As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Lyla June Johnston – Spoken word


It is dawn.

The sun is conquering the sky and my grandmother and I
are heaving prayers at the horizon.

“Show me something unbeautiful,” she says,
“and I will show you the veil over your eyes and take it away.
And you will see hozho all around you, inside of you.”

This morning she is teaching me the meaning of HOZHO.

There is no direct translation from Diné Bizaad,
the Navajo language, into English
but every living being knows what hozho means.

Hozho is every drop of rain,
every eyelash,
every leaf on every tree,
every feather on the bluebird’s wing.
Hozho is undeniable beauty.

Hozho is in every breath that we give to the trees.
And in every breath they give to us in return.
Hozho is reciprocity.

My grandmother knows the meaning of hozho well.
For she speaks a language that grew out of the desert floor
like red sandstone monoliths that rise like arms out of the earth
praising creation for all its brilliance.

Hozho is remembering that you are a part of this brilliance.
It is finally accepting that, yes, you are a sacred song that
brings the Diyin Dine’é, the gods, to their knees
in an almost unbearable ecstasy.
Hozho is re-membering your own beauty.

My grandmother knows hozho well
For she speaks the language of a Lukachukai snowstorm
the sound of hooves hitting the earth on birthdays.
For my grandmother is a midwife and she is fluent in the
language of suffering mothers
of joyful mothers
of handing glowing newborns to their creator.

Hozho is not something you can experience on your own,
the eagles tell us as they lock talons in the stratosphere
and fall to the earth as one.
Hozho is interbeauty.

My grandmother knows hozho well
for she speaks the language of the male rain
that shoots lightning boys through the sky,
pummels the green corn children,
and huddles the horses against cliff sides in the afternoon.
She also speaks the language of the female rain
that sends the scent of dust and sage into our homes
and shoots rainbows out of and into the earth.

The Diné know what hozho means!
And you know what hozho means!
And deep down we know what hozho is not.

Like the days you walk in sadness.
The days you live for money.
The days you live for fame.
The days you live for tomorrow.

Like the day the spaniards climbed down from their horses
and asked us if they could buy the mountains.

We knew this was not hozho.
But we knew we could make it hozho once again.

So we took their swords and their silver coins
and melted the
with fire and buffalo hide bellows
and reshaped them into squash blossom jewelry pieces
and strung it around their necks.

Took the helmets straight off their heads
and turned it into fearless beauty.
Hozho is the healing of broken bones.

Hozho is the prayer that carried us
through genocide and disease,
It is the prayer that will carry us through global warming
and through this global fear that has set our hearts on fire.

This morning my grandmother is teaching me
that the easiest (and most elegant) way to defeat an army of hatred,
is to sing it beautiful songs
until it falls to its knees and surrenders.

It will do this, she says, because it has finally
found a sweeter fire than revenge.
It has found heaven.
It has found HOZHO.

This morning my grandmother is saying
to the colors of the sky at dawn:

beauty is restored again…

It is dawn, my friends.
Wake up.
The night is over.

Listen to Lyla Read This Poem

<p><a href=”″>Lyla Johnston- Hozhó</a> from <a href=”″>Lyla Johnston</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a>.</p>

* * *

Lyla June Johnson HeadshotLyla Johnston is a Diné (Navajo) poet, activist, musician and anthropologist from Taos, New Mexico. She studied Human Ecology at Stanford University and helped coordinate the Stanford Spoken Word Collective for four years. She considers each poem to be a prayer and seeks to speak the message of the Creator. With every word she strives to invoke the urgency of love, beauty, unity and freedom.

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7 comments on “Lyla June Johnston – Spoken word

  1. Yasmeen Najmi
    February 6, 2013

    Awesome and inspirational truths, Lyla! Much enjoyed!

  2. 67merrill
    December 27, 2013

    I found an old copy of Tempo in the laundromat this morning, and saw the article about the Regeneration Festival. I appreciate that you are giving hope to the coming generations.

  3. Cexilia Poncho Rojo
    September 22, 2014

    Hi Lyla, My name is Cecilia, I am at the Earthship Academy in Taos. Your teacher Tom, thought of you when I asked him if there is someone I can exchange stories with about Bolivia. Your poetry really resonated with me and I would love to grab a cup of coffee with you if you are still in the Taos area. My email is I’ll be at the Feast of St. Geronimo next tuesday at Taos Pueblo maybe I can catch you around then. Take care sister.

  4. judith oakland
    September 28, 2014

    So needed, to be heard, to be shared, to be spoken….yes, inter beauty…thank you for helping me remember… the beauty always always,

  5. Alvon Griffin
    January 16, 2015

    The Two Worlds Indigenous Radio show in tampa florida at WMNF 88.5 FM. Do you have any radio ready CDs recorded or mp3s? I’d like to add you to the rotation! You can hear what I do at:

  6. jackie
    February 14, 2016

    nicest and clearest definition of the word i’ve seen yet ~ marvelous

  7. Kim Rockingbear
    September 12, 2016

    Seventh fire is calling. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

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