Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fool's Gold --- a poem for the day.

This is a poem I wrote a while back in the long tradition of Robert Service, but with an Alaskan twist.  Perhaps this might also serve as a prophetic,  poetic, or pathetic warning to those giant gold mining operations in SW Alaska.

Graves in the village of Kokhonak, Alaska

 A poem by Don Rearden

A tough old miner
with a silver beard
a story I’m sure
you all have heard
but I’ll tell it again
for those of you
who don’t believe
that it’s true.

They called him Dusty
from the look of his clothes
and from his body
an awful stench rose.
He washed himself
‘most every leap year
with a gallon of whiskey
an’ a grin ear to ear.

Alone on the Yukon
with the fever for gold
Old Dusty dream't only of
that big Mother Lode.
One cold night while prospecting
beneath the dancing Northern Lights
the old miner came across
the strangest of sights

there in the shadows of the Aurora’s glow
sat the skeleton of an old Eskimo.
Dressed in a fur parka
made from caribou and bear
with a shiny white skull
and a ghostly-like stare.
And clenched in the bony hands
of this long dead Eskimo
was a birch bark basket
that gave off a bright glow.

Dusty crept close,
for he wasn’t afraid
because a dead man is a man
whose debts have been paid.
He’d heard all the scary tales
from the Eskimo lore
and he ignored them all
as he had before.

Well the Northern Lights
they waltzed in the sky
like spirits crazed
like demons awry
but Dusty didn't see the dance,
all he did was stare.
He had to see what was
inside of there.

He pried the basket
from the skeleton’s hand
not knowing or caring
he was on sacred land.
He opened that basket
and his eyes grew wide
he couldn’t believe
what sat there inside.

He blinked three times
and his face turned red
inside was a gold nugget
the size of his head.

He gave a great holler
that echoed for miles.

He danced a little jig
and his face was all smiles.
“I’m a very rich man!”
He said with a grin,
“And I won’t have to work,
never ag’in.”

“I’ve done discovered
my fortune in the land of snow
all thanks to this old
dead Eskimo!”

With a big heave
he tossed the basket into his pack
and walked towards town
without looking back.

And in the pale light of the Aurora glow
sat the skeleton of the old Eskimo.

All night Dusty walked
he was headed to town,
on his back was a pack,
he couldn’t put down.

Now packing that monster nugget
was an almighty chore
and it’s weight with each step
grew more and more.

Old Dusty he struggled
and his legs grew weak.
The chances of getting to town
began to look bleak.

Then a voice broke the silence
of the frigid night air,
“Don’t stop now, Dusty, why we’re damn near there.”

That voice stopped Dusty
dead in his track
it came from the basket
in the pack on his back.

The old miner’s heart
pumped blood full of fear
again came the voice
and this time quite clear,

“Get me out of this basket
you stinky old fool,
you’re breaking an old sacred Eskimo rule.”

Now Dusty was scared
he tore off the pack
he wondered if he should
take the gold back.

Slowly he opened the birch basket wide
stricken with pure horror at what lay inside.

The giant gold nugget was no longer there,
and all Dusty could do was just stare,
there with a grin and an eerie white glow
sat the skull of the old dead Eskimo.

The skull began to writhe and thrash,
the jaw opened up and the teeth gnashed
Then those shiny white teeth moved quick in the dark
and now my friends comes the scariest part.

There are rules in the North
that you must live by,
those who do not
frequently die.

One rule is don’t steal
from the Eskimos' dead - all
they found of poor Dusty,
was his smelly old head.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Today's Poem: After ANWR

My poem for you today was published in Chronogram and won the Alaska Public Radio Network's poem of the year several years back. I read it on the air, but can't seem to find the link to it.  Enjoy.

Would they drill baby drill here?

After ANWR

Of course no one in New York was excited
when they discovered oil
beneath Central Park.
My strangest Alaskan find in Central Park. Balto?

The various  Natives,
the Manhatten Islanders,
the Bronxers and Harlemites
were concerned about the pigeons
and the bums

their daily migration
from the park to the dumpsters,
they – being the pigeons and the homeless -
would be disturbed by the drilling

The last of the reserves
in Texas
the gulf of Mexico,
and Alaska
had long been sucked dry

the wild horses,  the manatees, and the caribou

They drew a line in the concrete
Central Park was sacred land

There would be no drilling there
not ever
Central Park was sacred land.