Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

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In the Poet's Spotlight for August 2007:  Elizabeth Urquhart

Elizabeth Urquhart grew up in New Mexico. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a major in English Literature and History, and later earned a Master's degree from Old Dominion University. For eighteen years she taught as a reading specialist in the Hampton, Virginia Schools. Her poems, which often focus on the Southwest, have appeared in a collection of poetry from the Williamsburg Poetry Group, Vintage Wine and Good Spirits, and in six volumes of The Poet's Domain. Elizabeth is a member of the Poetry Society of Virginia and the Williamsburg Poetry Guild. She is indebted to the Guild for their friendship and support over the past nine years.

Her three children now grown and scattered, Elizabeth [shown with rescued possum at right] lives with her Irish husband and two cats in Hampton, where she devotes her energy to the arts, gardening, and preserving the environment.


Index of Urquhart's Poems: Scroll down or click on Poem Title

Poems of Elizabeth Urquhart (below)  © copyright Elizabeth Urquhart, All rights reserved.




An unpaved road, bumpy, rock-strewn,

on the western side of the Rosebud Sioux reservation

in South Dakota, is where Genevieve Running Horse,

diminutive, with gold rim glasses, and missing two teeth,

drives eighty miles roundtrip in an ancient, yellow station wagon

to deliver “Breakfast in a Bag” to widows,

seniors, and children in He Dog,

the town where she has spent seventy-two years.

For thirty of these years, she has contributed

to the health care of her people—

the old ones, keepers of the traditions,

tribal memories, and spiritual beliefs.

They are the sacred ones, the soul of the Tribe.

She, Genevieve Running Horse, sings ancient chants to herself.

She drums with her fingers on the steering wheel

and breathes the air of the prairie,

sometimes biting, sometimes soft and caressing.

Her body is older now, but her heart beats strongly.

Genevieve Running Horse is riding home.


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At three, runny-nosed and crying loudly,

I was taken by chalk-white people to a mission school.

My brothers and sisters and the parents who adopted me are not part of me.

Neither white nor Indian, where do I belong?

The healing ceremonies and customs of my tribe are foreign to me.


I look into the mirror and see

high aquiline cheeks sharply-edged,

dark eyes, and a face the color of earth.

The face of a young Navajo man.


I’ve wandered through my life’s journey in confusion.

When I look at jagged red bluffs and cerulean skies, I think,

Is Mother Earth mine?

Is she closer to the white man’s God?

Where are the spirits of my ancestors?


My white parents say I belong to the Navajos.

On a yellow, bright fall day, I return to Monument Valley,

the home of my Navajo family.

The cousins, sister, and Aunt Hodezbah enclose me in their arms.

They cry in Navajo, “He has returned home; he has grown into a man.”

Heavy silver and turquoise bracelets brush my forehead.

My aunt Hodezbah with tears running down her cheeks says,

“He has been away, far from us.

We, who love him, will teach him, and keep him here!”


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Hardy Haceesa came down from Nageezi

past pitted black lava, the badlands,

to the fertile green San Juan valley.

To Shiprock, legendary winged rock that carried

the Navajos to safety from the other world.

Hardy was admitted to the hospital in the small town.

No safety there.

Sin Nombre had entered his body, chills, fever, weakness.

Strong Hardy Haceesa, 6’ 4”, the Navajo Michael Jordan,

an athlete who embraced all, scored 44 points one day,

now stricken within five days.

Married with one child, a wonderful life ahead,

Hardy had opened the rundown creaky shed, the Pandora’s box.

Mouse droppings carrying the hantavirus,

Sin Nombre, infected him.

Blood poisoning, flu, bronchitis, the doctors said,

while pasted on his mother’s wall was a flier describing Sin Nombre.

Who would listen?

A helicopter sent from the University Hospital in Albuquerque

flew Hardy Haceesa into a deep blue sky,

where he gave up his brave soul.

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I am a Kachina.

I represent the gods, the sacred beings of my people.

Soft, downy, eagle feathers crown my head.

My eyes are white-ringed—

chalky round dots decorate my high cheek bones.

My hands hold bent, dried willow branches to use as wands.

A wide leather belt, small curled shells clinging to its sides, hugs my waist.

On my doeskin apron, rest minuscule pink and white gifts from the sea.

Soft, brown moccasins enclose my feet,

which long to pound the clay earth of the pueblo,

to begin the Soyal, the winter solstice dance,

to cleanse the village of misfortune and ill health.

Prayer objects of feather and wood are placed

in the stubbly fields with the slow-grazing livestock.

The drums beat, the chanting begins.

All the kachinas move to the music.

Our spirits soar, our bodies bend and twist.

We are one with Mother Earth and Father Sky.


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