In Setswana There is a Saying

by Ellaraine Lockie


—Go o ra motho, ga go lehwe:
Where there is support, there is not grief

In a small Montana farm town grief is death by natural cause
It’s in-your-face shock of car accident or heart attack
The unhurried ending of cancer or Alzheimer’s
A sudden-death-syndrome baby

In small Montana grief is not crime

Here crime is driving violation, theft and meth
Sentenced by fines, jail and probation
The dirtier deeds of spousal and sexual abuse
tried and sentenced through word of mouth and shame
Forgiven by ministers and priests
and buried in the ground of the past

In small Montana crime is not arson

Then why does white-hot ash shower the remains
of a prairie house where bones of beloved family dogs
smolder inside charred kennels
Empty cans of kerosene skirt the perimeter
History of generations ascending to heaven in smoke
while the family of six attends their son’s wedding

In small Montana crime is not murder

A daughter doesn’t slaughter her mother like a Biblical goat
So why does a bucket of her blood paint the patio
Car and purse stolen to get a manicure for the fingers
that smashed in her mother’s head and slit her throat

When there are no words for what doesn’t exist
a small Montana town is like a herd of African elephants
Where they surround a mother elephant bled out for her ivory tusk
Trumpet their mourning, dust the body with dirt, caress
one another in a funeral of sadness that wraps them in a shroud
After her children stand beside the mother for days
an emissary nudges them back to the herd
to move onward into survival of the fittest

In small Montana grief is not alone

Community arms usher it through the void of language
Four churches and three bars offer canes to lean on
Fund raisers, food and clothing a shield
from hate as hot as flames
Combines that show up like magic
to harvest a family’s wheat that grows
in golden sunshine sheaths of survival

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