Carrier Woman

I met a woman once who drove an old car
over a mountain to go to school. She said
she wanted to do something with her life.
Once coming over on a winter morning
she almost slid off the icy road.
Her story was one of survival
with some luck and laughter
thrown in for good measure.
I marveled and wondered about her
and all the things
she didn’t say.

In the old days a Dakelh woman
carried her husband’s ashes for one year.
A sack tied with a gut cord slung on her back.
The weight of grief always upon her.
Each knot of muscle a keen remembrance.
Whether in the midst of sleep
or journey, the Carrier woman held her sorrow closely
to be sent finally on the wind
in a breath of release.
Mourning given
over to the other side.

I was thinking about the old ways
when we met. I am like that sometimes.
For a while we stayed in touch
and then like two feathers
we both got blown into the rhythm
of our own lives.
I still think about her when the sky is right:
who is filling her life
who has filled it
if she’s married
if she’s buried a husband
if she carried his sad bones.

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