"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, forTheseAre but a handful addedTo those gone before.Think, rather, that on this borrowed hilltopOne lived joyously, and died content.In this dark soilI found reminders, saying:"You, too, will pass; savor for usThe wind and the sun."From the smoke-blackened earthI dugA frail shell bracelet, shaped lovingly, skillfully,For a brown skinned wrist, now dust.The broken piece of clayWas a doll's foot and leg, artfully curved ,Made for brown-eyed child.Pottery shards saying:"Yours for a little time onlyTake 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 beThese 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 hillsAnd 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."