Did You Miss Them, Elisi?

Did You Miss Them, Elisi?
Whitney-Faith Smith

Would you imagine
the village of teepees
when you sat on your front porch?
Did you whisper Cherokee
to the wood-burning stove
as you swirled Granddaddy’s supper,
hoping it would understand?
Would you Stomp Dance with maples,
remembering the laughter and calls
of your forgotten family?
I can only ask questions to this page,
but honestly I wanted to say to you, I’m sorry.

I see your face, creased brow, eyes made
sharper by your rising cheek bone,
stark black hair standing out
in the grayscale photograph.
I know the rest of your people
were forced to vanish,
the burdened white man
sealing them behind walls of pine,
then corralling them out,
whips and guns poised at their backs
to keep them stumbling
to Oklahoma.

I’m sorry that you could have missed them
each time the stars came out,
each time you felt the garden’s cool clay
between your fingers,
each time you saw a Cherokee Rose
climbing over the oak.
And I thank you for being my Elisi,
though I was never taught
your name.