a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
One Room Cabin in Winter
Dig This Snow
One Room Cabin in Winter
I imagine my one room apartment a cabin, or maybe a Long House,
But with picture windows on the one side facing the lake,
So that I can watch the ducks and wild geese
As they fly in haphazard Vee formations up the peaceful Wappingers.
I dwell here as the muskrat dwells in the waters at the bottom of the hill,
Life for life’s own sake, simple as the falling snow,
Trying not to think too hard about the hardships that are sure to come.
He noses his way along the liquid shore, paddling with hidden paws,
Happy to be alive, and looking for a meal to fuel his fancy.
He’s made it through three winters at the very least, by my own count,
Does he know that the water he now flows with
By tomorrow night will be a frozen slab of ice?
The world is headed straight for zero, so they say,
My face is my thermometer and I need not read the Times to know
The cold is fierce this night, but I delight in staying warm.
I enter my low-lit one room cabin,
Compensating for lost loves with baseboard heat, cranked to cozy comfort,
There’s silence most of the time on winter nights like these,
Silence you can sing to,
Silence you wouldn’t trade for all the music in New York City,
Silence that helps you catch the voices of ancestors in the wind,
Calling to you when the veil is thinnest,
Between the darkest day and the brilliant night of the bear moon,
The full moon nearest mid-winter,
When all the baby bears are born,
And some old bears elect to die to feed the hungry mouths of wintertime.
The days will grow longer and longer, but the cold becomes stronger and stronger—
Until the next full moon.
Starvation Moon they call that one, when times are tough for everyone
On Deep Water Lake—for humans, birds, and mammals;
The only time when the jays, the crows, and chickadees will eat the corn,
Pecking the little eyes out of the kernels and eating them as best they can,
Like hoboes around a rubbish heap.
Crows will chew on dog bones,
Woodpeckers will eat the berries of the poison ivy,
And Quail will eat the fruit of poison sumac
When the snow stands deep upon the ground.
Crows eat frozen apples if they find them in the snow,
But only as a last resort, not for taste.
And as for me, I taste the bitter berries of a thousand lucid memories
That the snow has not erased,
Of warm abundant pleasures of the sun
Which pour down all at once and go to waste
And are turned to small black pebbles with the frost,
Leaving me alone to feast on the delicious desolation of this place.
On nights like these I savor bitter ironies
And stir them into poems like this.
Dig This Snow
Has there ever been snow like this?
So white, so cold, so clean
And in such abundance?
Isn’t this a winter for the ages?
Or perhaps the Ice Ages?
Is it time to report to our cave sites and rock shelters?
And collect bifurcated projectile points from cave floors,
Or repatriate them from museums
And unrepurpose them—
Use them as they were meant to be used?
Do we still remember how to aim?
Or are we to be meat for other animals
Who still know how to hunt?
All our days are numbered,
That’s one thing for sure,
But who wants to be so persistently reminded?
Many of my saintly friends
Have been in that number lately,
Marching towards higher ground.
And old guard leaders in the news
Are dying off like mastodons:
The megafauna of the mass media are perishing,
Headed toward some other world as well,
Where they will all be greeted, so I think,
By all the missing honey bees,
And every one of us who’s left behind
Now wants to know, “What is going on?”
I feel like hiding here,
Squirreled away at home, with my emergency provisions.
And why not?
That’s what caves are for.
Hiding from the cold, hungry birds of vulture capitalism
That ride the storm on shadowy wings,
Looking for a fuzzy-minded meal like me.
I gaze silently out wide screen windows
At the small, persistent specks—
A slanted pattern of fleeting dots,
That pass like TV snow from phantom channels of yesteryear
Across the dark and looming shapes of sleeping trees,
And I wonder, “What is going on?”
I know that I must tunnel my way out
Of the brooding, moody space I’m in,
Shoveling like a ditch-digger
Through big white mounds of winter,
Under a monochrome grey shelf-paper sky,
That seems to mean business,
Blazing a trail across the wilderness of my yard,
To excavate my toboggan from the ice,
So that I can attempt re-entry into the working world.
Evan Pritchard is a Metis of Celtic and Mi’kmaq ancestry, living in the Hudson Valley by a wooded place near Poughkeepsie, near the site of an Algonquin village called Mawenawasic (Place Where Flowing Waters Meet). Foothills Publishing plans to publish a collection of his winter poems about this place, Greetings from Mawenawasic! Professor Pritchard has taught Native American Literature at Pace, Vassar, and Marist College, and is director of the Center for Algonquin Culture. His non-fiction literary works have helped to preserve the traditional knowledge of Algonkian-speaking people, including the poetic No Word for Time (Council Oak, 1997) Native New Yorkers (Council Oak Books 2002), Native American Stories of the Sacred (Skylight Paths, 2004), Henry Hudson and the Algonquins of New York (Council Oak, 2009)Bird Medicine (Inner Traditions, 2013) and many other books. Formerly editor of Resonance Magazine, he has self-published many books of poetry.