Live Fast, Love Hard, and Die Young

To my brother

Do you know that my earliest memory of you
was when I rode on your shoulder?
You dropped me, and I cut my head.
The scar is still there.
Later, I remember you helping our mother a lot,
taking care of us little ones,
Even though we were girls and shamed your pride.
I remember you washing clothes.
You used too much Purex that left white spots on your jeans.
You even went to a mission school.

Then you went off somewhere to work with our dad.
You brought us back comic books and toy guns
and told us of cowboy and Indian movies you’d seen
Somewhere, you had your first taste of wine,
beer, or whiskey . . . who knows but you?
Your personality changed,
some for the good, some for the worse.
Your jokes were funny, yet at times they hurt
so much they left me in tears and hate
(which I never really meant).

You tried rodeoing; you won some and lost some—
still, you laughed and took life as a joke.
Why you broke into the chapter house for some lousy
change from the jukebox, we’ll never understand.
For that you served time in Tucson—while we helplessly
watched our mother turn gray overnight.

You came home with bitter feelings.
Probation made it hard for you to live the kind
of life you’d discovered out there.
Your friends made it even harder for you to stay put,
even though by now you had a woman and
a son, the image of you.
And oh, how we loved the baby boy,
but you ended up in more trouble,
serving more time in Oklahoma.
After that, you roamed from Texas to Idaho—
and heaven knows where;
no one could keep you in one place.
You told us, the way to live was:

You came home with Linda; we sighed with relief
and hoped you’d settle down. By now a baby girl
and another son were added to your life.
We all knew you were the best daddy to them,
but your woman suffered because of your
roaming across the country.
You showed up at our houses at all hours of the
night or early in the morning,
Your nephews and nieces joyfully climbing all
over you, even though you were hung over.

You fooled everyone.
You even fooled yourself.
Your own buddy couldn’t take the joke you pulled on him.
He tracked you down at the park—
and shot you.
You died laughing,
true to your word.
But the ones who loved you the most
and those who took you for granted have to keep on living.
Even though we put flowers on your grave,
feeling a great loss and our hearts crushed,
We’re still looking for you up the road.
Cannot believe you’re gone.

Shirley Ellsworth (Navajo) is majoring in Law Advocacy at Crownpoint Institute of Technology in New Mexico. After gradua­tion, she plans to pass the Navajo Nation Bar examination and pursue a career as a tribal advocate. Shirley has six children and twelve grandchildren. In addition to her studies for the legal pro­gram, she is rearing a three-year-old granddaughter, Quinteena. She also finds time for ministry work, gospel singing, cooking, sewing, crocheting, drawing, reading, and writing.

Leave a Reply