I read An Infected Sunset in an afternoon, that feeling of “one more page,” compelling my fingers to flip another and another as I reached the bottom right corner. Every time. Demian DinéYazhi''s book has this effect—of both being familiar and offering hard-won insight, difficult things dragged out into the desert sun and revealed by honest, precise words. I.e.” “in this economy money affords us moments of gratitude,” “queerness doesn't always have to be about sex but straight people/ wouldn't have it any other way,” “when there's no one left to trust/ destroy white supremacy/ until there's nothing left but love/ destroy white supremacy/ until we are able to choose/ how we wish to survive/ destroy white supremacy …”
DinéYazhi' writes the hard stuff without obscuring or embroidering it with language. Each line is embedded with further power by virtue of DinéYazhi''s astute humor, an ability to pivot from sex to love to queerness to Indigineity to capitalism and manage to work in a joke along the way—showing us how intimately these things are bound up together and the power of vulnerability yes, but resilience, too. In “Water is life,” he unpacks “a simple equation/ even a mathematician could get behind,” and a legacy of colonization that has led to tragedy again and again—“google: moskva river fire after oil spill 2015/ google: cuyahoga river fire 1969/ google: wounded knee 1973 …,” and on and on. But he doesn't stop there—with playfulness that is also so deftly cutting he continues: “over one hundred million Indigenous people killed/ let me help you imagine that number:/ imagine every person who has ever owned a tina turner/ or adel or britney spears or david bowie album: dead/ annihilated/ because of colonial dumbfuckery european curiosity.”
An Infected Sunset explores the potential of form to underscore content. Begun just after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, in the midst of ongoing killings of Black men by police. DinéYazhi' continued to compose in the midst of Standing Rock, and the election of Donald Trump—the work transcends from chapbook to “the liberated poem,” it reflects other aspirations—loose pages unbound. It is both mirror and map to the future, written with the same depth and incredible awareness that DinéYazhi' brings to the fettered pages. We land somewhere triumphant: “somewhere sade is playing with/ a love wider than the great/ lakes taller than buildings built/ by mohawks in the empire state/ and I think of all the beautiful/ brown bodies sweating and/ kissing and celebrating one/ another fucking their way back/ into existence or repopulating/ the rez and I think of all the/ beautiful brown babies born/ because of this kind of magic.”
An Infected Sunset figures into that magic—a critical offering. With language cognizant and meticulous, there is a strong sense that DinéYazhi' is writing his heart. But these personal struggles are situated in the long stretch of history, and have ancient resonance. It is apparent that this is more than one heart, that it, in fact, speaks to many.