Contemporary World Literature, writing homework help
Contemporary World Literature
The narrator of “Yellow
Woman” reflects at several points in the story about what she will
eventually tell her family. Or, in other words, she has a story to tell and
wonders how she will tell it. Why doesn’t she tell the truth? Do the old
stories about the ka’tsina spirit and the Yellow Woman relate to the woman
narrator and Silva in any way? Discuss ways in which they might.
Please make this 1-2 paragraphs and in APA format.
Please include a reference page and site sources within the
My thigh clung to his
with dampness, and I watched the sun rising up through the tamaracks and
willows. The small brown water birds came to the river and hopped across the
mud, leaving brown scratches in the alkali-white crust. They bathed in the
river silently. I could hear the water, almost at our feet where the narrow
fast channel bubbled and washed green ragged moss and fern leaves. I looked at
him beside me, rolled in the red blanket on the white river sand. I cleaned the
sand out of the cracks between my toes, squinting because the sun was above the
willow trees. I looked at him for the last time, sleeping on the white river
I felt hungry and followed
the river south the way we had come the afternoon before, following our
footprints that were already blurred by lizard tracks and bug trails. The
horses were still lying down, and the black one whinnied when he saw me but he
did not get up—maybe it was because the corral was made out of thick cedar
branches and the horses had not yet felt the sun like I had. I tried to look
beyond the pale red mesas to the pueblo. I knew it was there, even if I could
not see it, on the sandrock hill above the river, the same river that moved
past me now and had reflected the moon last night.
The horse felt warm
underneath me. He shook his head and pawed the sand. The bay whinnied and
leaned against the gate trying to follow, and I remembered him asleep in the
red blanket beside the river. I slid off the horse and p. 1031p. 2543p. 1685tied him close to the other horse, I walked
north with the river again, and the white sand broke loose in footprints over
He moved in the blanket
and turned his face to me with his eyes still closed. I knelt down to touch
He smiled now, eyes
still closed. “You are coming with me, remember?” He sat up now with his bare
dark chest and belly in the sun.
“To my place.”
“And will I come back?”
He pulled his pants on.
I walked away from him, feeling him behind me and smelling the willows.
“Yellow Woman,” he said.
I turned to face him.
“Who are you?” I asked.
He laughed and knelt on
the low, sandy bank, washing his face in the river. “Last night you guessed my
name, and you knew why I had come.”
I stared past him at the
shallow moving water and tried to remember the night, but I could only see the
moon in the water and remember his warmth around me.
“But I only said that
you were him and that I was Yellow Woman—I’m not really her—I have my own name
and I come from the pueblo on the other side of the mesa. Your name is Silva
and you are a stranger I met by the river yesterday afternoon.”
He laughed softly. “What
happened yesterday has nothing to do with what you will do today, Yellow
“I know—that’s what I’m
saying—the old stories about the ka’tsina spirit and Yellow Woman
can’t mean us.”
My old grandpa liked to tell those stories best.
There is one about Badger and Coyote who went hunting and were gone all day,
and when the sun was going down they found a house. There was a girl living
there alone, and she had light hair and eyes and she told them that they
could sleep with her. Coyote wanted to be with her all night so he sent Badger
into a prairie-dog hole, telling him he thought he saw something in it. As soon
as Badger crawled in, Coyote blocked up the entrance with rocks and hurried
back to Yellow Woman.
“Come here,” he said
He touched my neck and I
moved close to him to feel his breathing and to hear his heart. I was wondering
if Yellow Woman had known who she was—if she knew that she would become part of
the stories. Maybe she’d had another name that her husband and relatives called
her so that only the ka’tsina from the north and the storytellers would know
her as Yellow Woman. But I didn’t go on; I felt him all around me, pushing me
down into the white river sand.
Yellow Woman went away
with the spirit from the north and lived with him and his relatives. She was
gone for a long time, but then one day she came back and she brought twin boys.
“Do you know the story?”
p. 1032p. 2544p. 1686
“What story?” He smiled
and pulled me close to him as he said this. I was afraid lying there on the red
blanket. All I could know was the way he felt, warm, damp, his body beside me.
This is the way it happens in the stories, I was thinking, with no thought
beyond the moment she meets the ka’tsina spirit and they go.
“I don’t have to go.
What they tell in stories was real only then, back in time immemorial, like
He stood up and pointed
at my clothes tangled in the blanket. “Let’s go,” he said.
