Much of the Zepeda imagery was from the beauty of desert life. At least as she and her family experienced it years ago. A professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona, Zepeda is a member of the Tohono O'odham Nation. Today she fused both worlds.
April is National Poetry Month and the Woods Library, based in Tucson, Arizona, hosted this special event. Between poems, Zapeda narrated how seamlessly nature had been woven into the lives of the tribes in the Southwest.
For example, what was grown in the garden had to be stored in those days before refrigerators. That's how squash co-existed among dust, socks and old toys under the family beds. The adobes were dark and cool.
What was most fascinating was observing the diversity in the audience. There were many Native Americans. But also there were those I knew from meditation practice at the Buddhist temple and having dinners at the retirement communities in Oro and Green Valleys in AZ.
The epiphany I had as Zepeda read her poetry was how differently our lives had ben shaped. Instead of the beauty of the desert, my world view was configured and hardened by the mean streets of Jersey City, New Jersey. My personal writing exploits imagery of resilient cockroaches, mean boys who burned to death a cat alive (only happened once but once was trauma enough), and yentas always watching us from tenement windows.
Likely, Hallmark Cards would hire Zepeda to create from-the-soul greetings for cards. The company had turned me down in the mid 1970s. My portfolio was full of from-the-street sayings such as "Birthdays are like roaches, once you have one, they just keep coming."