October 10, 2014
Crisp, starched khaki boxes my shoulders’
arch. Anglo women stare.
“He’s beautiful.” Anita glares.
I wink and laugh to reassure her.
“It’s just the uniform.” More honestly:
she pays a price for my army pay.
Such honesty’s unwelcome now.
Her jealousy’s gesture signals
love. Her worry isn’t really real.
She thinks I’m used to playing manikin
equally in boots or moccasins.
Certainly, I dress the soldier’s part,
defend the white man’s world as if
it were my own, allow my wife
to dream white women envy her.
But when I wear headdress and war
paint for a festival, when tourists crowd
the pueblo crowing in delight, in which
world do my eagle feathers pinion me?
Anita readily admits Los Alamos
is ugly, but she likes our hutment’s ice
box. She extols the fresh linoleum.
In San Ildefonso, Mother favors
her mud oven’s vagaries above
the evenness of an electric stove.
She will not buy her clay. She stacks
old license plates and army mess trays
around an iron grill to make a kiln.
Under her hands time sits still.
Up on the Hill Hans Bethe hopes
to stretch the RaLa sitting time
to milliseconds. I hammer sheets
of copper for the pit mockup.
Oppie stops in to observe. His eyes
pace like a skittish filly before
he gallops off to check Omega.
Some days I feel his restlessness.
Then, when Anita and Hans can spare me,
I ride north along the Rio Grande
to Santa Clara where I gather
the volcanic ash for flux that Mother
calls “blue sand.” Back home, we sit
outside her door and mix clay slips
or cut kajepes if the gourds are dry.
When I ask her why she signs her name
“Marie,” she says, “That’s how the Anglos
know me: now ‘Maria’ sounds
like someone else.” “Poveka” is lovelier,
though habit turns all things to English,
and “Pond Lily”’s not her, either.
She understands we serve a larger
thing: something that makes us
strong—or, if we fight it, breaks us.
It might be called community.
But which is mine: the pueblo or
Los Alamos? The mother I’ve been given
or the wife I chose? How can I bear
a Spanish name and speak in English
yet keep my Tewa soul? I need
the red fox, luck. Patient, clever.
I hammer copper, grind new bearings
for the Van de Graaff. In October
I return to dance the harvest festival,
help Mother dig and sieve her clay.
She offers cornmeal for the earth’s blessing;
we fill a dozen flour sacks to last
the year. Her pots are always waiting,
some signed Marie and others Poh’ve’ka,
Marie/Popovi, or Maria Poveka.
I stack the logs, pour kerosene,
and layer dung chips at the edges.
After they bake, I smother the pile
with ash and fine, dry horse manure
and let it smoke an hour. As Mother
pulls the kiln apart, I look
to see which names survived the fire.
Antonio Martinez, machinist
By John Canaday