Natalie Diaz was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California. She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. Her first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2012. She is a 2012 Bread Loaf Scholar, a recipient of a Lannan Residency in Marfa, Texas, and was awarded a 2012 Lannan Literary Fellowship, as well as a Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellowship. Diaz teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts Low Rez MFA program and splits her time between Brooklyn and Mohave Valley, Arizona, where she directs the Fort Mojave Language Recovery Program, working with the last remaining speakers at Fort Mojave to teach and revitalize the Mojave language.
Excerpt from “How to Go to Dinner with a Brother on Drugs”
If he’s wearing knives for eyes,
if he’s dressed for a Day of the Dead parade—
three-piece skeleton suit, cummerbund of ribs—
his pelvic girdle will look like a Halloween mask.
The bones, he’ll complain, make him itch. Each ulna
a tingle. His mandible might tickle.
If he cannot stop scratching, suggest that he change,
but not because he itches—do it for the scratching,
do it for the bones.
Okay, okay, he’ll give in, I’ll change.
He’ll go back upstairs, and as he climbs away,
his back will be something else—one shoulder blade
a failed wing, the other a silver shovel.
He hasn’t eaten in years. He will never change.
Be some kind of happy he didn’t appear dressed
as a greed god—headdress of green quetzal feathers,
jaguar loincloth littered with bite-shaped rosettes—
because tonight you are not in the mood
to have your heart ripped out. It gets old,
having your heart ripped out,
being opened up that way.
Your brother will come back down again,
this time dressed as a Judas effigy.
I know, I know, he’ll joke. It’s not Easter. So what?
Be straight with him. Tell him the truth.
Tell him, Judas had a rope around his neck.
When he asks if an old lamp cord will do, just shrug.
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