(untitled) (finished draft 2020-21)

(untitled) (finished draft 2020-21)

A Poem by Ookpik
"

Another exercise

"
.
.
.
Stretched canvas beat against the poles as another sudden gust drilled against the triangular opening of my tent.
The loose bungee hung wearily - as if having surrendered to the task of securing, gripping and finally failing to hold the fabric in place against the assault made by the wind. It hung there lifelessly - the broken body of Hector, limp and lolling behind the rolling violence of the flap. 
.
The knot had failed, and rather than attempt to re-hook it, I had chosen instead to watch - to be transfixed by the mesmerism of the wind, animating itself into the repetitive opening and closing of the tent's mouth. It appeared almost as if the gusts were attempting to speak through it - that the gale, after being so long without a tongue, had dived toward the newly discovered fabric in a desperate attempt to express itself, to convey to some audience all of what it meant to be wind. And only now, upon giving the mouth life, realized that though it had acquired the lips, it still lacked the essential knowledge to mouth and form the words. How angry it must have felt just then, to coil and twist within the sky for eons, for millennia, for as long as the sky itself had existed, only to be now, suddenly thwarted out of its opportunity for self expression by the accidental oversight of forgetting to teach itself how. 
.
The wicked beating of the flap seemed to emphasize its anger - as if, out of sheer frustration, the fabric had opted to perform the duty of a flag, pounding its tattoo for the eyes of lookers on, rather than dexterously forming the hungry sentences of a tongue that had spent too long an eternity as an involuntary mute. 
.
But such a thing wasn't true - the flap was no more the wind's tongue than it was the bespoken object of my projections. 
.
I had always known the sky to be capable of speech - the wind was its tongue, and this flap here was just an obstacle caught by the force and power of the sky's oration.  
.
For on such nights, when the sky chose voice and the whole of the earth resounded in prophetic echo, it would have been a foolish thing to mistake the noise for anything other than an exposition of power. 
.
Even now, I could hear the stretched cord from outside - the lines securing corners to the lichen pocked stones rolled into a protective circle - waver and bend as guitar strings resonating beneath the plucking thumb of the ether. 
.
This tent, and this tent's mouth, were no more than the hollow of the instrument - the soundhole, a cave-catch to the deep outside.
.
Beyond the mouth lay the great expanse of the northern tundra. The deep plain that froze annually into sheet ice and melted in a cyclic, binary revolution into the spring of a hyperborean steppe. 
.
It smelled this time of year as heavy loam, it smelled of coarse flora and distant sea salt. Little flowers peered from beneath the blanket of morass and moss - tufts of cotton clung to recently revived twigs, and sparse grass reached high for the soft vitality of the sun.     
.
Everything that grew, that breathed its newly restored and semi annual life, did so atop a buried plate of ice. The freezing never left here - it remained always, laying dormant beneath the ground in a perpetual permafrost and waking in the fall to manifest again as the dead pale of frozen barrens. 
.
The freeze here was perpetual, it only slept in the summers - as a refrigerated bear, snoring in hibernation through seasonal heat and awaiting the call to creep back from its barrow and answer with a soft crackle of immediate, unrelenting cold.
.
The ice here was as constant as the wind - and as I watch the flap beat its fold against the side of my tent, I sense with dread imagination the sleeping storm as the object of the sky's call, and the flap as the simple witness, the bystander to both the mustering song and the patiently resting auditor of the impending and inevitable blizzard. 
.
I knew the feeling well. 
.
Dread - that Heideggerian reflex, the angst against the falling curtain and the being before the blowing of snow. 
.
When one knows a thing is coming, and yet knows not what can be done to prepare for it, the best salve is often a strong cup of tea - and with tea in mind, I turned my face from the gape of the tent's mouth and affixed my attention instead to the Coleman stove, resting upon a loose sheet of plywood and insulated by a pillow of moss beneath. 
.
There were loose caribou hairs scattered about the bottom of the steel box, and I pinch enough for tinder into the shallow basin of the burner. Upon upturning the dial, the waft of sour naphtha proceeded the low rasp of the fuel outtake and I watched as the thin strands of white shivered in frigid anticipation. 
