THE GRANDFATHER PYRE
“Kill the Indian and Save the Man” –
Capt. Pratt, Founder of the first Indigenous boarding school in the US.
People will take advantage of your gentleness,
to make large towers of metal,
cars whose smoke blackens out the stars—it reminds you of the
fish you cooked for
your grandfather, its skin cracked and
flaked beneath his teeth. He ate bones
like the images of witches he had
how before we came
from logs into the fourth world,
there was bad medicine.
He said it smelled of gasoline and when laundry
does not dry all the way on the line, still holding remnants
of the person you tried to wash off of them.
Come here, he said and grabbed your face so tightly,
the green veins in his hands bulged.
Your blood is like egg whites,
it can be used to make a meringue.
Grandfather, smelling of coal and bourbon, kissed your cheeks.
Once he told a story of running from boarding schools, not having
time to find his shoes, young unprotected feet became shredded and bone,
from February snow. You never see grandfather without socks on.
Your cousins’ whisper, about his feet still broken, scarred,
Grandmother would brush your hair, pulling and pulling
until it was sleek and your scalp bled,
she rubbed tree sap along your hair and kissed you, body full as a wax doll—
sealed with stories rolled in leather belts, pressed into your belly.
When grandfather died, you imagined him with
a pyre of flames to consume him: though his socks
would survive to cover his feet, fish bones might
scatter the ashes. Grandmother stood beside you
speaking in a language long since buried behind her tongue.
You could not understand her—men had stomped the children’s mouths,
until bruised closed long before you were born.
Grandfather must have kept many things secret, you told her.
Her fingers pressed warm silver rings against your knuckles.
it was that no one could hear him.
By Moira J.
“Moira J., or Gaagé Dat’éhe (Quiet Crow), is a mix’d Indigenous writer who explores the messy world of being agender, queer, and biracial. They explore sexuality, spirituality, trauma, displacement, and kinships in poetry, origin stories, and creative nonfiction. They have their Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. They currently live and write in Oregon with the support of their spouse, and the family pet: Dana Scully. Moira J’s work has been featured in Girls Get Busy zine, i-D Magazine, Toe Good Poetry, Naugatuck River Review, Bayou Magazine, and more. They have upcoming publications with Sea Foam Magazine and The Account. You stay updated on Moira J. by going to moiraj.wixsite.com/home, or on Twitter @moira__j.”