27 January 2014

‘Hail and Farewell’

Delia Gist Gardner was the wife of cowboy poet Gail Gardner, and the grandmother of cowboy poet Gail Steiger.  She wrote this poem at the age of 65 when she visited her old home and left it with a note for her family when she died.

‘Hail and Farewell’
By 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, for


Are but a handful added

To those gone before.

Think, rather, that on this borrowed hilltop

One lived joyously, and died content.

In this dark soil

I found reminders, saying:

“You, too, will pass; savor for us

The wind and the sun.”

From the smoke-blackened earth

I dug

A frail shell bracelet, shaped lovingly, skillfully,

For a brown skinned wrist, now dust.

The broken piece of clay

Was a doll’s foot and leg, artfully curved ,

Made for brown-eyed child.

Pottery shards saying:

“Yours for a little time only

Take 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 be

These 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 hills

And flaming glow of sunset.