I fly over the Bering Sea toward Nome.
The ice is breaking up. There are lakes in the ice in which
I can see my face. I am in my body, and then I am in a plane.
We are so heavy with human need.
The cargo load vibrates to my bones.
In pockets of marrow are nests of sea birds.
They are so protective they will dive us.
I walk from the plane and am met by an old friend.
She reminds me of where we have been—
we drive to the launching place
And see the walrus hunters set out toward the sea.
We swing to the summer camps where seal hangs on drying frames.
This is what it feels like, says her son, as we walk up tundra
toward a herd of musk oxen.
There is a shaking, and then you are in mystery.
I want to know it.
Little purple flowers come up from the permafrost.
There are yellow and magenta.
A newborn musk oxen staggers around its mother’s legs.
Our seeing flies out toward the iced sea.
Over gold miners, the homeless and the town of Nome.
The seeing leaves us for a while as it plays in the low rays of the sun.
I smell the approach of someone with clean thoughts.
She is wearing designs like flowers and a fur of ice.
She carries a basket and digging implements.
Her smell is sweet like blossoms coming up through the snow.
She is the spirit of the tundra, she tells me without speaking.
We do not need words or the books of history to know who we are
and where we come from, I tell him.
Up here, we are near the opening in the Earth’s head, the place where the spirit leaves and returns.
Up here the edge between life and death is thinner than dried animal bladder.
This is how it begins. You already know how.
c Joy Harjo Nome, Alaska 2011