Turkey Feathers

It’s been a week since James died – a week of sadness.

Tears, memories, and a bewilderment I still cannot seem to pin down into rational thought.

This sadness is settling over me, a weight pressing in my chest.

I am getting used to rising with it, and laying down with it –

like a cat sleeping, purring, kneading my ribcage,

stretching claws and gently pricking me

to remind me that it is still there.

The holes it leaves fill with blood and cherry juice

cherries spiced with rum and left in the freezer overnight

shared with an old ladle I can vision my Uncle passing around.

His bandana is in my jacket pocket, and the boots he gave me sit by the door.

The weight of his death swells and drops like the tides,

like a song reaching and falling from crescendo,

a hawk taking flight and leaving the reach of my vision.

Death is impossible to write about

I hate it for eluding the one thing I have to cope with

to try and reach and understand

to strain and see where the hawk disappeared between the clouds

and the clay resting just under grass and gravestones.

He is gone

His absence like a hole I cannot fathom filling.

It takes time, but time is not on our side

It rushed to claim him and now tarries,

ticking loudly in the minutes and seconds I try and fill with sleep

reminding me of what I have lost, of the wisdom he can no longer share.

We were going to raise colts and calves,

we were going to build fences and plant another garden

the barn needs lights and running water,

the outside of the house needs painting.

Who will show me how to rope and reign –

how to make a living on the land where I belong?

I cannot bushog or bale hay,

I can’t fix the truck so it will last for another trail ride.

He would let me sit on the cooler in the back with his dog Abilene,

wind whipping through my hair as we wound the roads between mountains

taking in the view from the Cowboy Cadillac.

She sits at the end of the driveway, waiting for him to return

and a part of me wishes I could sit and wait with her.

We both eat and drink what is placed before us,

our gaze remaining on that bend in the road,

the rise you climb before you can see the barn,

the creek, the ridge line and the house.

His horses stand at the falling fence, ears pricked,

waiting the sound of his spurs and his whistle,

the sound of grain falling into a waiting bucket,

the creak of leather and the soft scuff of dirt underfoot.

His practiced hands mending wounds and tears,

applying ointment and the right amount of pressure.

Lighting a fire, tuning a guitar, salting the potatoes.

Reins held loosely, calmly feeding through rope.

We buried him with his hat, a feather sewed into the brim.

We lit cedar, sage, and tobacco,

and fanned the smoke up to the sky.

In the shadow of snow covered mountains he now rests

Beneath orange clay I don’t want to wash from my nail beds.

We put yellow daffodils in his boots, the spurs twinkling in the bright sunlight.