Friday, October 10, 2008

Sorry, No Random Name That Tune For Now

I'm Just Not In The Mood For Games Today

Sleepness night, worries, bad news, burials, all of it conspires against my resting.

I am still fighting with the images from burying my young friend. My faithful, and constant correspondent, the irrepressible Tata, of "Poor Impulse Control," wrote something very provocative when she read my last post here.

One of the things that she mentioned which hit her hard was that I had implied, but not stated, that when we buried our friend and brother warrior, we had to open the casket, and remove the body. She said that she got images from that image which wasn't stated. The one she mentioned was

"La Pieta" of Michealangelo

She was perfectly on target. With the benefit of the vision from tired eyes after a restless night, I can see the things again.

We were fourteen warriors at the place of burial. We were there to bury a boy who was much younger than all of us. We are Apache. At times like this we are stoic, and silent. We are not one of the nations that makes an ostentatious display of our grief. Our traditional belief is that the Ga'an (soul, or ghost) of the dead remain for a period of ninety days. During that time we strive to show the dead that our lives will go on, that we will endure. We don't cry. We don't wail. To use the phrase that the British used during the London Blitz, we "muddle through."

We opened the casket. We opened the bag inside the casket. We removed the body, then we undressed him. All of this in silence. Slowly. Gently. With respect, and kindness.

Four of us ascended the new scaffold we had built in this place where warriors are laid at the end. The others handed him up to us. We placed him gently. We silently said our final goodbyes. We climbed down and stood there for a long time, still in complete silence. We let the grief and the enormity of our task wash over us there.

Then we left to return to our world, and our lives. I have many images like that which have stayed with me over the years. There are many nights when everyone else seems to be resting peacefully while I am fretting, pacing, fighting back images of the streets of Hue, or the sharp valleys and ridges of the A Shau. This poem I wrote a long time ago is not about battle, but its aftermath:

coming to the battleground far too late
i saw bodies flung down to death
broken toys of some child god

the enemy had taken their own
we began to gather ours
moving in the silence of the place

trying to match the parts and shreds
which was not an easy thing
when they were small

the carnage was both modern and complete
and close fought like the ancients
it only takes a little while

and war becomes primitive again
the smell was something i smell tonight
it remains without words to explain

slow moves were taken
gently lifting and laying down again
the burned lads especially needed that

the time they had lain was harsh
sun and heat were at work
in the tropics rot starts now

i remember thinking
"this jungle drinks our blood
and grows"

that horrid day amid all that brutal death
one thing alone made me cry
a butterfly

once bright and fragile
had landed upon the ruined
face of some shotupkid

wings touched in blood
unable to fly away
it died there

I have days to go before I can, in good conscience, shed tears for my young friend. By that time many, many others will have fallen. There is a harsh, but brilliant wisdom in that. There are many times where I feel that if I were to really let everything loose in my heart I would be crying until the day I died. I am not putting these feelings aside, I am not stuffing them down deep inside somewhere. I feel them completely.

I also know, that along with being dead, my young friend is home. I was taught that these words were from the great Apache chief, Nana. Since then, in my reading I have found paraphrases and close saying that predate him by a couple of centuries. It contains a pretty universal mindset of warriors, and soldiers. (note to the republicans who try to cash in on the "we support the troops" thing: warriors and soldiers are different)

When it comes your time to die
Be not like those whose hearts are so filled
With the fear of death that they weep and beg
For a few seasons more to live their life
Over again in a different way.

At your time, stand up tall,
Look your death in the eyes
Like a friend that has come to greet you
Sing your Death Song proudly
For you are a Warrior,
Going home.

I know, I'll sleep soon enough. I'll sleep long and well until the next night climbs up my ass. I'll be playing games again soon enough.

I'm a lot poorer today than I was before I left to go back to the rez. Hell, I'm a lot poorer today than I was just yesterday.

That's okay. I'll manage. I'll "muddle through."

I'll probably be called for more funerals. I'll suck it up and go do my duty.

I long for peace. I hope to find it before my friends and brother warriors are lifting my naked body up onto a scaffold they have built hidden far away in our mountains.