Returning to one’s ancestral homeland offers time for reflection, but also reminds us that even these sacred places are often threatened. Read more →
David and Sunockv
In the late afternoon of a windless yesterday, bees swarmed the Purple Robe Locust tree outside my apartment window. The breeze brought them back today and they swarmed the trees in the grove outside my apartment fence. Chile, the Blue Bull, barked. Annie, the Blue Police Dog, whined. Big Boy, the Chow Pit, howled. The bees ignored us and continued their work. It sounded like fun, but it was work.
My high school chapbook of poetry is called Elegy, and it is dedicated to a boy I didn’t know. He died of leukemia before I ever met him. He was a Creek Indian and his name was David Yahola, born May 3, 1961, and died July 29, 1978. Why do I miss him? Maybe it’s because I should have known him, but death did not allow us to meet on this earth.
Ms. Hall, our English teacher, found his drawings and said it would be nice if I would make a chapbook of poems to memorialize David’s art. I agreed and took his drawings to my dorm room in Chickasaw Hall. Sometimes I sat outside beneath the 100-yearold oaks and wrote the poems. I’d gaze at the pictures David drew but never once did I feel his presence, only the warm breeze of early fall. There are ten images; each one is a tribute to animals, nature, Indian men, and Indian women. He had talent and he’d always be 17.
Elegy sold for one dollar each and every dollar was donated to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Danny Thomas sent a thank you letter, but I lost it in the shuffle of my young and reckless life. I was once a deck of cards that got shuffled too many times, though frayed, marked and dog-eared, I am still alive and will never be 17 again. I miss that girl. What would she tell me now? She keeps me smiling and will always be my favorite fan.
It is now 2015 and I hold the chapbook in my hands; I found it the day I buried Dad. It was in the dresser drawer in his bedroom. Mom wrote his name on the inside cover of the little green chapbook in her perfect scrawl.
Grover McLemore …
In Memory of
Sequoyah High School
The summer of 1978
Poet – Anita McLemore
Artist – David Yahola
Until today, I haven’t been able to look at her drawings. I didn’t even know her, but I went to BIA boarding school with her mom, Bren. We were good friends in those days, though we drifted far apart in the years that came and went. Facebook and the tragedy of an automobile accident jerked us back into each other’s worlds. When a mom must bury her child, grieve, and go through her things, the mom is forever changed. It takes a real woman to be a grieving mom.
Sunockv, also a Creek Indian, was born on August 22, 1988, and died on July 27, 2011. The manila envelope is postmarked WED 21 SEP 2011 PM out of Oklahoma City, OK 73125. I didn’t even know her, but Bren sent her drawings and asked me to make poems to accompany her late daughter’s art, just like I did for David all those years ago.
The envelope came between the deaths of my parents and a mostly black dog named Honeybee. On September 17, 2011, Dad died and four days later on the day of my dad’s burial, our pup was run down and crippled by an unknown motorist. We drove back to our home in Crownpoint, NM with our crippled Honeybee, and she was euthanized the afternoon of September 27, 2011, at the Navajo Technical University Veterinary Hospital. I didn’t even get to bury Honeybee; instead I regretfully left her body at the vet clinic because I was exhausted from grief. The other dogs, Chile, Annie, and Big Boy tried to comfort me.
I told them, “My dad never let a dog suffer and neither could I.” They blinked their brown eyes and licked my tears away.
Then on September 28, 2011, I got an early morning phone call from my big brother, Dean.
“Mom died early this morning,” he said.
“Who does this happen to?” I sobbed to my baby brother, Dale.
“To us — it’s happening to us,” he said as we shared our grief of Mom and Dad’s passing.
My parents made the Bible true: and the two shall become one. 3,580 miles to their funerals and back put our red PT Cruiser in the shop. I was glad to see it traded in for our silver Dodge Journey, though it has been no shield against dog or human death. The Journey’s odometer logged miles and miles and miles to more funerals and farewells than should be humanly bearable. Journeys must continue like sunrises and sunsets.
Mom and Dad were in their mid-70s when they died. I know they are young again and all the dogs I’ve outlived follow them through green meadows and bees buzz overheard in groves of Purple Robe Locust. Maybe they’ve met David and Sunockv and Honeybee zooms passed them on sturdy legs as they lounge in the green grass. I’d like to hope so. No, I believe it is so.
Honeybees swarm the Purple Robe Locust on a windless late afternoon. The breeze brings them back two days in a row and their poetry sounds like humming as they come hurling towards us from somewhere in the distance. The honeybees get wordier and louder the closer they buzz to our ears. Our ears roast with the heat of poems as they fly by heavy with summer nectar.
Chile, Annie, Big Boy, and I listen to them work.
Elizabeth Anita Roastingear (“David and Sunockv”) is a member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma and a student in the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She likes to write poetry and nonfiction and she loves animals. Her forthcoming book, Mostly Black Dogs, was inspired by her chapbook of poems, Elegy. She thanks Tyler Lansing for her profile picture.