A Space for Writers of the World
Gabriel, sing great-grandpa’s song,
head thrown back, black hair gleaming
gray at your temples. So handsome, you,
great-uncle—my Uvah—I imagine my Aupa
looked like you when he was younger,
deep, dark skin and half-moon smile
gleaming, you laugh the same laugh—huh huh huh huh!
Did your heart break, as his, leaving the island—
he stayed an extra winter, left his eldest children
in Nome for school, lived on Ugiuvak—the place for winter—with Auka
and their smallest children—
Mom, age four, was there—and that 16mm
camera recording the last winter
of his traditional life.
Recording that last winter to convince the BIA to send another teacher.
The film was ruined by the August storms.
They wouldn’t have watched it anyway.
O God, reading Aupa’s accounts ruptures
Aupa never sings.
But sing, Gabriel, sing, sing grandpa’s song.
Mom and Aya Margaret will stand up to dance.
We welcome everyone to dance with us.
You all broke, I know, everyone shattered
Auka and Aupa and their sad kitchen life,
eyes graying the straight, dusty streets of
Everybody lost themselves in drink for years.
Some are still lost.
Sing, Gabriel, sing.
How beautiful our women are—
wearing floral ugithqoks,
dancing—that passionate precision—
your Frances, Auka, Marie, Mom, Margaret, Caroline, Marilyn,
and your granddaughters—in a line—motions memorized.
And then, the song is over.
They move back to their seats.
Please, Uvah, as we always do,
sing the song again, a second time,
and a second time they will stand up to dance.