Friday, September 14, 2012

Into the West

When I think of him, I remember the way he taught me to shoot a gun. Steady, with the sound of the forest ringing in my ears. His hand curled around mine, the rifle metal cold against my cheek. Eyes open, breathe, breathe he'd say.

He taught me to chop firewood, to swirl bourbon in a glass, watch the light shine on it amber and gold.
He taught us to pick wild huckleberries, listen for bird songs in the woods
and wait for stars to light the sky.

He always said that death wasn't something to fear.
It was an old friend, and he'd seen it often.
It's a welcoming, he'd say. Life in its cruelty was what should be defied.
Be kind, he said. Life is already cruel enough.

He told me of a place by a river, deep trees
A quiet wind, blue birds, honeysuckle and green hills.
Where dead men, now living
and the echoes of the past became still.

I think it was where he longed for
a place where cruelty was made right
sorrow and disease banished.
Where stolen memory is returned, stolen lives reclaimed.
a woman stands straight again with remembered love
and a young girl breathes free
and deep
able to outrun the wind.
There is sunlight
and stars and everything
is the way it should be.

I never knew how to end letters,
and I wish now that there were more postscripts to add.

I know that he did not fear forever.
And yet, I cannot bear
to imagine a world
without someone as good as him in it.