Last Poem From The Archives
Poor Hunting Grounds
As a child, I was forced out
of my skins, and into buttoned
shirts and trousers.
Hair cut, they made me soap
my neck, ears and face. The bad
tasting block irritated my skin
more than the cold.
Today, I watch my grandson eat
crisps out of foil packets that make
enough noise to scare away all the seals.
I was pushed into the only school
for Eskimos, where teachers spoke
a language I’d never heard.
Embrace a white lifestyle, they told us.
It’s time to stop being savages.
But I returned to the ice. Refused
their language, forgot the dates
they told me I must memorise.
Now, I hold my culture tightly,
with both hands, while those
around me run their fingers
down across their spines.
I worry about my grandson,
a young man unable to recognise
the shape of a beluga whale.
He drifts and flickers, a stuttering fire.
He doesn’t care how another bear
was found, neck stretched as if
it was determined to march on after death.
He stares at his electronic accessories,
waiting for the recharge button
to change from red to green.
He doesn’t know what to do
with his fingers, and touches
an empty beer bottle.
He gets angry about the silence.
He won’t remember the sun
coming through the roof of the igloo
that day his little brother was born.
He has a fit when a cent goes missing.
Shadows collect in his face.
Before, the Inuit would die by freezing
or starvation. Today it is
alcoholism or suicide.
I say this aloud, but he holds up a hand,
mood on fire. He’s replying to an email
while I soften leather with my teeth.