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006:
Wild Man Running

[7 mins reading time]

Dai Do Mu Mon [Great-Way-No-Gate]

Yes it could, though quite inconceivably,

It could indeed, have happened that way,

Even a small wolverine, could do exactly that.

 

The hunter was resting on spruce boughs, woven on the snow inside the tent,

Beside his two grandchildren, by the other older boys,

They themselves were in the country, to hone the ancient skills,

For all had just been told, a story of the trickster,

How Kue-kuat-sheu the wolverine, had madly wandered,

The tale recounted by his friend, sprawled beside the glowing stove.

There had been a strong hunter, possibly over-proud,

Of his polished snowmobile, of his sharp eye and rifle,

He was travelling on a road like this, through the boreal forest,

The white way rolled over hill, dipped down,

Rose up again, he was attentive to the trees,

For a trickster wolverine would bolster, any hunter’s reputation,

So when Kue-kuat-sheu appeared ahead, the hunter gunned the engine,

Leant forward and now the skidoo, raced fast across the icy road.

 

He came to the top of the first rise, the wolverine was waiting on the second,

He drove at speed, flinging snow to this side and that,

And dashed to the top, yet the wolverine was waiting on the third,

You can imagine by now, he had cast away all patience,

And so drove faster, flew up the next slope,

And the wolverine leapt, she thumped into his chest,

The machine flipped sideways, roared on alone and buried in a bank of snow.

 

All was silent, even the North Wind had paused,

The wolverine stood to one side, staring at him,

The gun was lying there, in easy reach,

The wolverine leant forward, eyes still fixed upon him,

She did not speak, she turned and slowly walked into the trees.

 

Yes said the hunter in the tent, it could have happened like that,

When a hunter kills a caribou, a porcupine or any another animal,

It is because the animal spirit, chose to catch the bullet,

That he said, was one great power of the land.

 

That still night, the stove cold,

The tent inside, brightly glowing in the moonlight,

The Innu hunter spoke again, come he said,

Come outside, so they laced on boots and snow-gear,

And once again, things grew plain and strong,

The hunter sees deep down, they do not need to know,

What is going to happen, presume little and watch and listen,

The distant hills were dark, and all the snow was sparkling.

 

The wild man called Katshi-mait-she-shu, came at midnight,

As they stood beside the cracked skidoo, its body parts scattered round about,

The moon was sailing on an empty sky, above the dark of never-knowing,

There was a rush from far, deep inside the taiga trees,

A dashing sound, the hurried flesh of ghost,

This broken piece of common memory, he laughed,

Hooted as would a hunting owl, he was behind them,

Then in front, this figure of the forest.

 

It was almost as if, they were not afraid,

So after the wild man went, running at the speed of moonlight,

They searched the snow, and could find next morning,

No tracks of feet, even their own were erased,

For the shaman-trickster never leaves, footprints on the sand,

Or snow, they fly across the land,

The night had been dark-dark, the two men tried to stand tall-tall,

Breathing quietly as they could, until silence came again.

 

Back in the village, a man had shouted from his doorstep,

“What are you doing here, who the hell are you!”

Inside his wooden house, water was bone and the air cold as porcelain,

There was a single table, a broken window open to the wind,

Ash trays were full, beer bottles strewn upon the floor,

There were curling family photos, lonely on the mantlepiece,

The man had a chest freezer, inside was a single frozen goose,

Its neck splashed with red, he began to wave his arms and shout again.

 

Far to west from here, wide-eyed of wealth,

Was stripping tar sands down to rock, with empty trucks that weighed 400 tonnes,

That one state, crossed by three hundred thousand pipelines,

Where they termed the forest overburden, and further to the north and west,

A clever corporation was about to install, units to refreeze permafrost,

For their oil rigs, were no longer stable as they drilled,

Here the band stepped out upon the frozen snow, walked to start the path,

To the gateless gate some would say, the way into their ancient home.

 

The morning began this way, the skidoo pieces left for spring and thaw,

The stores and food, tent and stove and furs,

Packed on sleds, the runners rubbed with wax,

They too would venture, to the land of the lord of northern gales,

They would see birds without names, “we welcome you all” called the hunter,

The shoveller and mallard and types of coot, never before had they come,

To the homeland where people could be bears, where caribou could be people,

Where huts were roofed with tusks, and tears would freeze upon their faces.

 

This is what happened in those old days, the hunter said that night,

A boy dreamed, a caribou girl wanted to marry him,

So told his father who could-not, dared-not tell him what this meant,

That morning the boy dressed, tied on snowshoes,

The sun was up, as they reached a small hill,

In the far trees by the shore, was a herd of caribou,

The boy walked, on alone,

And one caribou stood up, she came towards him.

 

He had his bow ready, his hands were shaking,

His arrow heads were made, from the shin bones of people,

The caribou called to the boy, “Uh uh don’t shoot me,”

She walked up to him, and said “Will you marry me?”

“How could I” he replied, “I will freeze to death,

You eat moss, you don’t drink water,”

She said, “You won’t be cold or thirsty,”

“How could I” he said again, “You run so fast the wolves will catch me.”

 

The boy was nervous, yet now glimpsed sideways,

He saw a girl dressed, in fine snowshoes and moccasins,

And he fell in love with her, together they ran,

In a windy way, often sideways with the herd,

The boy married the caribou girl, some hunters have seen this boy,

He runs so smoothly, people who see him say,

Look at the boy and his wife the caribou woman, they always run together,

The hunter said this is how we go well, with the creatures on the way.

 

This is how it was, a vast stillness,

A silent presence, stretched the land,

The wind had ceased, the ice shimmered,

It seemed bells rung with cold, the moon floated,

In a blue-black sky, the distant mountains lit by an inner glow,

At the darkest hour, cold descended into dreams of caribou,

 

It was said the running people, all who live in cold climes,

Keep warm by kindness,

Oh hello, we’re on this way together.

 

Jules Pretty

[Dai Do Mu Mon: Great Way No Gate]

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