#108 MRS. FRANCIS NA KAI AT THE BIRTHDAY PARTY by Jennifer Givhan

After Laura Gilpin’s book The Enduring Navajo (1961)
University of New Mexico Art Museum

…who showedincredible composure
at a formal dinner we both attended, especially
for someone who didn’t speak a word of English…
Mrs. Francis Na Kai of the woven blanket. Your boy
spoke in code. 1932 you are snapshot with him, your eldest
son. Where has he gone in the 1950 family portrait?
What piñon smoke has eaten your hogan? What boxed diorama, spectacled theater of WWII?
You dignify the rocker, your younger children
barefoot at your skirt. Pearls secure your neck.
Your daughter stands guard from behind.
The red rock of your skin scorches
the photographer’s lens. Laura earned this picture,
has known you all these years on your reservation.
She saved your first boy once,  gave him
vaccinations. Your boy who should’ve been standing
beside his dad. Your boy in whose place, an American Flag.

Jennifer Givhan was a 2010 PEN Center Emerging Voices Fellow and a 2011 St. Lawrence Book Award finalist.  Her work has appeared widely, most recently in Rattle, Crab Creek Review, and The Santa Fe Review. She lives in Albuquerque and is finishing her first novel In the Time of Jubilee. http://jennifergivhan.com/.


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