Tag Archives: home

10 Poems on Southeast Alaska

i’m changing it up a bit guys, I’m writing on a theme, don’t freak out or nothing.

1:
Most people,
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.

2:
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.

3:
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,
Unimportant,
The worst kind of ubiquitous.

4:
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.

5:
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.

6:
No-see-ums.
The little things that suck your blood, smaller than a mosquito, so you can’t see them.
Fireweed.
Purple plant that lines the road, you can make honey out of it, well more of a syrup.
Salmon berries.
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.
Cedar.
I can tell you what cedar smells like now, hundreds of years old.
Clan.
I’ve met people whose ancestors have been here ten thousand years.
Halibut.
Hell of a butt, I’ve eaten this, cooked, while it was still warm coming from the sea.
Whales.
They sound like steel grinding.
Cell-phone service.
You forget it’s not there after a while, out on the roads.

7:
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.

8:
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.

9:
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.

10:
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.

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Poems from My Day (5-25)

the last one, i think, is the only good one of the bunch

1:
She thinks he’s rich.
He has like a million dollars.
Well, if he’s 55 years old,
Plans to retire soon, and has made 50,000 a year for a long period of time,
He’s not rich.
That’s money to live on regular-like,
After you stop working.
But how do you explain that to a hair-toss
Who wants to hate his ex-wife for taking the house?

2:
If you pay us enough money,
We won’t have to sell our souls anymore.
We’ll have the emotional energy to turn around,
And ask,
What do you think you’re doing?

3:
I’m not working properly today.
I’m sorry.
But, you know me,
I’m always sorry.

4:
Speaking of stress,
I haven’t felt this much in a long time,
I thought to myself, wow this is kind of fun,
Being this stressed,
Energy boost,
Then I remembered this used to be my normal default.
That’s why I deserted.

5:
I’m going home for my brother’s graduation.
Somehow it seems all about me.
Who will I see that I’ll want to avoid, because I feel fat and unaccomplished?
How am I going to get that car my mother decided to buy for me from here to Alaska?
I’ve calculated exactly how many hours I’ll have to spend with my sister.
My mom will have brie and crackers and juice for me at the house.
But it’s my brother, my little brother,
Who’s done something worthy of attention.

6:
Hi Shawn, it’s me.
I’m leaving you that voicemail I said I would.
The sunsets.
The sunsets here are gorgeous.
It’s so pretty here all I say is gorgeous.
The beauty has diminished my vocabulary.
That’s how gorgeous it is here.
Huge scrapes of purple, and reds, yellows, and pinks.
Right over the water,
Past the mountains hanging in the distance.
And the clouds,
Make it all worth it.
Because on the days they’re not there,
The clear blue days,
Are the most beautiful things.
Do you know what cedar smells like?
The room where I dry my clothes has cedar in it.
So I smell like cedar.
And I saw bears!
I went hiking, and there was this guy, just sitting there,
Right there on the tree stump.
God, Shawn,
It’s so beautiful.
The campfires with cold beer and a full moon,
You can see the stars here.
Anyway,
I’ll be back home this weekend,
So I was thinking of you.
I thought I’d call.

The Dog Who Watched the House

Another story for you, written in 20 minutes:
7:15 p.m.

We lived in a manse. The house is square, red brick, and old. One side faces the road. It’s called County Road on our address. One side faces the graveyard then the Church. The fence pens in cows behind our property. And then it’s corn in all directions.
It was my Dad’s house to me. Mom’s was far away. Dad’s house was quiet. Dad took a walk down the road for miles every morning. Alone. He came back to the quiet house when we were at our Mom’s.
Dad didn’t like pets. He didn’t understand them. I think he sees why people like pets, as companions, things to be proud of. But, they’re a waste of money, time and energy. What good do they do? They take up space. They eat things. They have to be provided for, and looked after. Oh, the vet bills alone! Why would you pay for a leech?
Dad warned us one night coming home. “Girls, be careful, there’s a dog outside the house. I don’t want you to be scared.” He told us he’d call animal control, and the second they showed up, the dog would vanish. “He won’t bother you, just leave him be.”
I watched with big open eyes out the window of the car as I spotted this great big dog. He looked like a German Shepherd, but bigger. Great big pointy ears stood on top of his head with little hairs coming out the sides. He had black-brown fur, thin fur, with lots of speckles of gray. His belly was almost all silver.
He didn’t look mean to me. But this was Dad’s house; Dad didn’t want him here. He didn’t belong here. Dad couldn’t get rid of him. The dog seemed happy to be there. I liked that he didn’t listen when he got yelled at. And Dad would yell at him. The dog sat and watched and smiled.
He followed Dad on walks. He guarded the house. Dad tried his best to chase him off. “He has no collar. He won’t leave.” I wanted to invite him in the house. I knew what Dad would say, I didn’t ask.
Every weekend I saw him. I didn’t pet him. He didn’t hurt us. He’d follow the car to the end of the driveway. He seemed happy to be alive. He sat next to the tree that bloomed pink little petal leaves. He sat there for months. I thought Dad might secretly like him.
I asked what happened to the dog. Dad said he finally left. He said it with a smile. We took a walk along the road that weekend. There was a skeleton on the riverbed. Maybe it was a deer.
The dog loved my Dad. Whether he lost his mind or not. Even if he had another master and got confused. He protected. Dad left him to stay outside. We never touched him. That great big dog, who had no name, outsmarted my father, and got to stay for a little while.