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Eskimo Pie: A Poetics of Inuit Identity
Excerpt

An Old Inuit WomanAn old Inuit woman ambles out onto the cool, morning Tundralittle girls on either side, holding hands as one.She is the Elder, they are the learners.She takes them to the crest of the small hillwhere the girls bend to gather twigs.It is a simple task.What they bring back will start the firesboiling the caribou.What they bring back will feed the emberson the damp spring nights while others sleep.The girls run about the hill making tiny piles of sticksbringing them back to the old woman whose wrinkled brown hands feel the lengthand snap the small willows to an even size.She feels for how dry they are and wraps them one by one into a piece of caribou hide.The little one scamper on either side of the hillat the end of their task, the Elder slaps the ground hard.Two heads turn towards the sound of the shudder.The girls rush to gather the old womanhelping her stand, one on each side.The old woman keeps the bundle of willows tying it around her crooked back.She takes a hand from each little girl And they guide the Elder back to camp.The old woman is blind and the girls are deaf.Together they complete a worthy task.It is how they maintain their importance to the group.It is how they keep themselves alive.Mamaqtuq (good tasting or smelling)Roll out of my hidesto smell the winds.Looking every wayfor the shadows toshow. Women gathertwigs and moss, killkuutsiuti, the smaller keepers ofsmall life.Ilnautuq. Crawling, sliding alongTaalu, smelling the winds.An Eskimo ProclamationWe came here to make you betterTeaching you church and how to knit sweatersChanged your names and made them rightYou dirty little animals full of fightTaught you how to wash your handsTook you off your hostile landsBrought you into our enlightened ageGave you names on a census pageYou're happier than you've ever beenA better side of life you have finally seenOur mission is soon completeYou will no longer eat raw meatYou'll soldier on in our god's nameYou lowly people we have tamedYou will thank us for this soon one dayAnd on your land, we will forever stay

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Bones
Excerpt

Under the moonlight
The softness that night gives us

 

the earth rising to meet

 

in snow - or the glow of trilliums, where there is enough sound in a breath

 

in here I speak

 

gently step
and story weave

 

sending out a thread of me

 

like a foot's condensation drying on a summer floor

 

hoping the memory of me survives

 

in the eyes of others

 

I'll speak of blood

 

and wounds and beauty in terrible things

 

the way the wind pulls a thousand leaves down an empty street

 

and when they settle - we look up

 

to trace the direction of the wind

 

 

 

 

 

On your birthday I remember the cake she made

 

that we didn't expect;
our faces masks of fear.

 

(we never liked the unexpected)

 

we sat staring at the cake and her smile, twitching.

 

her dark moments began to show a lot those days,

 

you assured me with a wink

 

something other than me
would break.

 

 

 

 

 

when a child learns
amid the fear of something

 

terrible

 

the fragility of their parent,

 

something shatters inside them,

 

the dual crush

 

of fear and empathy.

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