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.