National Poetry Month Day 18: Collestipher Dodge Chatto


Collestipher Dodge Chatto is Diné from the Ramah Diné Reservation, New Mexico. In May of 2015, he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts. His poems have appeared in anthologies, Tribal College Journal, Plume, Friendzone, American Indian Culture & Research Journal, Witch Craft Magazine, The Gordian Review, HIV Here & Now Project, and Yellow Medicine Review. He is an American Indian Graduate Center Fellowship recipient. Currently, he is a candidate for an MFA degree in creative writing, focusing on poetry, at IAIA. He also enjoys writing short fiction, and, painting and drawing.


The Banes of Cacti & Snake Holes

________________________________Grey heads witness

____________________the hunter grapple Nadlééh

____________nakedness shatters Moon reflection in ________On the other

____________________the shallow                                          riverside

____________________shoal                red caltrops sticker the labia    the wife

_____________________________________she inserts a cactus oblong & ropes

_________________________________________a fetus cord around

____________River is a planked corpse                               ____ her neck

________splinting continents divorced shores

____________In between    mescal buttons lump infant skin

___________________________Antler tine stabs Nadlééh

______________________The hunter shuts his eyes

_________________A rectum blooms                                             White seed

____________a lotus seed pod    His spine glows                             settles on pink

________Orange poker sizzling the shoal                      Opens his eyes


_______________________________Nadlééh is not the woman

Haatali skin                                         only fetish    receptacle

________sludged black  once said                     jack flesh

____________Our cousins

________Monstrosities in the river        first surfaced sickness

_________________________________of cacti & snake holes


____________Foam gurgles

____________between motherless

____________thighs                          as the cord chokes

__________________________off his wife’s head

____________Her widow eases

____________the scabbard outward

__________________________crystals whitehead his girth




_______________Planked on gurney

rattling through pallid hallways, rooms

________occupied by gloves pumping chests.                           Hunchback insects—Nálí

_________________________________& Chéí smudge dura mater—sweeping

This white gown wrangles brown skin                       weedland vibrations.

________—silicone breast pads the jock pouch.


_______________Eclipses ago, interment                        for change?

________cards crease Nálí’s grin. Artifact. A museum

she closes her eyes to. A spine                                   Turquoise nipples her silver belt                     returns to the ground’s back.               draping my shaven legs in velveteen.

_________________________________Chéí’s corals flower these wrists,

________________________________________________salute the bun

_____________________________________wrapped in mohair nap.

_____________________Cannot do this alone.

______________Play with copper rings

________as the lamp spotlights.                                                 Soaping his forearm hairs,

_____________________________________surgeon says, What have you done

________________________________with your name?


______________Swallow saliva before it cruds.

__________Smile is a skiff

lifting the mountain slopes, & she

_______hears the calling for her to float down. Squint over mounting chamisa. See

_____________________________________the woman wished for

___________________Gossamer mask                                               in birthday flames.

_______threads the airways.


________________________________touch the shaved skin

___________________________ashy below my navel—inter

__________________the boy, the son, the man, the father.

___________Her palm caked in Moon dough, perches

____________________my tremble.

_______________________________I’m different, Nálí.

____________________She coils around my head. Dough dabs my bruise.

_________________________It is not shameful, shiyázhí,

_______________________________to be a Woman.

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →