Rigorous
Volume Two, Issue 1



Ahja Fox


Colorado Pioneer: Ute Elder
Artist William Matthews

As soon as I saw you,
I noticed your right eye tucked
under the shadow
of your massive headdress:

An echo, your home smudged
in toxic smoke, blanketed
in the sun’s unseen rays.
The valleys were too far behind.

You may have sat on a cut down
tree, listening to orders from
Chief Walkara or maybe his brother,
Sanpitch.

You probably acted
in the massacre of four men
at Unita Springs, after
the white man planted on his back

by the open palmed force
of your body, raised his boot
to your face. And maybe
your brothers patted your worn

shoulders during the howls of
labor that escaped from your
wife’s chapped lips. Perhaps
you heard her cry as grief:

one she would repeat
once your son’s blood retracted
into the thin-bladed grass.
You named him Akando, ambush.

And I bet you felt the
sky bearing down on top
of your head, a fracture
to your skull as you continued

to raid the homes
of nearby Mormon settlers—
the stench of acidic earth
becoming sliced peach throats.

Had you not seen the blue
flames dancing along
the open entrance
of your tepee?

Had you not heard the time
of your Ute band silenced?
Your flesh called back
to the dust?

You now cradle the shaft
of an adze, the creator’s
sculpting tool, your bolted
knuckles stretched over

the curves of the wooded
handle. A seal for the tribe blanket
that mummifies your unspoken
history. A mirage of red

spreading from the tight
knit fiber, a blood cloud
at your feet.




Salon on Palace Avenue (2006)

She pulls my hair with words
like light molasses, light because
I am ‘little girl, I could eat you’ sweet,
salted in sugar. She says I have
beautiful hair, easy hair, hair
like a white girl, am I mixed.
I look out the salon window,
twist my belt loops, say
my DNA loops, autumn
leaves when the door
kicks wide, but only
in my head. Quiet sits
in its bed, licks my lips
when I don’t answer and
she giggles that relaxed giggle
when smoke rises, smothers
my chest, peels my skin back
and says ha!


Ahja Fox: '“Salon on Palace Avenue (2006)” is a narrative poem that reveals how I reacted when confronted about aspects of myself. “Colorado Pioneer: Ute Elder Artist William Matthews” is an ekphrastic based on a well-known art piece by the same name in downtown Denver.'




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