The Hunt

DenaAugust 23, 2022

The Hunt

by Michael Harris

Picture of you
Exactly one hundred years
Dressed in wedding white
And that same night
Began the crooked journey
Which thirty-nine years later
Led to me

I decided to dedicate the day
Going far out of my way
Heading up the mountain
Where once my maternal blood lies
With no headstone to mark your lives
Your loves
Your sweat
I was
To unmask that mystery and find you

A stretch along Skyline Drive
I stopped into the church
Where you last reposed
At the age of thirty-five
And the pews and pulpit seemed to be
The same size and weight
When your beautiful brown eyes
Last closed in 1938

I asked young and old for any news
The morning was damp
I prepared for my shoes
To be muddied by the soft spring soil
Not to be deterred
It would not spoil my quest
I had an extra pair in my trunk
And started out to the graveyard
Van Dunk

All other grandparents
I know their resting place
Accounted for
Mom had fleeting memories of your face
She was the sixth
The last of your tribe
And I trudged slowly along each row
Any marking inscribed
Van Dunk
The exact name
I wanted to find you
This is why I came

And I learned the times were different
Quite a different time
When they would lay your kind into the sod
For a nickel or a dime
A quick prayer to God
One less to worry about
One less standing in the shade
On to the next
One could always find another maid

And I came up empty
Every inch covered by my muddy shoe
Two hours
Every headstone read
But I could not find you
Someone knows where you are
There must be records in an archive
I have seen your beautiful face
I know you were alive
And it’s the Indian in me
Documented from mom back to
The Revolutionary War
Stories I have discovered
Beautiful Ramapough lore

I will find you, Grandma Hilda
And will come with pretty flowers
Though it may take another day
And another two muddy hours
I will touch where you lay
Amidst the morning dew atmosphere
On my muddy knees I will say
Your grandson is here

A note from Dena… This is a guest post from my dear friend, Michael Harris. I rarely post poetry in this space, but Michael’s story is too precious not to share. When he offered to share it here for my readers, I was overjoyed. You see, “The Hunt” that Michael writes about in this poem, is the very thing that began our friendship. At the time that Michael came to Wanaque to search for his grandmother, I was the secretary of the Methodist Church. He came to us seeking help to begin his search.

We will always remember his emotional visit to the Midvale Methodist Church, where he sat in the back row, knowing that more than 70 years before, his grandmother had her final ceremony there, and was laid to rest not too far away. When we met after service that morning, I knew that I had a friend for life in Michael. It is my great honor and pleasure to share this chapter of his story here with you today.

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