Know My Skin

I recently visited my hometown of Wrangell, Alaska. My father, sister, daughters, cousins and eveyone else dear to me lives there. Everything is familiar. I am related to that place, to petroglyph beach, to Elephant's Nose, and Pat's Lake. The place is me. This poem "Know My Skin" refects my idenity and was featured in Earthspeak Magazine. Don't forget to check out the poetry video below.

Know My Skin

To know my skin, smell bull kelp
and popweed, catch my scent

after a morning walk on the beach.
Know my skin—pronounce my name,

your voice rising and falling; don't laugh
whenever I speak. Be able to lick

the bark of my skin, at s’áxt—it tastes
like soggy earth, the flavor of rainforest.

And listen—don't be offended
by scratchy sounds,  settle in among

silences. Know my skin—look beyond
paleness, see reindeer herds,

glaciers calving, kittiwakes sitting
on drifting logs, and snails. Learn

my outer shell, ax daakanóox'u;
understand my membrane-layered world;

touch peculiar stories, become familiar
with strangeness: my antenna eyestalks,

the spiral of my shell, and my slick-
tongued foot.


Anonymous said…
hello vivian, nice to meet up with you at the language carnival. ah, to lick the bark of one's skin- that allows for so many more senses to become engaged.

nice to read your work!

sherry o'keefe
Marcus Speh said…
great poem & the reading in the video is excellent. very disciplined use of the language. the careful use of tlingit works very well, too. much enjoyed this.
Laurie Kolp said…
I love this piece of such depth... lasting images you have painted through your words.
karyn eisler said…
So interesting, your first image > reminds me of the view of Echo Island in Harrison Lake from the beach, and/or the islands in Howe Sound, while driving down the Sea to Sky highway; both in southern B.C. Despite your location further north, the geographic similarity is interesting to see :-)
Linda said…
Love how all the senses woven into your poem, so rich. This tribute to your culture and environment trips so many thoughts and reactions. Peace...
jkdavies said…
love the outer shell & the membraned world.
Stella Pierides said…
Lovely poem, Vivian! I love the way you bring the senses together with the environment. A pleasure to read and esp. to listen to you reading the poem. A big thank you!
Dorothee Lang said…
thanks for sharing this place, and the sound and taste of it. the video is great: listening to words from your own language, "at s’áxt" and "ax daakanóox'u".
and loved this image: "the spiral of my shell".
Brigita said…
I like the way you included words from your language and the images you painted for the reader. Very nice to hear the work read aloud too.
Lou Freshwater said…
Just lovely. So sensuous. Thank you for this visit to this place. It was a joy.
scotsiegel said…
This deepens our appreciation for Wrangell and SE Alaska, not the mention the speaker's sensibilities. This is a wonderful tribute to the place and the people, which of course are intertwined. Every person should have an anthem like this.

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