"Place of My Birth"
by Caroline Clarke
Place of My Birth
To begin with there was clam
alone in the moiled sand. Arms and legs
sprouted from muscle, pushing against
the membranes round their womb.
My people danced inside the shell
heating up the sea and I,
in the confluence of limbs,
saw the first light through your mouth, clam.
Came raven, my father, by his beak
lifted the halves of our confinement,
delivered us into salt. From water's clasp
we rushed as moonlight onto sand.
By giant Sitka roots we swelled,
one with earth and taking only by need
the oil and paste of plants,
the water harvest.
Tree yielded dugout, the water-bird,
whalebone was awl and hook.
I was supple through thickets,
flexed like a bow drawn back against the sun.
Hawk brought my child on the wind, soaring.
There was salmon flesh each hunger,
the tide curved and white
as a whale's rib.
Came sorrow across the water,
black sails on a three-spined bird,
white fingers ringed by metal
and clutching bright beads.
We did not know their hunger
for pelt and tusk, our bay was
ed water, turned the otter from shore
and all our sea brothers.
In the end a corridor of masks;
Tlingit, Haida, Bella Coola
by splintered bone and pipe.
I am blue beak, never to wing
from this glass tomb, my child asleep
in our burial canoe, prow swung west.
We were a people
forever making sail
Copyright 1983, Arthur Ginsberg
Arthur Ginsberg is a Seattle neurologist and the author of a volume of poetry titled
Walking the Panther (Northwood Press, 1984). His writing has been published in
several journals, including Arnazella, Beacon Review, Spindrift, Embers, and
Prickly Pear. "Place of My Birth" was first published in Embers.
Carolyn Clarke's paintings are shown in Seattle-area galleries and on permanent
display in the homes of people who have commissioned her work. "Place of My
Birth" is one of many poetry/art collaborations she's done with Arthur Ginsberg that
will appear in Carrotway to Heaven, to be self-published in May 1997.