365 Poems/6 – Little Savage of the North

Little Savage of the North

I am in the hot belly of a sea monster,

surrounded by traces of my people,

walrus hides, polar bear furs and narwhal tusks.


I am wearing the trousers my father made

from the fur of Nanook.


The others here, mostly men,

sleep on the monster’s back sprawled

like the bears my father killed on the ice.


The monster groans and tips. But is never still.

It doesn’t know the importance of rest.


The men feed me seal. I suck the grease

until my hands are clean. They wipe their fingers

with ptarmigan wings, and watch me,

like all of my souls are on show.


I see more water than I’ve ever seen before,

but miss the peace of ice and clear light.

Light here is different. It is encased

in a thin globe, which hurts to touch.


We stop and rock. We are near land.

I take my chances, bite the hand of the man

holding me, and jump into the surf.


This new world is green, soft and warm.

I catch fish and small birds,

sorts I have never seen before.

They are less suspicious than the animals

of my frozen North.


I still have full respect for everything I kill,

so the future will provide successful hunting.


But my throat becomes rough,

like the hands of my grandfather,

and it is dry. The streams are trickles now.

Even the birds are thirsty.


I enter the village I have avoided

for many seasons.


I eat a fowl, then a rabbit,

the villagers watch me,

their eyes wide as the moon.

I am an object of great curiosity,

and they gabble quickly

in a language unknown to me.


I show them killing an animal

is little different to killing a human,

that they need to perform the correct ritual.


They wash my skin until it is sore,

then they wash me again and again,

emptying the water and re-filling

until I can get out and it remains clean.


I buried my trousers and miss the scent

of my family.


They don’t move with the seasons here,

their homes are not easily transported.


I learn through observation,

but my experience of scraping, stretching

and softening hides is appreciated,

as is my careful sewing.


The women smile at me.

Then the children smile.

Finally the men.


They try and feed me cooked meat,

but I bring it all back up.

They bleed me, to try and tame the savagery,

but I only loose parts of my essence.


I return to the woods and dig up my trousers,

but the world has moved on, and they have rotted

and nourished the ground.