Description: A tale I witnessed on my travels into Canada's Winterland. A sad memory, though funerals always fascinate me. This one was quite unusual; the coffin passed out through a window, the smoking and crumbling of cigarettes, the drumming, chanting . . . it was all quite exotic.
Babble on . . . -------------------------------------------
Babble on . . .
A mere child; a woman; a precious virgin,
save for a few innocent “experiences” —
nonconsensuals don't count, if ignored.
The fate of many a native princess;
tradition dictates stoicism, acceptance,
in face of indiscretion and hardship.
With the hand dealt; Edwina accepted,
putting on a brave face; she'd endure.
For the bundle within, things'd be better,
even if it meant ostracism from the tribe.
Her baby would be all she couldn't.
Leavin' the rez was best for both.
Escaping repression was preferable
to the archaic ways of tradition —
live by reason and justice, a dream.
Not seeing with the eye of an eagle,
another lamb wandered t'ward slaughter.
Poor child, how the gods do jest.
Enticing a green loner was simplicity,
in the guise of friendship, of welcoming.
“One round for the road, on me!”
“Don't be a prude, let's drink to . . .
your health, your future . . . my conquest!”
Instinct sensed danger, the colt bolted.
Staggering out into the unknown,
who'd miss the stranger; the squaw?
Of all nights, there could be none worse,
from Siberia a freezing blizzard swooped.
In desperation to escape; not thinking
of parka or boots, onward stumbling. Retching.
Slumping into a drift; drugged, intoxicated,
unconsciously curling into a fetal position,
Edwina drifted off into a whirling oblivion.
Descending helplessly into a deepening pit . . .
A few days later the ice sculpture found,
in restful repose; Mother and child, free.
Compassion horrified by the News report,
but that was fleeting; only a drunken Indian.
The frozen block was shipped home, C.O.D.
Returned to detested roots; her kin grieved,
for one of their own — cursed tho' she was.
Who could expect more from the Outsiders.
Thawed, the Princess with concealed seed,
could not be stretched out lengthwise.
A special crate was prepared to accommodate,
cubic in shape, of rough uncured pine.
Course sawn and assembled, without precision.
Edges untrue — gaps and cracks; very fitting.
After a brief time of wailing lament,
a window was removed in preparation,
to allow passage of the casket to exit.
The coffined spirit sailed on its way.
A figurative ascension to the beyond,
to the beat of the communal drum.
To further aid the spirit on its travels,
A mournful dirge followed the haunting beat.
A pipe was passed; as were cigs and matches.
Smoke an integral part of the ceremony,
it inundated the area like a heavy mist,
emitted by smoldering fires and smokers.
Non-smokers also with a role to play —
they crumbled smokes and spread tobacco
about the coffin and among the trees.
All to further aid the spirit on its journey,
the coffin was manhandled on the long jaunt
to the pit; dug a canoe length from the shore.
The box was unceremoniously dropped
into the sloppily dug shallow mud hole.
In turn, all threw in their respects;
a thought, a flower, a weed, a fistful of clay.
So ended a life, and a dull overcast day.
Edwina on to another life; as was her unborn.
A rough cross; scraps of the crate,
formed a marker for the grave.
On it Gramps, with shaky hand craved —
R.I.P. Babbling Brook
Edwina Quesquekapo, our dere
1990 – 2005
what a tragic story, well-told as it were. Let me get the questions out of the way. There is great eloquence in the diction, yet you offset it early in the piece with things'd, rez, t'ward, etc., which I accepted as colloquial? But there is no such language later in the piece which, I felt, left it a bit uneven. Don't get me wrong, I see where some of it helped with the flow of the piece and I felt it added some color, but the inconsistency of it is my only concern.
Who could expect more from the Outsiders.
could there/should there be a question mark?
okay, nitpicking a bit...but now, the good: First off, the exotic nature of it is well played, giving us a peak at an ancient kind of mystical ritual. You basically describe it for us without interjecting opinion or definition, just giving us a pair of eyes and leaving the rest to us. If I have a single gripe or question or issue with any of that part of the poem it would be your use of the word "smokes" in this line - they crumbled smokes and spread tobacco, the reason beiing that it is a Western slang word that seems to stick out a little. Also, you've already used smoke, smokers and non-smokers, so you are bordering on repititious here. No biggie though, just pointing it out.
Mostly, I liked the way you unfurled the tragic story for us. Again, not judging, you tell us what you know, and let us decide the why's and such. The stanza that starts "Escaping repression " is where I felt the piece really picked up steam. Your use of symbolism in this stanza is particularly stunning. The next several stanzas are borderline brilliant. Having Native American blood myself I was struck by the line "Compassion horrified by the News report,/ but that was fleeting; only a drunken Indian" This is almost as tragic as the event itself. Harsh reality, and it brought to mind the tragedy in New Orleans, made me think "it was just poor black people"..."Who could expect more from the Outsiders." was a great close to this stanza. It reenforces the feeling of seperation between cultures and prods the reader to take sides and show compassion.
The next stanza is flat out brilliant. The morbid image of a child locked into the fetal position and the subsequent attempt to fit it into a coffin is so sad and leads to my favorite line in the whole piece - "Edges untrue — gaps and cracks; very fitting"
Ending with the epitaph is haunting and probably fitting. All in all I must say that this is a striking piece for all the reasons listed above and more. You have obvious skills and it is apparent that you put a lot of thought into this piece. I've been away for a few weeks and I have a very full plate right now, but I will surely have to find time to read more of your work.
were you formerly Ted in Korea, or something to that effect?