.
They reminded me of insects - as if, though they had fallen from the backs of their original host, they yet still held enough alacrity to be aware of their new role as camp-stove kindling. 
.
It would have been a morbid thought, except such was the way here. Life always gave way to new life, or to the sustained life of another - there was no morbidity attached to death, only the resolute passing of one force to the next - and the shivering hairs were thus no more than the instrument in the trade from fuel, to fire, to my boiling teapot.
.
As I dropped the match, the burner exploded with a swift cough of color, and the low rasp became a hiss beneath the flickering ring of high, yellow flame. Quickly, so as not to waste fuel, I twisted the dial down and watched the ring settle into a gentle, grazing blue. 
.
I always liked the look of that low burn - there was something magic about the way the flicker played against the shadows inside the tent.
.
Absentmindedly, or at least more fixated on the thought of falling snow than I had been on the burner, I lazily drew a leather bag filled with river water and began filling the copper teapot. The imprint of the blue flame had left its tonguing mark, and the oxidized rump of the rounded kettle showed the polarized, blackened green of constant use.
.
It was like a brand that had been burned into the a*s of my teapot, and I loved it, because no two brands ever looked the same and the identifiable watermark made this kettle all the more mine.
.
As I waited for it to boil, foregoing the tent flap and its desolate vision of snows to come, I pulled my tobacco pouch from it's snug, carefully protected pocket and began the thoughtless process of assembling a cigarette. 
.
For it was indeed, a thoughtless thing - to pinch paper and douse the plywood beneath the Coleman stove with a scattered peppering of shredded leaf - and it was exactly the comfort of such thoughtlessness that I required to prevent the recurrence of brooding ever longer upon tomorrow. 
.
Perhaps that's why I liked listening to the wind, and perhaps it was the same impulse that attracted me to the flame - there seemed to be an escapism to it, an opportunity for self-transportation to somewhere other than an enclosed, canvas tent, a high-roost esker and the flat isolation of living in, and being centered below, as both far from and alarmingly close to nowhere as I currently found myself.
.
I chuckled a little as the paper edges found a crease, and smiled as I licked the adhesive edge of the paper.
.
There was an internal conflict to the thought that I found deeply comical - that somehow, my attraction to the fire was a manifestation of war between listening to the tent mouth, and alternating upon the safety of the here and now, on the comfort of high spring and the commodity that was hot tea and a cigarette. 
.
So be it, I thought, let tonight be my night for escapism, and let tomorrow hold my account for dread.
.
I leaned over and brought the tip of the cigarette to the Bunsen flame beneath the kettle, recoiling only slightly to keep my matted hair from igniting amidst the effort.
The caribou skins beneath my folded lap creaked as I did so, and my heavy boots scraped the tarp that had been carefully layered beneath the mattress.
.
Raw, thick-set smoke filled the air, and relaxation poured over at the precise moment that the kettle found its boil.
.
Luxury, I thought as I stretched, inhaled and lifted the pot to fill a nearby tin cup.
.
The tent-flap rolled sardonically as if in response to the casual attempt - though I couldn't help but find it asinine despite the moment's prior severity.
.
"Worry tomorrow" I said aloud to it - "tonight, let your bellows be music."
.
I grinned with relief when it didn't answer - deep down I didn't want it to; I feared its riposte, despite the theatrical attempt at mockery. I knew it wasn't right to poke fun at the wind, it had a dangerous habit of answering that, by now, I should have learned not to tempt into fruition. But I had done it anyway in an almost unconscious attempt to relieve myself of its presence. 
.
I lost the grin, momentarily, as I exacted some self-discipline, and drew on the cigarette as a quick alleviation for the mistake. 
.
I knew also, that it was wasteful to do this - that there was a calm in the tobacco, in the cigarette, but if you forgot or allowed yourself the leniency of forgetting, to savor it, it was just as likely to transpose into restlessness.  
.
