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POEM A DAY: NATALIE DIAZ

Posted on June 19 2020

'THE FIRST WATER IS THE BODY' (AN EXTRACT)

The Colorado River is the most endangered river in the United States—
also, it is a part of my body. 

I carry a river. It is who I am: ‘Aha Makav. This is not metaphor.

When a Mojave says, Inyech ‘Aha Makavch ithuum, we are saying our name.
We are telling a story of our existence. The river runs through the middle
of my body.
 

So far, I have said the word river in every stanza. I don’t want to waste water.
I must preserve the river in my body. 

In future stanzas, I will try to be more conservative

 +

The Spanish called us, Mojave. Colorado, the name they gave our river be
-cause it was silt-red-thick. 

Natives have been called red forever. I have never met a red Native, not
even on my reservation, not even at the National Museum of the American
Indian, not even at the largest powwow in Parker, Arizona. 

I live in the desert along a dammed blue river. The only red people I’ve seen
are white tourists sunburned after staying out on the water too long.

=

‘Aha Makav is the true name of our people, given to us by our Creator who
loosed the river from the earth and built it into our living bodies. 

Translated into English, ‘Aha Makav means the river runs through the 
 middle of our body, the same way it runs through the middle of our land. 


This is a poor translation, like all translations.

An extract from 'The First Water is the Body' from Natalie Diaz' Postcolonial Love Poem, which will be published by Faber in July and is now available to pre-order here with your 25% PBS Member discount. PBS Charter and Complete members will automatically receive a copy.

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