Thursday Poem

The Traveler


Among the quiet people of the frost,
I remember an Eskimo
walking one evening
on the road to Fairbanks.


A lamp full of shadows burned
on the table before us;
the light came as though from far off
through the yellow skin of a tent.


Thousands of years passed.
People were camped on the bank
of a river, drying fish
in the sun. Women bent over
stretched hides, scraping
in a kind of furry patience.

There were long hunts through
the wet autumn grass,
meat piled high in caches –
a red memory against whiteness.


We were away for a long time.
The footsteps of a man walking alone
on the frozen road from Asia
crunched in the darkness
and were gone.

by John Haines
from The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer
Graywolf Press, 1993