Native American Poem

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“Come on, its time to go,” my mom says as she slowly pushes the car door open. A muggy gust of heat strikes my face as I open the door. Step by step, I pace myself as I enter the graveyard. As if invading someone’s home, their own personal space; I feel like I just don’t belong here. With every stride I quicken my pace; attempting to avoid the gaze from strangers wandering eyes.
I stand beneath the pine trees, concealed in the darkness of their shadows. I continue to dab at my face, as if trying to remove the stubborn puffy redness that engulfs my eyes. The words slowly drifting in the breeze, “We are gathered here to remember Eugene V. Gates…” I stand near the base of the fresh pile of overturned earth. The words hit me like swords, slowly cutting through me. I try to remember the shape of his face, and the sound of his voice. I remember those warm summer days at his house; I would sit there, my legs pressed against the cool tiles, as his voice echoing through the house from his brown chair blanketed in cigarette smoke… “When I was in World War II I traveled everywhere….” That was then, my attention is suddenly drawn back to now, and the memories I will have to make without him. Everyone stands tall; their chins high in the air, their dry eyes become locked on the freshly dug grave. Tears flow down my cheeks like streams, obstructing my view, as I hold myself tight, trying to keep from shaking uncontrollably.

As family members walk towards the gravesite a small pamphlet is handed out. I peer down at it for the first time, looking at the words printed perfectly on the front.


Native American Prayer
I give you this one thought to keep-
I am with you still- I do not sleep
Do not think of me as gone-
I am with you still- in each new dawn.

As the words are read aloud tears begin to blur my sight again. The once clear and crisp ink is now fuzzy and obscure, making the words unreadable. I look up, watching as my aunts slowly, simultaneously recite the poem word by word. My mother and aunts shuffler around, distributing a miniature blood red carnation to set on the smooth honey colored casket. With my hand over my mouth I stifle the sounds as I attempt to catch my breath, still trying to control the sobbing and trembling. Slowly, I walk towards the coffin, flower in hand.
Cautiously I step onto the shaky uneven planks that suspend the coffin above the deep hole like those before me had done. I gently lay the flower on the glossy, polished casket. While running my hand across its top, I say my final goodbye as the sun beats down from above. I turn to leave my grandfather’s side for the last time, only to have my eyes once again taken over by the surge of tears. I step back to the shade, turning my face to a nearby grass-covered hill. A gentle, yet strong hand grasps my shoulders, firmly pulling my trembling body closer to his evenly sturdy figure.
My dad kisses the top of my head, His voice is warm and quiet as he slips more tissues into my hand; the damp used ones are overflow my small jacket pockets’. He stays with me until the end, until all twenty-one body jolting shots from the twenty one gun salute are fired off, and the smoke rises overhead. As if it were a thin and transparent ghost, the smoke effortlessly rises and disperses, being carried away in the breeze.





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