Larrea tridentata


Ofelia Zepeda




Like a story that never ends,

a song stuck in your head.

A rainstorm disturbs the settled words.

They move in a breeze.

A waxy sheen glistens

and creates a passage.


Ṣeṣgei, s-ap u:w

The aroma of the story imbeds itself in

our memory like the pain of a broken heart.

A memory cut fresh by a summer rain.



Ṣeṣgei ku:bs kekaj ‘o e-kulañmad.

An g e-kulañmad,

e-mo’o ‘an c an e-gekkio,

kc e-hon, c e-kakkio, we:sko.

Tt hab masma hab ‘o t-wuad.



With the smoke we are healed.

The head, shoulders, legs, the mind, the entire body.

We are whole again.

The smoke permeates the skin.

With the slightest sign of moisture you will be moved to tell a story.




*The word for creosote in Tohono O’odham has a number of variant pronunciations largely based on dialect regions. These are some of them and there may be others: ṣeṣgei, ṣegi, ṣesgi, ṣegoi.




Ofelia Zepeda is a Tohono O’odham poet and professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona. Her works include Where Clouds are Formed (2008), Ocean Power (1995), Home Places: Contemporary Native American Writing from Sun Tracks (1995), A Papago Grammar (1983), and When It Rains, Papago and Pima Poetry = Mat hekid o ju, ‘O’odham Na-cegitodag (1982).