Colors don’t change here,
Not since I moved.
But, I miss three days in autumn when I could drive down my double-car studded, concrete-block street, glazed in familiarity,
All in orange.
I give over the beauty of the leaves to those I left behind.
a short little poem, a quadrille for d’Verse poets.
i’m changing it up a bit guys, I’m writing on a theme, don’t freak out or nothing.
When they move to Alaska,
Talk about how much they miss home,
Because unless you’re born here,
It is never your place.
But I don’t know that I’m going to be able to live somewhere else.
These trees are starting to feel safe, this always-there mist is a welcome sight,
I’m learning the twists of the roads and the potholes,
I recognize who owns each truck.
And familiarity is a comfort,
A comfort like home.
They tolerate me, because I want nothing from them.
Not their money, or their land, or their men.
But, in a place like this, that would turn so fast,
If I got pregnant, if I brought an STD here that isn’t already,
If I tried to stay, on my own,
If I thought for just one minute I belonged.
No one is talking about the rape rates of small town Alaska.
It’s not rape,
If they’re married, or if they’re together.
Unless it’s a stranger breaking into someone’s house,
Then it counts.
There aren’t any kits here.
And, it’s common,
The worst kind of ubiquitous.
Let’s stay dark,
These women are overweight, like scary overweight,
It might be better for their self-confidence that way,
Lord knows, they’re not judging me, for once, which is nice.
But they’re going to die early, and leave these kids.
The nurse practitioner here doesn’t ask,
Do you drink?
She asks, how many drinks have you had today?
We’ve had four mothers die from drinking in the past two years. Four out of 500 people.
These clothes have holes in them.
These kids have coughs.
No one has their car registered, or insurance, and they drive without seat belts.
If you get hurt, uninsured, it’s 14,000 dollars in a helicopter to a hospital.
There is no law. We have no cop. We have no volunteer police like we used to.
We have no one to stop you driving drunk with kids in your car.
None of these houses look nice, not on the inside, not on the outside.
All these kids have been hit.
Someone of these kids are inbred.
None of these kids are prepared to do anything but fish,
Or anything else after they’ve finished fishing. They all live at home.
There’s no money here, and no jobs, and the jobs that are here are staffed by outsiders, because the workforce here is a joke.
I’ve seen six-year olds with guns for hunting.
And there’s no goddamn people to care,
Or a reason to care. We’re an island, we’re small, we’re rural, we’re too far away.
The salmon are running.
They taught me there’s five types.
Use your hand to remember,
Pink salmon, like your pinky.
Silver, you wear silver on your ring finger, coho.
King, the best, your tallest, middle finger.
Sock-eye, index finger pokes people, socks you in the eye.
Chum, dog-salmon, thumb sounds like chum.
They’ve all got even more names for each of these,
But this is what I know.
The little things that suck your blood, smaller than a mosquito, so you can’t see them.
Purple plant that lines the road, you can make honey out of it, well more of a syrup.
Yellow or red, good to eat, tarter than a raspberry, but sweeter too.
Hudson bay tea.
Plant, brown leaves on one side, smells like Hudson Bay Tea.
I can tell you what cedar smells like now, hundreds of years old.
I’ve met people whose ancestors have been here ten thousand years.
Hell of a butt, I’ve eaten this, cooked, while it was still warm coming from the sea.
They sound like steel grinding.
You forget it’s not there after a while, out on the roads.
To get here,
I boarded a plane at 5:30 a.m. eastern time after a fifteen minute drive from my parent’s house.
That plane landed in Chicago.
From there I walked across the u-shaped airport to fly to Seattle. Seattle to the capital.
Then via a tiny little seaplane to my island.
That’s my favorite part, flying on the seaplane.
Well, this time it was just a little plane on land,
But you fly over the national forest, over mountains no people have touched, over land, and inlets, and places without fences, water, water, and clouds.
And you know, if this plane goes down, you won’t last.
And there’s just this little tiny, bendable piece of aluminum between you, and what you know will be the most beautiful fall of your life.
I’m slowly learning the history, the stuff I should have looked up on Wikipedia before I came.
About the native population, their story,
The crazy stuff that’s happened, the sadness that’s happened.
And why there are no reservations in Alaska (we’re not counting that tiny Canadian thing)
I’m learning how not to be racist. I’m learning about being a minority.
I’m trying to learn, if I’m not getting anywhere.
The questions I answer people from here.
My name is.
I’m from Indianapolis. That’s in Indiana, about 200 mile south of Chicago.
I’ve been here six months.
I’m liking it pretty well.
Yes, I have an iPhone, so I have cell service.
I live up there in the house with the English teacher.
I work over at the library. I’m here with a national service organization,
The federal government pays me.
Yes, I’ve gone on a loop, and been to the beach.
That’s my little blue car. It’s worth about $2,5000. I had it shipped on AML.
No, I’m sorry, I haven’t met them, I don’t know who that is.
My father is a pastor.
Yes, it was nice to talk to you.
The questions I answer people from home.
Yes, I live in Alaska.
No it doesn’t snow here very much.
It’s actually 60 degrees, sunny, with a light breeze.
I live in Southeast.
That’s the panhandle, it’s about 900 miles north of Seattle, if that helps. That’s roughly the distance of New York City to Jacksonville Florida.
They don’t actually call themselves Eskimos, but Yupiks live farther north.
Russia is closer to the island chain in the west part of Alaska.
Yes, I’ve seen bears, they haven’t bothered me, most people carry a gun, in case.
We’ve got wolves, deer, coyotes, moose and porcupine as well.
Quite a few people drink up here, that’s true.
Food comes in on the ferry or on barge.
