Tlingit Farewell: Glacier Bay, 1966

Caitlin Chan

First-Prize Winner
2015 Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

Iceberg floats, bobbing like our own oversized crystalline buoy.
Red knots pump their wings, searching
for a place to call home
before this wall of white descends upon us once again.
I stand by the waters and shiver in my deerskin coat
under the harsh tongue of the north lands, staring at the
blurred horizon, whispering gunalchéesh to the father for these
sea-glass skies.
I hear nothing
but the pale strokes of the waves along shadow-
stained shore. The woods are silent,
an unwelcome epiphany.
Rocks curled under my bare toes feel
soft after treading over dirt brushed ice for
so long. The silt in the water begins to tremble, like wolf pelt rippling under
a tired cobalt sky.
Now, behind me, I hear the glacier roar and gnash, this beast
who has wrenched us from our lands
like the caribou leaf we pluck from the fickle earth, never
satisfied. Kill-dee kill-dee kill-dee kill-deeee.
Killdeer mewls his own name as if he does not want to slip away
into the fabric of the unforgiving mother. Who would want to be
forgotten in this place of so many lost?
His plea echoes across the bay, reminding ancient white faces of the life
they hold in their hands
to keep or to swallow.
Although we have been pushed from our lands
the feeling of home never melts.

In my language
there is no word for good-bye.

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