I walked beside him, breathing hard because he
walked fast, his hand around my wrist. I had stopped trying to pull away from
him, because his hand felt cool and the sun was high, drying the river bed into
alkali. I will see someone, eventually I will see someone, and then I will be
certain that he is only a man—some man from nearby—and I will be sure that I am not
Yellow Woman. Because she is from out of time past and I live now and I’ve been
to school and there are highways and pickup trucks that Yellow Woman never saw.
It was an easy ride
north on horseback. I watched the change from the cottonwood trees along the
river to the junipers that brushed past us in the foothills, and finally there
were only piñons, and when I looked up at the rim of the mountain plateau I
could see pine trees growing on the edge. Once I stopped to look down, but the
pale sandstone had disappeared and the river was gone and the dark lava hills
were all around. He touched my hand, not speaking, but always singing softly a
mountain song and looking into my eyes.
I felt hungry and
wondered what they were doing at home now—my mother, my grandmother, my
husband, and the baby. Cooking breakfast, saying, “Where did she go?—maybe
kidnapped.” And Al going to the tribal police with the details: “She went
walking along the river.”
The house was made with
black lava rock and red mud. It was high above the spreading miles of arroyos
and long mesas. I smelled a mountain smell of pitch and buck brush. I stood
there beside the black horse, looking down on the small, dim country we had passed,
and I shivered.
“Yellow Woman, come
inside where it’s warm.”
He lit a fire in the
stove. It was an old stove with a round belly and an enamel coffeepot on top.
There was only the stove, some faded Navajo blankets, and a bedroll and
cardboard box. The floor was made of smooth adobe plaster, and there was one
small window facing east. He pointed at the box.
“There’s some potatoes
and the frying pan.” He sat on the floor with his arms around his knees pulling
them close to his chest and he watched me fry the potatoes. I didn’t mind him
watching me because he was always watching me—he had been watching me since I
came upon him sitting on the river bank trimming leaves from a willow twig with
his knife. We ate from the pan and he wiped the grease from his fingers on his
“Have you brought women here before?” He smiled
and kept chewing, so I said, “Do you always use the same tricks?”
“What tricks?” He looked
at me like he didn’t understand.
“The story about being a
ka’tsina from the mountains. The story about Yellow Woman.”
Silva was silent; his
face was calm.
p. 1033p. 2545p. 1687
“I don’t believe it.
Those stories couldn’t happen now,” I said.
He shook his head and
said softly, “But someday they will talk about us, and they will say, ‘Those
two lived long ago when things like that happened.’ ”
He stood up and went
out. I ate the rest of the potatoes and thought about things—about the noise
the stove was making and the sound of the mountain wind outside. I remembered
yesterday and the day before, and then I went outside.
I walked past the corral
to the edge where the narrow trail cut through the black rim rock. I was
standing in the sky with nothing around me but the wind that came down from the
blue mountain peak behind me. I could see faint mountain images in the distance
miles across the vast spread of mesas and valleys and plains. I wondered who
was over there to feel the mountain wind on those sheer blue edges—who walks on
the pine needles in those blue mountains.
“Can you see the
pueblo?” Silva was standing behind me.
I shook my head. “We’re
too far away.”
“From here I can see the
world.” He stepped out on the edge. “The Navajo reservation begins over there.”
He pointed to the east. “The Pueblo boundaries are over here.” He looked below
us to the south, where the narrow trail seemed to come from. “The Texans have
their ranches over there, starting with that valley, the Concho Valley. The
Mexicans run some cattle over there too.”
“Do you ever work for
“I steal from them,”
Silva answered. The sun was dropping behind us and the shadows were filling the
land below. I turned away from the edge that dropped forever into the valleys
“I’m cold,” I said, “I’m
going inside.” I started wondering about this man who could speak the Pueblo
language so well but who lived on a mountain and rustled cattle. I decided that
this man Silva must be Navajo, because Pueblo men didn’t do things like that.
“You must be a Navajo.”
Silva shook his head
gently. “Little Yellow Woman,” he said, “you never give up, do you? I have told
you who I am. The Navajo people know me, too.” He knelt down and unrolled the
bedroll and spread the extra blankets out on a piece of canvas. The sun was
down, and the only light in the house came from outside—the dim orange light
I stood there and waited
for him to crawl under the blankets.
“What are you waiting
for?” he said, and I lay down beside him. He undressed me slowly like the night
before beside the river—kissing my face gently and running his hands up and
down my belly and legs. He took off my pants and then he laughed.
