Since it is St. Patrick’s Day I was remembering that I have an Irish ancestor back on my Karuk side. My great-great-great-grandfather, Dick Morrison. Based on the dates, my guess is that he came to Northern California during the gold rush in the 1850s. The picture is a close-up of a family tree my tribe sent me when I formally enrolled.
I’ve spent the morning watching “Reel Injun” and “Smoke Signals.” Thinking about the past, but not specifically my past. A shared past. Ran across a poem by Gail Tremblay when I was digging around looking for that family tree. It seemed to go well with all of this:
SINGING OUT THE GHOSTS
Singing out the ghosts, I unlearn weeping,
forget to dream about dead relatives
sharing a dark dance at the bottom
of the sea. I learn to listen as the birds
split light with their sound.
The owls let go, forget to dream my name.
I hold my breath in my hands–the pulse
of air swells and recedes like waves spreading
life on the shore. Singing out the ghosts,
I give up thoughts of my mother’s corpse
changing color, growing nails and hair,
bleeding rot into the sweet groaning ground.
Bones become pure, allow me to be; I let
the living touch me and wash me with their tears.