Look, I wish I could tell you that it gets better from here. I wish I
could tell you that once you crossed over into the territory things
would get easier … but I’d be lying. It doesn’t get better—not one
bit. Welcome to SHIPROCKLAND … I hope you enjoy your stay.
There wasn’t much left when we found her body. Left out here in this
godforsaken place, abandoned without a hint of remorse, so far from
everything she loved. How did they manage to drag her body so far out
here without anyone seeing a thing? She must’ve been so scared. She
didn’t deserve this … those fucking animals.
The sun was magnificent that day the shot rang out. Nobody thought he
had it in him. Nobody thought he was capable. He proved them all wrong.
You’re all going to miss me when I’m gone! That’s what he told them. And
now he was gone. All it took was one bullet. The sun was magnificent
There used to be a monument commemorating those who lost their lives to
this canal. My father used to call it “21 Lives” because that’s how many
people’s names were on the plaque at the time. That number is higher
now. And the monument no longer stands.
I don’t quite remember how old I was the first time it happened. I think
I was like ten or twelve? He was drunk when he came into my room and lay
by me, I was small and he was my father, so I didn’t think anything of
it, you know? He loved me and he was always passing out around the house
anyways, so I thought this was just one of those times. But then he
started nudging himself closer to me, spooning me. I didn’t know what to
think. And then he put his arms around my waist and started caressing my
body, like he was searching for something. I tried to slide myself out
from under him but he pulled me back and dipped his hands between my
legs. I knew it was wrong, but I was too scared to move. Thinking back
on it now, I wish I said something to someone about it. But I didn’t
want anyone to get in trouble—especially my father. I loved him and I
didn’t want him to get hurt.
This used to be my cousin’s house before we had to tear it down. My aunt
couldn’t stand looking at it anymore. I guess it was too hard for her
seeing that house standing there all alone with no kids running around
outside making noise. She loved her grandkids a lot. She really did. And
I don’t blame her. Every time I think about what happened to them I
can’t help but feel bad. All because of another woman, can you believe
that? I mean, I can understand my cousin’s reaction to finding out about
her husband cheating on her, but why did she have to hurt her kids like
that? They didn’t deserve that. They really didn’t. They’re all buried
together, too, which makes it even worse.
After so much trauma and degradation and humiliation, this is what
remains … beautiful isn’t it?
Along the canal beneath the elms,
I buried my heart in SHIPROCKLAND.
My ventricles plugging into the Earth Mother,
beneath the shade where sparrows burrow.
Sometimes my heart talks to sunflowers,
Other times sage.
What can I say—I can’t help myself;
just another typical Rez boy ... or is it Rez man?
I can never seem to differentiate between the two.
You see, in SHIPROCKLAND no faces remain
Elongated and intertwined,
They slide behind cottonwood trees,
Wolf tongues &
Juniper vowels w/cedar clusters.
The air is un-breathable here
Or so I’ve been told
although I breathe just fine.
Maybe I’m just as distorted
as the rest of them?
Sometimes I rest myself beneath the elms
Pressing my lobes against the Earth Mother
Listening for the slow systolic beat
Of circulating blood pumping
beneath the womb. My pulmonary swelling with life
forming roots; a rhizome of networking machines
weaving under the surface
like metallic tentacles.
SHIPROCKLAND is incomplete.
An unfinished project.
A glorified failure
where trash lords and meth heads
cry themselves blind
under the elms
hoping redemption will come from the rootstalks …
but no hope exists here,
only acres and acres of buried hearts.
The old ones knew,
They tried to warn us before bursting into juniper.
I wish I could tell you it gets better from here. I wish I could’ve told
you once you cross over into the territory things would’ve gotten
easier—but then I’d be lying. It doesn’t get better … not one bit.
Thank you for coming to SHIPROCKLAND … I hope you enjoyed your stay.
Lambert Martin, Jr was born and raised in Shiprockland, NM, located on the Navajo Nation. He is currently pursuing his BFA in Creative Writing at Diné College.