The forest huddles over our town
like a mama bear protecting her cub.
There’s no traffic light, just an endless debate
about whether or not we need one. Everyone
knows everyone else, with nicknames
like Weeders, Pug, Cricket, and Beebeeosh,
their given names long forgotten. We know
whose relatives are whose, who’s gone
to prison, and who’s off to college.
When a young teen shot the buck moose
hanging out near Highway F,
the tribal council passed an ordinance
banning the killing of moose
and other exotic species.
And when a 25-year-old man
from a large family is shot and killed,
the whole town buckles.
Today we say goodbye
to our young friend, Maanakwadiban
whose name means “under the clouds.”
The sun streams through the skylights
of the elders’ dining hall
where his long coffin is draped
with a Pendleton blanket.
The leader of the ceremony says
Look at the blue sky–the Creator
blesses us with a beautiful day.
The big drum booms
in the center of the room
pounding out one heartbeat.
The singers sing in one voice.
Each of us silently says
goodbye for the last time
to the man, the boy, the infant
we watched grow up
here under the clouds
in this rez town.