napowrimo – egg salad sandwiches – daaswishinswi giizgad – day thirteen

covered with plastic, the egg salad sandwiches speak

reminding me of all the wakes at the community hall

i’ve seen lots of dead relatives, laid out in pine caskets

close to the entrance, greeting each of us with a slight grin

gathering us in mourning

share stories and laughter

chain smoke

 

the urns, lined up in the back, percolate coffee

caffeine cocked to stay the night

long distant relatives travel from far off places

some are speaking indian and telling jokes

laughter lives here in these walls

 

one of my great uncles from wikwemikong says

the lord’s prayer in anishnaabemowin

and sings ojibwe hymns with cousins from birch island

the women reach out past alto, their voices breaking and bouncing off the ceilings

 

us kids load up throw-away plates with the food that comes piling in

from community members bringing offers of comfort

we eat the egg salad sandwiches which seems to never run out

we run around the hall until we’re told to go outside

then we ask each other questions

did you feel how cold the hands were?

do you think they’re really dead?

what happens when you die?

when i die are you gonna come to my wake?

 

we chase each other singing death songs

trying to make sense of what it means when this life is over

in the small clearing strawberries bloom, stretching out under the sun

we pretend to die and bury each other

we cry and wail and pound the earth

we tell stories about one another

how we tricked and played games

we laugh and we laugh till real tears flow down our cheeks

 

us kids are sitting outside in the dirt

the quiet surrounds us until the cicada breaks it

filling the air with that electric moving sound

the rumbles come as hunger strikes

we remember those egg salad sandwiches

and go back inside

to eat, sit, listen

and watch for the answers to surface

maybe it’s hidden in that language

my relatives speak, if only we knew

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