Saturday, July 10, 2010

Abrupt Departure for School, by Susan Christensen

Awe, edged with fear, swooped down from the leaden sky
onto the uneasy surface of the forested lake.
Children pelted down to the shore;
Crows raucously scattered to the skies. The silver wake churned
as the plane taxied slowly towards the pebbled beach.

Men with moon-lit and yellowed hair secured their craft
while belatedly shy but curious small faces peeked,
bright-eyed from behind the brush.
Elders eased forward, protectively shoving the young ones back.

Gifts! Sweet hard rocks to melt on the tongue.
Small metal bowls with carrying handles. Treasures!
These aliens understood courtesy. What would they like in trade?
Deer hides? Newly dried fish?

They must be fed; they must be feted.
Menfolk, with quiet dignity, led the way,
introduced the fair-haired visitors to the settlement.
Womenfolk built up the fires. Meat was set on to cook.

The smiling newcomers loved the little ones.
This was obvious; this was good.
The village slurped the hard candies with gusto.
Elders stared from the sides of their eyes at the strange foreign laughs.

With a few words and many encouraging gestures,
the little ones were invited to see inside the plane.
None could resist the silver vessel afloat upon the lapping waves.
Elders smiled worriedly as the boys and a few bold girls
went giggling into the belly of the float plane.

Coiled rope in hand, the silver-haired stranger
stepped up on the float, swung into the doorway, and
slammed the door.
Startled elders roared, then plunged into the water
grasping ineffectually at the slippery wet metal.

Their cries were muted by the spluttering engines
which soon revved to a deafening pitch.
The vessel turned into the light wind
and drew away from shore.

Engine shrieks out-blasted children’s cries of fear.
Elders’ screams were muted by the winds.
Small eyes, round with terror,
peered down from small portals.

Their last sight of their shrunken village
was of figures, with mouths wide
Shaking fists up at them.

~ by Susan Christensen
(The break-up of a culture; the start of the residential school experience. Alienation.)

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