Final draft...Spirit Walking in the Tundra

(This may be the last of the new poems I post...I've been advised by my editor that if I post my work here, no one will buy my books. I can post notes. JH)

for Anuqsraaq and Qituvituaq

I fly over the Bering Sea toward Nome.

In the breaking up ice are turquoise lakes

In which I can see the sky.

The cargo load so heavy with human need, it

Vibrates to my bones.

In pockets of marrow are nests of sea birds,

Mothers so protective they will dive humans.

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

We drive to the launching place

And see walrus hunters set out toward the sea.

We swing to the summer camps where seal hangs on drying frames.

She takes me home.

This is what it feels like, says her son, as we walk up tundra,

Toward a herd of musk ox.

There is a shaking, and then you are in mystery.

Little purple flowers come up from the permafrost.

A newborn musk ox 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.

The spirit of the tundra stands with us, and we collect sunlight together,

We are refreshed by small winds.

We do not need 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.

c Joy Harjo Nome, Alaska 2011


Colleen Dunham said...

I appreciate your editor's concern but, as for me, the poetry in your blog just whets my appetite for your books.

Margaret said...


That's a beautiful poem and I'm glad that you shared it. No worries on the book sales because I know that I will still buy your books!


Colleen Dunham said...

I loved the line: "Walk with the sky between your teeth."

Why did you take it out?