Shináli, my paternal grandmother, transitioned back to Spirit this past New Years Eve. I was asked to write a poem for her funeral, spent all night on this one, & want to acknowledge that I did edit myself. For example, I wanted to write about how she knew about my queerness, the way her prayers kept me alive, how we are both birthworkers & this is part of her legacy, & about her mother & first born. But I didn't. I was, & still am to some degree, afraid of what might be said in response.
I still like this piece. It is still accurate. The love is still present.
i imagine she was so busy because she wanted to leave as little as possible to chance her constant state of prayer was how she kept her whisper contsant in god’s ear
her constant state of prayer was how she kept god’s whisper contatant in her ear
there are lots of things i’ll never know about the woman Lucy Pete Holiday, but i know two things: i know her as shináli & i know her love is proof that we never survive alone.
my memory of shináli is seared
with her signature hairstyle of short black curly hair
with blouses, skirts, & an apron to wipe her hands on
with the soft clang of drawing water, metal brushing metal
with the soft pad of socks & sandals about her linoleum floor
my memory of shináli is laid out on her kitchen table
covered in clear plastic & place mats
in her perfect yeast rolls
in the sugar-free jam that hung out with her
reduced sodium salt we had to use
& the small jar of nutella
in the way she would sit & drink her sanka before anyone else stirred
my memory of shináli wakes me from sleep with the sound
of peeling potatoes
of frying bacon & eggs
of the ever present oatmeal
of her sing-songy speak
my memory of shináli talks to me like the bubble of her secret pubby crunch-crunch recipe that made our own dog chubby with care
that made it easy for our pubby to say goodbye from her gate
do you want it?
maybe you have one of your own,
but here’s hers:
keep all your leftovers & vegetable peelings
put them in a big pan
begin to soften them with water
add leftover meats
& then add the gravy i have no recipe for
let it cool down
dump into the pubby’s bowl
keep their devotion forever & ever,
my memory of shináli is accompanied by the familiar way wood & coal used to sit by her door, the way bullheads would hide in the walkway, the mint green ant-looking patterns of her kitchen floor, the summer our feet were the same size & she gave me all the shoes, of folding myself up to fit in the cab of her truck so we could all go to blue coffee pot in kayenta, & in all the bottles & jars of lotions & perfumes lined up atop her dresser. my memory of shináli cools my anxious skin like her laundry room with shelves of treasures—jars of buttons & shelves of ivory soap & the bleach that kept everything & everyone clean.
my memory of shináli vibrates in my bones like her daily devotionals & soft metallic glint of her smile & high pitched easy laugh & the way she never wanted to fussed over & how we almost melted her cake one year we lit all the appropriate candles & she had to blow the out by fanning with a paper plate.
our birthdays are a week apart—i wonder if she liked that? i imagine that we share qualities of tough exterior to those that don’t know us, soft, glistening interior to those that do, a penchant for feelings that betray us, & a devotion to home & family that digs deeper roots as time passes. she knew that she was ready, that this world is often too hard to wrap finite minds around, & that is why i know there are some days i am only able to keep my feet here because of the strength of her prayers for me. my memory of shináli is alive through me.