I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
Birds don’t stop in this town.
I see them fly past, black peppering
blue, going someplace. I’ve given up
dreaming wings. This town
will know my bones. Condoms
sell well in Joe’s corner store—boredom breeds
but breeding’s a trap, a twitch in the smile
of those steel-eyed shrews
who linger late after church.
I walked half a day, out past the salt flats,
after they closed the movie house down. Smoked
the joint she’d brought back from college
when she returned to bury my dad.
I remember how pale her fingers lay
across my father’s hands—
coal miner’s hands, tarred like his lungs;
like this town.
Hold on to what is good, even if it’s a handful of Earth.
Hold on to what you believe, even if it’s a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do, even if it’s a long way from here.
Hold on to your life, even if it’s easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand, even if someday I’ll be gone away from you.
(Native American Wisdom)
When I am dead, cry for me a little.
Think of me sometimes, but not too much.
It is not good for you or your wife or your husband or your children
To allow your thoughts to dwell too long on the dead.
Think of me now and again as I was in life,
At some moment which is pleasant to recall,
But not for long.
Leave me in peace as I shall leave you, too, in peace.
While you live, let your thoughts be with the living. —
The Great Spirit is in all things:
He is in the air we breathe.
The Great Spirit is our father,
but the Earth is our Mother.
She nourishes us;
that which we put into the ground
she returns to us.
—BIG THUNDER (BEDAGI), WABANAKI ALGONQUIN
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridall of the earth and skie:
The dew shall weep thy fall to night;
For thou must die.