Back in the old days when there were no streetlamps
we played outside after school under a bright moon.
We were just kids then and we did not consider it dark
we did not know that anyone else had the sun
while we had just the day-moon.
Does not everyone everywhere share the same moon?
On the playground and all through the village when a bitter wind blew
we did not consider it too cold or too windy or too this or too that
how the rivers froze and how the earth turned cold did not matter to us.
Often our sun was cold like a penny hiding behind the moon but
we did not consider it bad.
The earth glistened in the pitch black night
the sky hollowed in the clear light day
and our vision spread far off, away.
As a man, I read about
a place so still you could hear wax melting
down a lit candle.
They must have been talking about
my village, where on the coldest nights
the silence is so deep and vacant
each breath stands still as fractured stars.
How this poem originated: Eklutna Lake is the largest lake in Chugach State Park and provides the water for the city of Anchorage. The above picture of the lake was taken last April, before break-up. Eklutna is a native village (near my hometown of Eagle River), population 70. First settled more than 800 years ago, Eklutna is a Dena’ina Athabascan village, the oldest inhabited location in our area.
I got to thinking about the darkness that descends upon us now, come winter, and how the villages above the Arctic Circle exist in the extreme weather. I remembered the date Nov. 27, clearly now, because I was an itinerant therapist working in the hospital in Barrow, and on that day, many employees went to the windows and doors to take a “last look.” This would be the last day they would see the sun until the end of February.
The sun rides low now. I live in a valley, with mountains arching up on three sides. The sun peeks through notches, but in Dec. and Jan. the sun will be too low to clear the notches. It is then we leave town and go tropical.