blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


PEGGY SHUMAKER (with Kesler Woodward)


   Birch Portrait #62

For an injured friend,
he brings salmon fillets, fish
he caught dipnetting all night at Chitina.
Needlenose pliers nipped out
all the invisible bones.

Growing up at fish camp, he'd sneeze.
Elders said, "Kus-sun-ar."
Otter. They invoked otter's name
to wish him close
to one who lives in more than one world.
Shaman helper, on land, in water.

He tells me otters live inside women, curled up
just above the stomach,
and this feels true. I feel my otters,
restless, disturbed.

My hurt body can't rest yet,
it was so close to the other world.

I'm an otter, skinned in the round,
my pelt pulled off in one piece.
Stitched into a kit bag,
I feel the shaman placing his healing tools
one by one into my emptiness.  

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