- All Her Breath Is Gone, and: Blue Cabin
All Her Breath Is Gone
the gnats swarm around the hood pulled tight around my glasses, the blueberries begin to droop on their branches, the leaves to cling to my fingers, the red leaves to my fingers, the red leaves in the white bucket, some berries taste sour to my tongue. the gnats bite my upper lip, but the water on my hands keeps them away from the blue veins and raw red knuckles. how quiet it is, how still, after the retired men drive by, hunting from their old blue trucks.
all her breath is gone from the curve of the bone white lichen antlers to the withered willow leaves, but we all cling
to the land and we say our prayers to the red salmon, scales breaking against the net, please don’t take the long drink
on top of that hill, the gray hill there, to the left of the park sign, [End Page 127]
rocks are pressed down by some historic weight (now dissipate), crushed together, like tiles, herringbone patterned. I want to say that weight is still felt.
The driftwood rack hangs barren, the fish do not hang in long, low rows impossible to walk beneath without brushing the orange flesh, translucent as cut glass and dripping amber oil. The blue cabin is quiet, the swan wing broom and the sand still on the linoleum floor.
Inside, flies bounce on the windows with no one to let them out. Outdoors, the flies do not buzz close to the fish rack, their maggot hatchery, though there is no wind to keep them away from fish, there are no fish this year.
Auka, I’m sorry I’m away at school, while you grow old, trapped in a small house fifty miles from camp, in a town without fish racks, sitting beside Aupa in the kitchen eating last year’s fish, half-dried and boiled.
I should be home, watching you cut fish, ulu in hand at the cutting table, [End Page 128] stained with black blood and slippery. I should be trying to cut fish heads off. The ulu unmanageable in my inexperienced hand would slide back and forth as I tried to find the place
between the gills and body, to bear down upon the spine. It’s hard to crack it, and the bloodline bisected would gush over me, as it did the one day we stood there, my mother, her sister, you and I. You laughed, we all laughed as the black blood
slid down my pink windbreaker. With the ulu I traced the backbone: horizontal jagged cuts yanked meat from bones. Ragged and mashed fillets, laughter and stories from mother of mangled fillets
while you laughed without stories as you found the place between the gills and the body. As you broke the spine, the blood did not flow over you. As you unzipped from white bones the orange flesh, it landed heavily in your hand.
Auka, I write the same thing, over and over. [End Page 129]
Carrie Ojanen’s poetry is largely influenced by the landscape of her childhood home of Nome, Alaska. She is currently pursuing an mfa in poetry at the University of Montana.