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Chrys Salt has written eight poetry collections, been translated into several languages, performed across Europe, North America,  India and Australia, and her poems have inspired artists, musicians and film-makers to create collaborative pieces.

 

Amongst many awards she received funding from Creative Scotland to visit Yukon and undertake the research for this collection.

 

Chrys was awarded an MBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2014 for Services to Arts.

Cover design by Deirdre Carlisle

 

Poetry

 

138 x 216mm

 

64 pages

 

£10.00 + P&P UK

 

ISBN 978-1-912876-29-7

 

PUB: March 2020

 

 

ORDER HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

SKOOKUM JIM

and

The Klondike Gold Rush

 

Chrys Salt

 

 

This collection is a gift to the First Nation peoples of Yukon, many of whom still strive to regain the way of life they lost. Whatever poems I have made of their stories, or fashioned from my own research and experience of being there, in the spirit of just exchange I give them back. Chrys Salt MBE

 

*****

 

‘...a brave montage of voices past and present forging links between our world and late nineteenth century North America. With great originality she deploys creation myths and explores the colonial prejudices of governments and greedy, desperate prospectors alongside the exploitation and fate of North America’s First Nation People - a colourful condemnation of human greed, but a testament to the survival instincts of individuals and cultures.’

Martyn Crucefix

 

‘Centring on First Nation folk-hero Skookum Jim, these poems beautifully evoke the landscape, non-human beings and lore of the North Canadian wilderness, capture the frenzy of the gold rush years, the desolation of their aftermath and how landscape and people survive the vagaries of history – always fully acknowledging the poet’s observer status.’

Professor Margaret Elphinstone 

Novelist/Emeritus Professor of Strathclyde University

What the lookout saw

(Beaver Mountain 1897)

 

The placid Yukon winds its arms

round inlets, reed beds, stranded isles,

glacial silt washed down from mountains

to the river's lip,

sheer sand banks undercut by currents,

pocked with swallows' nests.

 

He's standing where he always stands,

high on the warty outcrop,

look-out for bark canoes,

graceful and marvellously light,

skimming towards his village with their wares –

 

but not for this, this

silence shredded to a din,

these shrieking clouds,

hurled spume, this smash,

this loud flotilla on the water snake.

How could there be so many in the world?

 

Swift on his moccasins

he scrambles down.

He shouts in the fields,

he shouts in the fish camp.

He runs like the hare to tell them

that the white man comes again,

lights fires on their land,

takes fish for dog food,

scares the moose

cuts down trees,

tramples the sweet-grass,

makes rivers run backwards,

turns mountains inside out.

 

'Until our fallen warriors return,’

the wise Chief says,

'we will be moose calves in a land of wolves.’

 

 

Song of the wise Chieftain

 

When they came like the Mosquito

Chieftain told Raven

'Raven, fly away

and store our songs

for no-one else must sing them.'

When Hammer Water spoke

of chattering tongues

on salmon weirs and hunting grounds

Chieftain asked Moon

to light three fires to save them.

When Mountain spoke

of steeps and hollows eaten out

in one short fickle season

Chieftain asked Bear

to store their memories

until times came good to share them.

 

 

Coda                  

 

Land is not my school, my history,

my land was never disembowelled for gain,

 

nor have I roots grown down so deep in it

that in my bones I know it to be mine.

 

I am not subject to The Season’s laws,

nor do they govern where I stay or go.

 

I have no Homeland to be taken back,

no drum to beat that no one listens to,

 

no shaman to recover what I've lost,

no Frog to heal or teach me to be wise,

 

no Elders to pass on the lore, learned

from the throat songs of my ancestors.

 

Language was not stolen from my mouth,

nor did my children grow up separate.

 

I cannot know how loss makes warriors

or hold a potlatch for your ancient grief,

 

but fashion stories with a poets tongue,

your stories walking in my skin,

 

make them anew and give them back,

of rights, of heritage, your living land.

Keish's childhood 1850s

 

tight in a blanket

he rode on his mother

child of the Wolf Clan

Bear was his brother

ran where the moose ran

bronze brown and laughing

knew what his bones knew

before his arriving

tales of the Yukon

passed on with the telling

smelled the moon rising

before night was waking

saw big winds whisper

before leaves were shaking

whip crack of dawn light

first spring ice breaking

portent of snow slide

in the year's turning

tracked as a wolf might

the caribou's wandering

learned at his making

when words are spoken

there is no unsaying

when earth is broken

there is no returning.

 

 

Slide Cemetery, Dyea 2017

Palm Sunday Avalanche 1898

 

On tidal flats in Dyea now,

are fields and fields of irises.

I think of Flanders and the poppies there,

wonder what strange memorial are these

for young men swallowed by an avalanche,

and now lie in this foreign field

that is forever none of them –

grave markers tilted

under flat leafed pine,

names elbow deep in fern,

stone scoured by rain and time –

men who in one demented summer came

from Kansas, Minnesota, Maine,

kitted with picks and spades,

not guns for victory.

Told they would pluck gold,

from rivers 'quick as raspberries',

were fed a false prospectus

like those other dead.

 

James Edward Doran 1898

John Morgan, Daniel Molinnan,

George Risser, C P Harris,

Walter Chapper, Thomas Culleden

more and more young men.

Palm Sunday, April 1898,

these and the eloquence of irises.

 

 

The Fever

 

he found a fleck of it inside a fish

a twinkle in the blood

glint became nuggets

pictured in a book

he mined the flaked opacity of flesh

dug his knife to bedrock skeleton

followed a song the fishbone sang

flew the mind's eye

to lake and glacier

leant pick and spade

on phantom rock

scooped silt from salmon grounds

sluiced to a yellowness of corn

won't speak its name

for fear in naming it were lost

eyes wide and fierce

hand clamped across a scream

held out its pure deep shining

at arm’s length

stock still with knowing

that this, this is,

this is the spinning moment

the last ace poised

above a Royal Flush

when fire kept its tongue

trees dipped in molten sun

water made honey knew

this second held

the future in its breathing out

would open at the bookmark

of his coming back.

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