Memories

Of all the things that happened,
what do you remember most?
I asked this of Mary Genesha,
Indian. Yurok tribe,
northern California.
They told me
this woman has ninety-seven years,
and all her faculties.
She has black hair
but many lines across her earth-dark face.
Love, hate, want, anxiety
and gods long worshipped
wrote their names.
What do you remember most?
Yes, she said, you know that place
where the salmon used to come . . .
they call it now Requa.
I stopped there with my people
and many salmon came up the river,
deer in the hills, the bear, elk
ail came there for us.
No more. They are gone.
In the old times they came.
I stopped there and my people
and our people before,
and our people before that,
a long time.
even when we was all animals
we stopped there.
And then one day a white man came
and he had the right paper
so we had to go.