Prairie Poetry   

Afternoon Burial, 1931


Beside a deep hole
in the frozen churchyard
a small boy stands
beside his father,
not holding his hand.
It is the burial of the boy’s grandfather,
his father’s Otec,
a man he knows
only as someone they saw
on Sundays,
who sat at the head
of the long wooden table
not moving
as the women served and cleared,
who spoke with an accent
like a wood file,
delving sharp clefts
on the flat face of words.
Each man at the grave side
takes a clod of black earth
and throws it down,
smashing against the pine lid.
“Why do you do that?”
the boy asks his father.
It is his first funeral.
His father brushes the dirt
from his palms,
eyes on the rich rift
in the ground as he answers,
“We are saying,
‘We forgive you
for anything you have done to us.’”
The boy listens,
remembers his words.
Then together
they walk to Smoliks’
for the luncheon.

  Jacqueline West
  Copyright © 2007 Jacqueline West
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