“Why are you laughing?”
“You are breathing so
I pulled away from him
and turned my back to him.
He pulled me around and
pinned me down with his arms and chest. “You don’t understand, do you, little
Yellow Woman? You will do what I want.”
And again he was all around me with his skin
slippery against mine, and I was afraid because I understood that his strength
could hurt me. I lay underneath him and I knew that he could destroy me. But
later, while he slept beside me, I touched his face and I had a feeling—the
kind of feeling for him that p. 1034p. 2546p. 1688overcame me that morning
along the river. I kissed him on the forehead and he reached out for me.
When I woke up in the
morning he was gone. It gave me a strange feeling because for a long time I sat
there on the blankets and looked around the little house for some object of
his—some proof that he had been there or maybe that he was coming back. Only
the blankets and the cardboard box remained. The .30-30 that had been leaning
in the corner was gone, and so was the knife I had used the night before. He
was gone, and I had my chance to go now. But first I had to eat, because I knew
it would be a long walk home.
I found some dried
apricots in the cardboard box, and I sat down on a rock at the edge of the
plateau rim. There was no wind and the sun warmed me. I was surrounded by
silence. I drowsed with apricots in my mouth, and I didn’t believe that there
were highways or railroads or cattle to steal.
When I woke up, I stared
down at my feet in the black mountain dirt. Little black ants were swarming
over the pine needles around my foot. They must have smelled the apricots. I
thought about my family far below me. They would be wondering about me, because
this had never happened to me before. The tribal police would file a report.
But if old Grandpa weren’t dead he would tell them what happened—he would laugh
and say, “Stolen by a ka’tsina, a mountain spirit. She’ll come home—they
usually do.” There are enough of them to handle things. My mother and
grandmother will raise the baby like they raised me. Al will find someone else,
and they will go on like before, except that there will be a story about the
day I disappeared while I was walking along the river. Silva had come for me;
he said he had. I did not decide to go. I just went. Moonflowers blossom in the
sand hills before dawn, just as I followed him. That’s what I was thinking as I
wandered along the trail through the pine trees.
It was noon when I got
back. When I saw the stone house I remembered that I had meant to go home. But
that didn’t seem important any more, maybe because there were little blue flowers
growing in the meadow behind the stone house and the gray squirrels were
playing in the pines next to the house. The horses were standing in the corral,
and there was a beef carcass hanging on the shady side of a big pine in front
of the house. Flies buzzed around the clotted blood that hung from the carcass.
Silva was washing his hands in a bucket full of water. He must have heard me
coming because he spoke to me without turning to face me.
“I’ve been waiting for
“I went walking in the
big pine trees.”
I looked into the bucket
full of bloody water with brown-and-white animal hairs floating in it. Silva
stood there letting his hand drip, examining me intently.
“Are you coming with
“Where?” I asked him.
“To sell the meat in
“If you’re sure it’s
“I wouldn’t ask you if
it wasn’t,” he answered.
He sloshed the water around in the bucket
before he dumped it out and set the bucket upside down near the door. I
followed him to the corral and watched him saddle the horses. Even beside the
horses he looked tall, and I p. 1035p. 2547p. 1689asked him again if he
wasn’t Navajo. He didn’t say anything; he just shook his head and kept cinching
up the saddle.
“But Navajos are tall.”
“Get on the horse,” he
said, “and let’s go.”
The last thing he did
before we started down the steep trail was to grab the .30-30 from the corner.
He slid the rifle into the scabbard that hung from his saddle.
“Do they ever try to
catch you?” I asked.
“They don’t know who I
“Then why did you bring
“Because we are going to
Marquez where the Mexicans live.”
The trail leveled out on
a narrow ridge that was steep on both sides like an animal spine. On one side I
could see where the trail went around the rocky gray hills and disappeared into
the southeast where the pale sandrock mesas stood in the distance near my home.
On the other side was a trail that went west, and as I looked far into the
distance I thought I saw the little town. But Silva said no, that I was looking
in the wrong place, that I just thought I saw houses. After that I quit looking
off into the distance; it was hot and the wildflowers were closing up their
deep-yellow petals. Only the waxy cactus flowers bloomed in the bright sun, and
I saw every color that a cactus blossom can be; the white ones and the red ones
were still buds, but the purple and the yellow were blossoms, open full and the
most beautiful of all.
Silva saw him before I
did. The white man was riding a big gray horse, coming up the trail towards us.
