Creating the Sacred
For Yéilk', Cute-Little-Raven, my daughter
Some of our clothes are considered sacred,
haa at.óow—cedar-carved hats, woven
robes, button blankets, and deer-hide tunics,
sacrificed objects dance around our bodies.
And I see you, daughter, how you began
in your diapered bottom, padding
across the floor, slipping baby-feet into
your father’s rubber boots.
Today, you wear your girlfriend’s shoes,
my shirt, your stepdad’s pants, grandfather’s
hat, and a ring your father gave me
when I was just fifteen. Every day the bend
of your knee and sway of your arm dances
in the ceremony of the ordinary.
Yet, I know for you these clothes are no longer
“play-things” for dressing up--ash kawdliyát naa.ádi.
They’ve become your at.óow,
your grandparent-mother-father-sister scents,
seeping between synthetic and cotton
threads, creating the sacred—the moment
the oils from their skin meets with yours.
I floated your tiny body in the ocean
above sea anemones and bull kelp,
a taste of saltwater to your lips. I placed you
on the shore where barnacles scraped
your feet, popweed burst between your toes,
let you eat a fist full of goose tongue.
In the woods we ate spruce tips, dug
licorice roots, peeled salmonberry shoots
and unfolded new ferns. I chewed the land up
in offering to you, a bundle inside your mouth,
set you down and you crawled in dirt,
pulling grass, feeling gummy alder leaves,
licking soil and stones. It’s then that I knew
you were ready to surface into this world
tasting the words like the tang on our skins--
Vivian Faith Prescott'spoetry appears in Drunken Boat, Catapult to Mars, YB, Yellow Medicine Review and Gutter Eloquence. Her book, The Hide of My Tongue, will be released by Plain View Press in the winter of 2011 and her digital chapbook, Slick, appears online at White Knuckle Press. Vivian has been a Pushcart Prize nominee and recently received the Jason Wenger Award for Literary Excellence and a Best of the Net nomination.
Vivian is a fifth generation Alaskan. She lives & writes in Sitka and Kodiak, Alaska. She holds a Ph.D. in Cross Cultural Studies and an MFA from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Vivian also enjoys facilitating writers groups for adults and teens at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. She is the Co-Director of Raven's Blanket, a non-profit designed to perpetuate the cultural wellness and traditions of Indigenous peoples through education, media, and the arts. Visit Vivian at her blog Planet Alaska.
Banner photo by Kerry O'Gorman