These are selections from work in progress that speaks from

years with the Zunis in New Mexico.

Dennis Tedlock

Advice Received | Dialogue | The Hunter's Wife | When Only the Breath Is Left | That Fire in Your Fireplace | While Eating Mutton | Spiders | The Year | Winter Solstice | Recipe | Cornshucking | When the Witches Are Out | The Two of Them

Advice Received

Don't ask too many questions.

Don't ask questions about religion.

Don't take notes in front of people.

If someone is chopping wood

don't just stand there.


-I could tell you a story.

It's the story told to all boys when they are initiated.

Do you want me to tell it? -

- If you want to tell it go ahead. -

- Don't say that.

Say you want me to tell the story.

The Hunter's Wife


She looks out the window

the snow is falling

her husband went hunting for elk

the boy went along too

a neighbor thinks he saw them at Red Hill

she hasn't seen the sun all day.


She was out in the woods

gathering pine nuts

and there

under a tree

was a fawn

the fawn said

-Tie me up. -


The men left her in camp for the day

a wounded buck

charged right into the fire

she hit him over the head with a frying pan.

When Only The Breath Is Left

On the third day after her grandson died

she thought she heard his

transistor radio playing

but that wasn't even in the house

it was already

broken and buried.

On the fourth night

the door was left open for her grandson

she dreamed of masked dancers

in a row

she heard the cry of the deer

they all walked away

he was the one in the middle.

That Fire In Your Fireplace

You started it right up

with one match, it must be

your aunt loves you

it was quiet for awhile

but now

listen to that fire!

The flames go straight up

it roars!

Someone is hungry, it must be your


every time you eat

take a little bread

a little meat

throw it in the fire, say

- Great-grandparents!

Eat! -

That's the shortest prayer there is.

While Eating Mutton

Here are the eyes

but that means weak eyes

here is the fat around the eyes

but that means getting tears in the wind

here is the tongue

but that means getting thirsty all the time

here is the brain

but that means snoring all night

here is the heart

but that means forgetfulness

here is a bone with marrow in it

but that means hangnails

now here is the meat on the palate, with this

I'll be able to eat cactus fruit.



A spider walked across the table

he lit a match and burned it

then he said


That handsome Bluebird!

He's the one who killed you!

Shrivel up his eyes!


A spider bit the girl

there were big red bumps down her arm

but her aunt knew the right medicine

it was the juice of the burnt Bluebird.

The Year

First comes

Broken Branches Moon

the snow is heavy


Snowless Road Moon

it snows

but it doesn't stick to the road


Little Wind Moon

when the snow is in patches


Big Wind Moon


Nameless Moon


Turnabout Moon


Broken Branches Moon

also called Rooster Pull

the time of the rodeo


Snowless Road Moon

also called Get-together



Little Wind Moon


Big Wind Moon

also called Pick-the-ears-of-corn


Nameless Moon

when they set the date for the dancers


Turnabout Moon.

All these twelve together are called


Winter Solstice

Here is the place of fear

for four days

no greasy foods are eaten

there is no coffee

no trade

all places of business are closed

for ten days

no sweepings

no garbage is taken out of the house

no fire is taken out of the house

not even cigarettes are lighted outside

people shouldn't use their cars

the street lights are all turned out

this is the middle of time.


Fill a bowl with hot water

add, to taste:

dried leaves of wild mint

ground chili


dried chinchweed flowers


and venison jerky.

This is called


it is

an ancient dish.


Pull down the husk

all around

then twist it all off at once

with the stem

put the dry ears in this pile

for us

put the damp ears

the moldy ears in this one

for the hogs

and throw the shucks out there

some of the ears are yellow

some are blue



some are pretty

the multicolored ones

some are black

look for the Fully-Finished-Ear

without a single kernel missing

right to the very tip

a deer, a buck

wears that one on his breast

and the Flat-Ear

with a forked tip

a doe wears that one on her breast

and the Road-Ear

with a groove down its whole length

runners wear that one on their backs

now here it is a Fully-Finished-Ear

but it's wet

I'll put it at the edge of the good pile

and here is an ear

yellow, but

each kernel

is tinged with red

it's sort of pretty

there's no name for this one

I'll put it here on the fence rail

maybe I'll do something with it later.

When The Witches Are Out

On the road at night

we caught a deer in the headlights

he didn't know which way to go

he came toward us

turning left and right

in the lights

we stopped

he cut left through the sunflowers

into the dark

we went on up to the house

so our nephew could get his rifle

on our way back down the road

there was another car coming

far off

his lights went out

we rode all the way down past

where the deer was

and there was no deer

and no car.

The Two of Them

The Zuni

and the anthropologist

walk the narrow road

to the tip of the mesa

to see the Hopi Snake Dance

between two sheer drops

the Zuni says

to the anthropologist

- Both sides!

You jump one way

and I'll jump the other.