Music of the Night

I do not cry in front of my mother

when I look at her

I think of the beautiful brown child silencing her thoughts, afraid they might slip off of her Navajo tongue.

When she braids my hair

I fantasize about the young soul who once ran free, hair flowing with the breeze, protected by the warmth of the sun.

I do not cry in front of my mother

When she reaches for my hand

I feel the shock of the yard stick striking her small soft palms as she forgot to speak a language that was not her own.

When my mother is slow to stand up

I see the young girl who scrubbed floors on her knees in dormitories that have become graves to forgotten children, cultures, and languages.

I do not cry in front of my mother

Sobs are the sounds at night creeping their way across stolen land

the sound of my grandmother as she lie awake wondering where her children were, wishing she could begin again.

With her long dark hair knotting behind her, my mother tucked the corners of her bed in – praying for the day she would return home.

The lines around her eyes are not wrinkles, but dried up streams that once flooded with silent tears.

The music of the night

I do not cry in front of my mother

When she calls for me, “shiyazhi?”

I respond in our forbidden language; the way she would have to her mother

Instead she learned to say yes ma’am to white women who envied her cheek bones

Instead, she was fed lies

to hate the color of her skin, the length of her hair, and the creator of whom she prayed to.

And when she hears the words boarding and school in the same sentence I see her cringe

And I want to run to her and hug her and tell her that I am here

and I am not her mother, but I am sorry

I am sorry I let them take you

I am sorry I couldn’t protect you

I am sorry your mother couldn’t be a mom when you needed her most.

I do not cry in front of my mother

Because when she looks at me she sees herself

And I will not remind her of her past

Published by Shandiin Herrera

Diné, Duke University Alumna, Lead for America Hometown Fellow

One thought on “Music of the Night

  1. Absolutely beautiful… made me year bc my mom had harsh experiences, too. And also in the home she grew up in bc she was not fortunate to have her parents. I love this post. I admire the strength our grandmothers, mother’s, auntie’s and others have.


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