A Winter ‘Holiday’ Pt 2

I don’t like being a tourist, because as a tourist I never seem to experience the heart of a place.  The heart of a place is with the people who live there, who hold jobs and raise children and form the community.  So I prefer to see a place from that perspective.  The highlights that tourists go to see, in this case Northern Lights, Dog sledding, Ice fishing, aren’t the heart of it, although they add color and texture.  I’m looking for conversations, opportunities to listen to the people who live there.  Curiosity can move in more than one direction during a conversation.  Listening can make opportunities to learn and lead to a better understanding of a people and the place they call home.  I think if you go somewhere to meet the people, you get to see all the special things and you get to touch the heart of a place.

While this series of poems dares to give words to voices, please hear them as the way I listened, not as the voices themselves.  They are an attempt to understand my own connection to this place and the way it made me feel.  I am not trying to say that I really know the extent of what these voices have experienced.  This is some of what I heard and how I understood it.

Voices from the North


A voice from the margins
at the top of the world
steps soft as mukluks
silent on creaking snow,
barely heard over
the majority’s clamor
and its exaggerated numbers.

But let it persist
stalking like a hunter
deliberate, careful,
aware of the environment,
the terrain, ever watchful,
ready for an opportunity
to cry out, releasing truth
straight to the heart.

And Lord, may it come soon –
amplified by your mercy.


She said:
Voices were muted
between the slaps
to the back of the head
so they made vows:
‘My children will not
be punished for words.
I will not teach them
the language.’   But foreign words
locked up emotions,
mixed up rhythms –
Memories of atrocities
passed from eye to eye
along the steely horizon,
like a knife.


Is not enough
(but I said it).

Listen, voices
are still hobbled by:
systems set to manage not heal,
cruel addictions,
coping stretched – frozen
into postures of self-defense…

Surprised,  I felt at home there
already fluent in a dialect
of marginalization I know as disability.
Living on a margin lets you touch
the margins of other places,
making a Venn diagram
of shared spaces.


A soft blue whisper

Escapes from winter’s cold lips.

Lean in and listen.

© 2018 – Laurel Archer

Photos:  Featured photo – from a sculpture on display in the Inuvik Recreation Centre – and I did see the name of the artist.  Inset 1. Hand made Mukluks  2. View from the top of a Pingo, a formation found in only two places on earth, one of them in Tuktoyuktuk. Guide, hunter and pastor: Emmanuel – our host and faithful man of the land 3. Crack in the ice of a fresh water source in Tuk. 4. Friends standing on the Arctic Ocean, Tuk.

5 thoughts on “A Winter ‘Holiday’ Pt 2

  1. Laurel, these are powerful pieces of work. They really struck a chord in me. These words rose up in me in thinking of my own grandparents and their Sami heritage. “…so they made vows: ‘My children will not be punished for words. I will not teach them the language.’ “

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