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.