I could still hear the blowing, heavy, from outside - but the angle of its funnel had deviated from the tent's face and the tongue had gone silent as a result. There should have been some reassurance in that, but I knew, by now and far better than others, that the wind chose its tongue with careful selectivity and that the flap's silence wouldn't give any indication as to what it had actually been trying to say.
.
Frustrated, I sipped my tea and listened to the gusts - to the beat of loose canvas and the drum-thrum reverberation of the fraying guitar strings. 
.
This was the danger of being on the barrens - the same danger in being too long alone.
.
It was easy to make enemies from things like the wind, or a haste-ridden, stress pull from a cigarette - and as much so to make insects from animal hair and a friend from Coleman-stove fire.
.
I sipped my tea, at least somewhat pleased that something in me still held that quintessential anchor between my transient thought and the ground.
.
I had been doing this a long time, and that short instance of reason and realization was an inherent part of the quality that facilitated the act.
.
Without it, one became lost in the abyss - in the maelstrom of thought and possibility that awaited on the outside of the tent, in the barrens beyond, where no place existed because nothing was there to mark it clearly on a map - where all that was, became so between the tight-rope drawn across the horizon line, and sheltered beneath the high-haven of the sky.
.
If one were to to've entered into this place, lacking the prescience of knowledge that forewarned the entrant as to the ease and lubricity that one could lose themselves by, than they already were, themselves, lost - perhaps even before they had determined to stock provisions and set out aimlessly, wandering across the various nowheres of the tundra.
.
And, it thus became only a matter of time before their being nowhere was eclipsed by the inability to acknowledge that nowhere was still a place, one with enough actuality for a person to be aware of the fact that they were still alive in it - that the world hadn't been turned upside down and that they hadn't, unbeknownst to themselves, somehow fallen into that deeper nowhere that lay hidden beyond the sky. That they hadn't, inadvertently, become metamorphosed into a mere whispered extension of the wind, folded into the timelessness and eons of the air itself and curled back into the torrents of the twisting in a place, where, the closest things that stood to the heavens were those still remaining upright, or the hilled-ridges and eskers that composed the land itself.  
.
As I sucked smoke from between the cylinder of tobacco and paper - letting it fold out from within my mouth and coil into my mustache, lapping in and out from within my nostrils - I realized that, for a split second, I had been forgetting to blink... and that at some point or other, the flap had begun to roll again.
.
As I closed my eyelids and wetted the tissue encasing my corneas, sipping my tea and ashing the cigarette over my boot, I made a quick mental note - that contemplating the act of getting lost in thought, actually hastened the loss itself.
.
Well, such was the way - to some extent it was a current that couldn't, at least entirely, be fought against. And in others, such as the moment that had just transpired, it was better to coast along the stream of transience than it was to bang one's head against the plywood, until either a big enough bruise had formed or until in so doing, one's fixation became oriented more on the pain of the bump than on what might be waiting outside.
.
Besides, there was an overt pleasure in getting lost. If there hadn't been, my own presence here would have been an act of masochism, rather than instead, that of self indulgence - in the acute pleasure of drawing one's self so tightly over nowhere, that it became only the knowledge in being nowhere that affirmed that I was still a self. As if, the precise sensation of being lost presumed, by and of its own extension, that I maintained enough of an internal compass to know that I had, by virtue of abandonment, allowed its dial to point me in my own direction. 
.
In less or more words, it was getting lost in such places that one endeavored to find themselves, and, tumultuous as it at times felt, it was precisely this manner of self discovery that had given me cause to adventure here to begin with.
.
I was, in a sense, hastening to burn my own brand into this place - to become my own a*s-ended carbon mark scorched into the teapot of existence - and it was likely for the same reason that I enjoyed the symbolic representation of setting my kettle to boil.