He was traveling fast and the gray horse’s feet sent rocks rolling off the
trail into the dry tumbleweeds. Silva motioned for me to stop and we watched
the white man. He didn’t see us right away, but finally his horse whinnied at
our horses and he stopped. He looked at us briefly before he lapped the gray
horse across the three hundred yards that separated us. He stopped his horse in
front of Silva, and his young fat face was shadowed by the brim of his hat. He
didn’t look mad, but his small, pale eyes moved from the blood-soaked gunny
sacks hanging from my saddle to Silva’s face and then back to my face.
“Where did you get the
fresh meat?” the white man asked.
“I’ve been hunting,”
Silva said, and when he shifted his weight in the saddle the leather creaked.
“The hell you have,
Indian. You’ve been rustling cattle. We’ve been looking for the thief for a
The rancher was fat, and
sweat began to soak through his white cowboy shirt and the wet cloth stuck to
the thick rolls of belly fat. He almost seemed to be panting from the exertion
of talking, and he smelled rancid, maybe because Silva scared him.
Silva turned to me and
smiled. “Go back up the mountain, Yellow Woman.”
The white man got angry
when he heard Silva speak in a language he couldn’t understand. “Don’t try
anything, Indian. Just keep riding to Marquez. We’ll call the state police from
The rancher must have been unarmed because he
was very frightened and if he had a gun he would have pulled it out then.
I turned my horse around and the rancher yelled, “Stop!” I looked at Silva for
an instant and there was p. 1036p. 2548p. 1690something ancient and
dark—something I could feel in my stomach—in his eyes, and when I glanced at
his hand I saw his finger on the trigger of the .30-30 that was still in the
saddle scabbard. I slapped my horse across the flank and the sacks of raw meat
swung against my knees as the horse leaped up the trail. It was hard to keep my
balance, and once I thought I felt the saddle slipping backward; it was because
of this that I could not look back.
I didn’t stop until I
reached the ridge where the trail forked. The horse was breathing deep gasps
and there was a dark film of sweat on its neck. I looked down in the direction
I had come from, but I couldn’t see the place. I waited. The wind came up and
pushed warm air past me. I looked up at the sky, pale blue and full of thin
clouds and fading vapor trails left by jets.
I think four shots were
fired—I remember hearing four hollow explosions that reminded me of deer
hunting. There could have been more shots after that, but I couldn’t have heard
them because my horse was running again and the loose rocks were making too
much noise as they scattered around his feet.
Horses have a hard time
running downhill, but I went that way instead of uphill to the mountain because
I thought it was safer. I felt better with the horse running southeast past the
round gray hills that were covered with cedar trees and black lava rock. When I
got to the plain in the distance I could see the dark green patches of
tamaracks that grew along the river; and beyond the river I could see the
beginning of the pale sandrock mesas. I stopped the horse and looked back to
see if anyone was coming; then I got off the horse and turned the horse around,
wondering if it would go back to its corral under the pines on the mountain. It
looked back at me for a moment and then plucked a mouthful of green tumbleweeds
before it trotted back up the trail with its ears pointed forward, carrying its
head daintily to one side to avoid stepping on the dragging reins. When the
horse disappeared over the last hill, the gunny sacks full of meat were still
swinging and bouncing.
I walked toward the
river on a wood-hauler’s road that I knew would eventually lead to the paved
road. I was thinking about waiting beside the road for someone to drive by, but
by the time I got to the pavement I had decided it wasn’t very far to walk if I
followed the river back the way Silva and I had come.
The river water tasted
good, and I sat in the shade under a cluster of silvery willows. I thought
about Silva, and I felt sad at leaving him; still, there was something strange
about him, and I tried to figure it out all the way back home.
I came back to the place on the river bank where
he had been sitting the first time I saw him. The green willow leaves that he
had trimmed from the branch were still lying there, wilted in the sand. I saw
the leaves and I wanted to go back to him—to kiss him and to touch him—but
the mountains were too far away now. And I told myself, because I believe it,
he will come back sometime and be waiting again by the river.
I followed the path up
from the river into the village. The sun was getting low, and I could smell
supper cooking when I got to the screen door of my house. I could hear their
voices inside—my mother was telling my grandmother how to fix the Jell-O and my
husband, Al, was playing with the baby. I decided to tell them that some Navajo
had kidnaped me, but I was sorry that old Grandpa wasn’t alive to hear my story
because it was the Yellow Woman stories he liked to tell best.
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