Roger Mitchell


It is not clear whether that is sea
in the background, but I am sure
that in the foreground a group of small stones
gathers around a large upstanding one.
They look like a hungry audience,
anxious to know what the tunillarvik,
for that is the name of the upstanding stone,
has to say. They lean forward,
waiting patiently for word.
The tunillarvik has the markings
of deepest veneration (tunillarvik means
"object of veneration") streaked downward
over its smooth pate. Long strings
of lime-white bird droppings.
For untold eons, gulls have sought this place
as brief refuge from the daily squabble over food
or as perch from which to view
the incremental movement of the hours.
The least and most migratory
of Arctic forms brought together.

Around about, and as far as we can see,
forever, an inhospitable beauty.

"In the old days, we lived on the land.
We carefully followed in the footsteps
of our ancestors. Ever traveling,
we killed every living thing we and our dogs could eat.
Such was our necessity,
living the only life we knew."

The little congregation of the stones
with its white-haired leader ponders its next move,
perhaps along the utitsialangavik
("the pathway one must follow"),
perhaps not.

Roger Mitchell, Lemon Peeled the Moment Before: New &
Selected Poems 1967-2008, Ausable Press, 2008.