365 Poems/92 Restraining the king of the North (Rough First Draft)
Restraining the King of the North
I put you on the drying frame to ease the ice
from off your fur, then move you down,
and roast some seal blubber.
I feed you then move you into my bed.
You do nothing but sleep for days,
but deserve it, after watching your mother
fall and not get back up again.
The hunters told me you even started
to suckle, as snow fell softly on her
open eyes and limp tongue.
Days pass, as if I am in a trance.
I watch your little back rise and fall
to the beat of your small heart.
When I stand, I am weak footed
and past hunger. I feel terrible
for taking the rib of your mother
and talk to you in human speech.
You sniff when you want food,
and children come in the morning.
I sheathe your claws, but you start
to break the children’s toys,
and then their skin. You start
to make them cry.
Adults take their place,
but you get stronger by the day.
The men of the village want
to take you hunting, but there
are things you need to know.
You must always keep down wind
for if you do not the game
will scent you and flee in fear
I watch you amble away with men,
dogs and sleds, and I retreat back
into my empty house.
You are celebrated, and we eat well.
Men from further afield hear about you.
The rumour spreading around the village
is that they say;
I will kill it if it ever crosses my path
Men of the village talk to you, as I do.
Whenever you come face to face with men
treat them as if they were one of your own
never harm them unless they attack first
One night, you return anxious, and do not
retreat to your corner of the house.
Outside, the snow is matted with blood,
and he is splayed like a slaughtered seal.
I do not return to the house until morning,
and we can see it is a man from the North.
I weep and you put your muzzle to the floor.
As I wail, I dip my hands in oil, smear
them with soot and stroke your back.
There is one heartbeat in the house again,
one voice to argue and reason with.
The milk in the bowl turns sour,
while you move out to sea,
a calling in your heart.
You will embody aggression, passion
and solitude and bow your head to the wind.
It is now I want windows on every wall.
I have heard guests say that far to the North,
there will, from time to time, come a bear,
as big as an iceberg, with a black spot on its back
Inspired by the Siberian folktale ‘The woman who had a bear as a foster son.’