National Poetry Month Contest

Apache Pitch Lined Basket
The Apache people of the American Southwest arrived in the area abut A. D. 1100, migrating from western Canada. The Apache were mostly hunter-gatherers whose territories ranged from western Texas, southern New Mexico and Arizona, and Northern Chihuahua.  Some bands practiced limited agriculture but they were best known for their mobility and fierce defense of their territorial homeland.  Apache Indians closely wove basket jars and covered them with pine pitch to make them water-tight as they did not make pottery for such purposes.  These baskets were extremely durable and were highly functional given the mobile life-style of the hunter-gatherer Apache.

2021 EKPHRASTIC POETRY WINNERS – WITTE MUSEUM Artwork: Apache Pitch Lined Basket (artist unknown)

Adult Winning Poems (in no particular order)

Skin Thirst (spoken to Apache Pitch Lined Basket)

by Mobi Warren

Your pine pitch has weathered to a fabric of scattered ash and mottled mallow rose. Pomegranate-womb, memory of water.

My hands reach across time to touch the hands that made you. Palm to ghostly palm, sweetgrass-scented hands coarsened
to the task of survival.

Asphalt roads have erased the maker’s tracks and sealed hidden springs. But here,
scent of water still pours from your mouth.

Apache Pitch Lined Basket

by Catherine Lee

we women made these pots, they take our shape,not apparent, what we are made of:
tight-woven grass gathered during warmer months,
white pine tar oozed when woodpecker-damaged
flesh suit was heated delicately above fire, mixed
with rabbit dung, fur, charcoal, yielding antiseptic glue
of ancestral relatives. within our civil circle,
all must hunt, feed, gather, to reproduce this journey.
we carry need with weary grip, engage in mothering tasks:
cooking, suckling, a pitch-lined olla holding water,
bearing generational hips of faint mysterious design.
reduced to modern functionality, displayed,
observed behind clean glass, decorative, labeled
basket jar, said to be utilized by mobile,
fierce defenders, Apache denotes “enemy”


by Karen Summers-Murray

The People are silent and fast and fierce as they move

The women among them carry the baskets and sing

Each woman sings of her tears, the blood, the rain

Her soul, her babe, she changes, grows heavy, then light

She feints, or stalks, or darts through the piñons, she runs

The Ancestors knew, and sending the knowledge ahead

Whispered it through the trees. Their wandering Children

Heard, became silent, and fast, and fierce, and careful

Careful to carry the knowledge within the baskets

Where there it is mixed with tears, with blood, with rain

With songs of the newly born babe. She will grow, and listen

She builds her own basket and carries it close and yearns

She will carry the People, their needs, their future, her soul

The basket the basket the basket