"Hah!" I laughed, in temporary triumph - feeling as though I'd just reinvented purpose by virtue of waterboarding my own psyche until I'd been given cause to remember it.
.
It was only made possible to find something, anything, after the quality of it having already gotten lost. 
.
Thus, I was here to find self in the dichotomic prism of two virtual nowheres.
.
To know thyself, completely, when caught in the void that existed between sky and horizon line - to allow the world to upend itself, to become one's own mindlessness lost in the forevers of the wind, and to, simultaneously, assert one's own life through the smallest of mundane practices, through the act of lighting a cigarette, or of boiling water, or of laughing at the futility of such revelation.
.
Leaning back, feeling satisfied and lavishing in the first spells of sleep, I watch as the blue cigarette smoke emulated the patterns of the wind outside - protected in my own sanctuary of canvas and rope - and flickering alongside the brightened blue shadows that emanated from the circular, Bunsen burner.
.
I had left it running, for warmth, and by now had finished with my tea. And the remnants of my cigarette and the drowsiness of the late evening began painting a portrait onto the angular ceiling of the tent.
.
Lines emerged, that appeared in themselves, ancient - Neolithic, anthropological syllabics orchestrating the lives of the first men. I saw scratch-work images of figures in fur parkas - in kowlitak, and atagi, with tipped spears and shortened antler bows, chase a herd of caribou, directing them through an expression of stone inukshuks and gravitating their retreat towards the trap of lake water. I saw chalk portrayal, as they launched their kayak and embedded stone weapons into the backs of that flight. 
.
I saw huge, stout-backed men - neljuti, lone ones - pulling seals deep from below and through, narrow, almost indiscernible tunnels, the breathing holes, formed by oxygen intake beneath the sea ice. I saw the chiseling of whale oil lanterns; I saw precise needles and cleverly manufactured ulus; I saw history, that didn't belong to me - that somehow furthered the sensation of my being dwarfed in this place, that amplified my non-existence against the immediacy of being alive. That made me, here, as an obstruction to their being - or as some connotative peril against the grandeur of seemingly hidden, and deeply untold ancestries. 
.
As I smoked, the walls of my tent, and the low shadows and coils of tobacco became cave paintings that danced to the drum beat and rhythm of the interior windstorm against the exterior canvas. And they moved in the blue-half light - demonstrating their own belonging, against the desperate, longing attempts of my own making, to cultivate a place alongside them.
.
And than, as if to further promote intrusion, I saw giant, iron birds - swooping from the sky, spitting black clouds of burnt oil and gasoline. I saw riders with whips rake the metallic panels of their backs. I saw boxes, and crates, and gun-powder, and whiskey. I saw engines, that were painting the horizon that had manifested just before my eyes.
.
And as I watched this happening, emerging in the dizziness like an onset dream - I felt sleep loll across my forehead, into the hollows at my temples, and thought that soon, perhaps all too soon, the nowheres of this world, where one could find sanctuary in their being completely alone, and discover affirmations of self thereby, would, if not gradually rather than suddenly, perhaps terribly, fall into the organized cartography of map work, into the secularity of civilization and the malevolence that became man. 
.
And forcing me, perhaps by my own necessity, to wake tomorrow from the seclusion of sudden slumber, 
.
And once again make way for home.    
.
.
.

© 2021 Ookpik


Author's Note

Ookpik
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCCXq9QB-dQ

My Review

Would you like to review this Poem?
Login | Register




Reviews

It occurred to me that this would be so powerful as spoken word/slam poetry. I don't known if that's anything you've ever tried.

Posted 1 Year Ago


Ookpik

1 Year Ago

I disagree (I'm prone to unsolicited criticism). And prose is a different monster - that's part of w.. read more
likesgreeneggsandham

1 Year Ago

Good man. A lot take it to mean something mundane about what they’ve written. Prose is indeed a di.. read more
Ookpik

1 Year Ago

As do we all

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

269 Views
2 Reviews
Added on May 9, 2020
Last Updated on June 22, 2021

Author

Ookpik
Ookpik

Vancouver Island, British Columbia , Canada



About
... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGkh1W5cbH4&t=33s more..

Writing