my grandfather was a native;
there’s no paperwork to prove it,
but old pictures seem to say more
than new words. Told me she lived
on the same hillside as him when
they were young, that once they were
working around the same garden—
said she never knew he was there,
not until she backed into him while
raking the land, looked up to see the sun
cowering behind him like a shadow.
He frightened her with his footsteps:
my grandfather could walk across
dry leaves without making any sound;
a white man, she said, could not.
I saw it in his face, the nativeness
that she spoke of: the cut of his jaws,
eyes which spoke bluntly without
his mouth shaping the words. I learned
gentleness by the way his tired hands,
palm-rough and cradling, gripped
my small frame, how one might
cup water before bringing it to the lips.
Most depict him with harshness,
misunderstanding more than much else.
My grandmother, on the other hand,
and on the wrong hand, married him
for his looks. His darkness, too hard
to look away from, drew her to him—
never his light.
Previously published at Forage