Dear Governor Ducey,
I know you would like to say that you are a man of the budget, not a man of the people, but from what I can tell, rocks don’t use money. Neither the sand nor the saguaro use money. Not even the grassy golf course uses money. It’s only the people that use money so I imagine that you care for the people via the budget and that gives me hope.
Do you ever drive up Highway 89 toward page? You know that big house under construction on the left of the road? It’s been “under construction” since I moved here in 2008 to teach at NAU. On the face of the plywood of this house under construction is a painting of two people. These people stand two stories high. The man, Navajo, looks a bout sixty. He wears a cowboy hat and Levi’s. The woman, also Navajo looking, wears a more traditional dress. Or maybe it’s calico. I can’t quite remember. I haven’t driven that way in awhile.
My student, Lyncia Begay, also Navajo, hates those painted figures on the side of the house under construction. I don’t know why she hates them—because they are older or because they represent a Navajo she doesn’t want to see or because they have been there so long on a house under construction that is never finished or because she drives back and forth through the reservation every day to come to school and she is sick of looking at them. I let her into my graduate poetry class even though she was only a sophomore. Her poems are brilliant. She matches lines like, “throw dead birds in the air” with “wispy cigarettes.”
It took Lyncia six years to get her degree. She worked full time at Dillards. She lived with her mom and her sister on the reservation most of the time. She’d drive in to campus for a full slate of classes and then drive to Dillards where she worked until 9. Then, she drove home past the house under-construction, which, after six years of driving, has begun to fade into the wood. The wood, suffering weather and sun, has turned leathery as the man and woman’s skin.
I saw Lyncia around Christmastime at Whole Foods. She was up from Phoenix, visiting her mom for the holidays. She has a full time job as a communications analyst. She has her own apartment. She is brilliant. She came to NAU because the public university tries to serve they who might not go to college otherwise, and, thanks to state funding, grants, and scholarships, Lyncia graduated. She still writes poems in her spare time.