, my late grandpa simmon’s home greeting eyesight. i wonder how steevo is doing? if the house is still the same? if church music and apache bible verses still fill the home? 

we drive past the old gas station and the rodeo stadium, the guardians of the galaxy soundtrack sharing the air, past grandma ruby’s church and R14 meadow vistas. i think about my grandma dejean as we pass the homes. my hand is out the window feeling the wind push against, i imagine hands pressed against one another before colten asks if we are there yet. 

i’ve never looked up directions to whiteriver. when i was growing up i would imagine having to walk from phoenix to whiteriver, las vegas to whiteriver, apache gold to whiteriver and i’ve always known where to go. i wonder if my siblings know how to get back home? if my grandparents do? 

i think about whiteriver every day. not in an all show guy way, but like how i think about eating or drinking water. i go on youtube and search Harris Burnette Apache songs while i curl my lashes or wonder about the weather back home while in line at dutch bros. whose selling today? did my grandma think about me while drinking her coffee?

when i was a little girl, after church, my arlita walker and i (sometimes everyone) would eat at the restaurant. ham and cheese omlettes with hot chocolate and cold arms. i remember sitting in the “party” room all together. my grandma rita orders denver omelets with no bell peppers or onions, my uncle jaye’s smile and the arguments on who pays the check. after breakfast, we give half hugs and cherry smiles. my arlita walker and i drive around the whole world- bashas to service station, h market, near auntie shireedawn’s, rainbow, diamond creek, river road,  old fairgrounds, stago curve, east fork, seven mile, fort apache, canyon day, chicken coop, china town, pass burger king- again and again.

wrinkled pith hands, cowboy coffee and apache vernacular- 
i know the road back to this. 


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SAREYA TAYLOR is a 21-year-old Apache and Dine’ writer enrolled in the White Mountain Apache tribe. She served as the Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of Phoenix, an honorary 25 under 25 Unity youth leader, and has been named an Indigenous Changemaker in Teen Vogue. Her poetry has been published in Thin Air Magazine, Tribal College Journal, Yellow Medicine Review, and was included in an online exhibition titled “BLACKLIST ME” by LA Chapter House. Sareya is the current 2023-2024 Ms. American Indian Higher Education Consortium, a Unity Earth Ambassador, an Intertribal Agriculture Council intern and a Patternist Fellow. Sareya currently attends the Institute of American Indian Arts and is studying to receive their BFA in Creative Writing.


My grandma Arlita Walker and I would drive around my reservation and say we were driving around the world. I think about this every time I'm on my rez or when I'm homesick—my love for the land, the memories, the simple but intricate ties forever holding me there. 

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