SLOW TURTLE

(1930 - 1997)

There is a strong onshore wind, several knots; rain stings the face and the tide is running high.
Several hundred are bunched between the blacktop of the town beach parking lot,
And the smoothly curling grey green water's edge. The lead singer starts the AIM song's chorus.

The long white aluminum birch bark canoe is breached by the first incoming wave.
From somewhere, behind the singing crowd, a small blue styrofoam open beach kyak is produced.
The single paddler, helped by three others, pushes through the waves to float free, bobbing just beyond the surf.

Slow Turtle's son, holding the grey white clay vessel created by his sister, and in his turn, supported by two others against the surge of the sea,
Wades chest high into the frigid waters of the bay and with effort, passes their father's ashes, over the side
Of the small boat into the waiting arms of the paddler, for their last journey.

To the sound of the heartbeat drums, and the continuing chorus this Medicine man, lover of the four directions, four seasons, the four colors,
Heads seaward. The boat that carries him now fully visible, now behind the cold waves.
After bathing in sea waters by his companion in the boat, the clay shell -- and his ashes -- rejoin the sea.

by Robert Doyle, November 1, 1997 ©


This poem was written on the day of the ceremony in Mashpee, Massachusetts. Robert Doyle lives in Ashfield, Massachusetts 01330.
Go to Associated Press obituary.
Go to Slow Turtle's affidavit in Trapp v. DuBois (spiritual freedom in prison).