There’s a store and a liquor store, a post office, a school, a community center, an old people’s home.
No, I don’t know your mother’s cousin who lived in Alaska for two years in the 70s.
Yes, I like it here.
I don’t know when I’ll be back.
because this is the mood i’m in today
it’s a day to hide in a corner
I didn’t understand people who bragged,
Until my brother decided to be a doctor.
I’m so proud of him.
I want him to do so well.
Is this how parents feel all the time?
I don’t want him hurt, but I want him smart, and happy.
I feel so bad for my mom. She’s been feeling this for years.
I want to hide under the covers.
Cover me up in a corner.
Don’t make me go outside.
I’m weak today, and vulnerable,
Worse than vulnerable, I’m noodly,
I’m flexible, I’m not me, I’m not strong.
I want a big bear of a man to protect me.
I don’t really care right now if that makes me sexist.
Why didn’t I hug those kids.
I should’ve hugged them, told them I loved them.
I’ve never met kids and wanted to take care of them before, I wanted to take them in and make sure they were okay.
I’ve never felt that before.
But their mom drank herself to death, and they’re going to live with their dad,
You know, which might be good for them,
But I really liked them.
I was supposed to go to the capital this weekend.
They couldn’t get a plane here,
First the fog, then more weather.
I had all this built up energy ready to fly,
And I’m still on this island.
I won’t get to see my friends again before they leave.
One to Seattle, one who won’t be in my program anymore.
I can’t get out of my head today,
The space that says,
You’re doing everything wrong,
You can start that later.
I just want to sit and read to avoid the judgment.
That judgment that never leaves.
There are very few people I like,
Even fewer that I love.
But, I think, for those people that are real friends,
I won’t let them walk off the deep end,
I guess there’s comfort in the power I have but don’t exert.
At least, I like to think there is.
The first time I remember feeling claustrophobic
I was sitting in the crowded middle school cafeteria benches.
I sat on benches like those today,
And all the fear came back.
Funny how that works,
You never really leave your fears behind.
He grew up with a different life than us.
He didn’t get yelled at for spending money.
I don’t know what that’s like.
He always got what he asked for.
He had all that attention.
He played all those sports.
He had all those friends.
He knew he was loved.
She said if she had girls that looked like that
She’d keep them locked up.
I don’t know why this bothers me so much.
I think, first, that, you would keep kids locked up just based on their appearance,
Second that you assume bad things will happen to them,
Third, you think bad things will only, or only happen, to pretty people,
And lastly, that keeping them locked up will do any good.
Maybe there’s more reasons that bothers me, maybe it says more about me than her.
This will probably be the best week of the year.
Do you know what I did today?
I went kayaking for the first time.
I could hear the whales. I could see their water spouts.
I listened to the sea lions yelling at each other.
I have a blister.
I went paddle boarding. I tried to stand up. I felt wobbly.
The water is cold.
I went hiking up the rocks at the point.
I stood on moss that’s been shaded by these trees for hundreds of years.
My boots are still tied.
I applied for my first photography contest.
I sent in my first story query to a magazine.
I ate halibut I saw come in on the line.
I saw it drained. I saw it fileted. I smelled it cook.
I came within ten feet of my first black bear.
We both wanted to watch the sunset.
My heart didn’t beat much faster.
I drove up a mountain all by myself in my little blue car on the one lane black gravel roads.
I picked berries.
I made jam with my own two hands.
I did all that today.
And it’s still not enough.
I still feel lazy.
No matter how close to perfect I become,
That feeling will never go away, will it?
My mother, she calls it the Purtain in us.
That feeling of never doing enough, being enough,
Never being good enough.
I like to imagine which poems Terry Gross will pick out to analyze me
Once I become a famous poet.
And I have a book on shelves somewhere.
Whichever ones she selects will throw daggers at my character.
I like to think she’ll find themes in myself I didn’t know were there.
Then I’ll finally get recognition from my father for all the money he spent educating my brain.
See, Dad, I’m not as smart as my sister, but I can be on NPR, for just being me.
Am I interesting?
I’m not so sure.
I met a programmer who told me I was.
It must be because I moved to Alaska.
Other than that,
I’m a quiet person,
Who prefers to listen to your stories, than tell my own.
I suppose that makes me greedy.
I have so much to say.
I can’t get it all out.
I can’t stop myself from feeling apologetic.
I have to barrel through.
And not think about it.
It’s like singing really loudly in my mind, so I can’t process anything.
She was telling me about the island next to Russia,
Where she used to be.
About how high the domestic violence percentages are there.
There’s not much we can do about it,
Because you can’t go to the clinic, then your Aunt would find out,
And she’d tell your boyfriend.
You can’t tell your Mom, it was her new husband after all.
The cops would have to fly in on a helicopter.
They don’t have rape kits here.
You can’t tell school, you have cousins in your class,
Half of them have your last name.
Outsiders can only hope it will get better, with these new generations.
It makes me wish I was stronger.
Strong enough to do something about it, even though I have no position in the community.
We don’t have cops here.
Our VPSO left.
That means there’s no law.
Not like most followed the rules anyway.
But we’ve got people stealing gas, girls, cedar, and stuff from your car.
And our house still doesn’t have locks.
The troopers take days.
The last time we didn’t have a VPSO,
A girl got killed,
Took two days for them to get here.
The community watched over the body.
I’m living below poverty line.
I did the math today,
It was the car payments that nicked me over.
But it was so hard walking to work everyday.
My parents still cover my health insurance,
And I split my cell phone with my sister.
But my rent with gas and utilities is over 60% of my income.
And I’m spending too much on food.
I’m just me. I’m good with money. I have no debt.
What do you do if you have a baby, and you make as little as I do?