Spirit Walking in Nome Tundra/Revision

for Qituvituaq

I fly over the Bering Sea toward Nome.

In the breaking ice are turquoise lakes in which

I can see the sky.

The cargo load, so heavy with human need,

vibrates to my bones.

I walk from the plane and am met by an old friend.

We drive to the launching place.

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.

Little purple flowers come up from the permafrost.

A newborn musk oxen staggers around its mother’s legs.

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

or 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.

Walk with the sky between your teeth.

c Joy Harjo Nome, Alaska 2011


Megan Riddle said...

The pockets of marrow with nests of sea birds was one of my favorite lines.
Because your bones and the stone where the sea birds nest- drawing the two together, is like seeing the body and earth as one.
And even the nests, which hold birth, regeneration and a profound seed, are as rich as marrow fat in a bone.
And it was the image that stood out most to me.

jen revved said...

Beautiful poem, Joy. You and I go back to a reading you gave in the seventies in St. Paul, the Smith Park Poetry Series. My great grandfather was Bernard S. Rodey, father of UNM. I'm in Colorado and post drafts on my blog, also on FB. all best to you--