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.


Family History

Today I celebrated a late birthday with my family, and we looked through some old photo albums of my parents when they met and began taking photos of us as babies. People tell me I take after my Mother ALL the time – people who know us well, and people who don’t really know us at all. I always smile and say thank you, because my Mother is so beautiful, and I am really excited that I am going to look as pretty as she does in my 50’s.

There is one photo of my mother getting ready on her wedding day that I found particularly special: she is looking down and away from the camera, and you can see her wavy hair and her beautiful dress. The picture is a little out of focus, and it looks like it caught her mid sentence instead of mid smile. The back of someone else’s head is in the bottom left of the photo, someone walking by or who had accidentally stepped in the shot.

When you look directly at it, it’s a photo of my mother. But if you glance away, or look at the photo from the side, it looks just like me.

I’ve lived for 24 years and have spent those 24 years hearing people telling me that I look like her, but today was the first day that I realized exactly how much I really do. We have the same hair, eyes, cheekbones, and mouth. The angle of her face is the same that I have seen of myself in blurry photos, the ones that get deleted, the ones in between smiles and poses.

Then my Mom brought out my birth announcement: It’s a small card with pink print on the front that has my name, birth time and weight. The inside reads:

“‘There is an appointed time

for everything. A time to give

birth and a time to die.

A time to mourn and a

time to dance.’ Ecl. 3:64

In loving memory of my dad,

Charles Duvall Bingham,

who returned to heaven

January 18th, 1991.

His greatest joy

was his grandchildren.”

People talk about their family history, their inheritance, and their heritage. I have a difficult time relating, because my race and nationality are not particularly worthy of note. I have never climbed too far up my family tree because the branches I can see from here have been so captivating, I don’t feel the need to venture any farther. Sharing the name of my Grandfather and the features of my Mother are so inspiring, it is difficult for me to write about anything else.

For now, I am honored and humbled to be a part of such an amazing family, and getting to spend time with them while turning 24 has left me with memories and laughter The stories they tell me of my Grandfather who I have not yet met, and the pictures they share with me of his stories and smiles make me feel as if I had.