Sunday, April 3, 2011

National Poetry Month: Delia Gist Gardner

"Hail and Farewell"
Delia Gist Gardner

(Reflection from a cabin in Skull Valley, Arizona, over an old Indian camping ground, 1945)

Think not on my brittle bones mingling with dust, for
Are but a handful added
To those gone before.
Think, rather, that on this borrowed hilltop
One lived joyously, and died content.

In this dark soil
I found reminders, saying:
"You, too, will pass; savor for us
The wind and the sun."

From the smoke-blackened earth
I dug
A frail shell bracelet, shaped lovingly, skillfully,
For a brown skinned wrist, now dust.
The broken piece of clay
Was a doll's foot and leg, artfully curved ,
Made for brown-eyed child.

Pottery shards saying:
"Yours for a little time only
Take delight in this, as we did."

The tree will die; the vine wither and rattle in the wind.
For I broke a law of Nature.
I carried the water to the hilltop. Nevertheless,
For those after me there will be
These things I have loved:

Morning sun rays, slanting across the hilltop,
Lighting the great trees in the green meadow.
Wind, the great blue sky,
Peace of the encircling hills
And flaming glow of sunset.

"Hail and Farewell" appears in Cowgirl Poetry: One Hundred Years of Ropin' and Ridin', edited by Virginia Bennett, published by Gibbs-Smith, 2001. From the introduction: "Vintage writings were a rich discovery. 'Hail and Farewell,' found recited as a dramatic ending to Gail Steiger's CD of truthful cowboy music, was penned by Delia Gist Gardner, whose husband, Gail Gardner, wrote many classic cowboy poems, including 'The Sierry Petes' (better known as 'Tying Knots in the Devil's Tail'). Steiger related that no one knew that his grandmother had been a writer, yet after her death, this single poem as found among her things."

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