Grandfather's Song

The Osage family moved slowly to the beat,
circling the drum with sons and daughters,
grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Friends joined behind and beside.
We outside the dance stood quiet,
solemn as the dancers in tribute.
To have a song with Grandfather's name,
a tribute for a whole tribe to know,
respect for those now our memories--
we should learn from this pride.

My grandfather's song will have the rhythm
of train wheels on tracks, slow
regular, climbing long slopes.
It will dip and cry like the whistle
of steam rising over the valley,
sharp as red leaves on a mountainside.
Word sounds will jumble and roll
like the voices of many children calling,
playing homemade games of older days.
And in the end it will settle soft,
with the screaking click of a rocker
on a wood porch and tall hemlocks sighing, quiet
as the slow breath of an old man, remembering.

Let us, too, make songs of honor so our old men
are never quite gone.

Reprinted by permission of Andrew Arbuckle. All rights reserved.