BANNER

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 13, Number 3, September 2019
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Doris Lynch
Bloomington, Indiana, USA


Post Office Beneficence

Kivalina, Alaska

Entering the Alaskan post office located in Abigail Swan’s living room, I greet the village ladies, who sit cross-legged on the floor sewing mukluks. The room’s warmth surrounds us, and Kristen, my toddler, wakes and pushes her head out from inside my parka. I stoop so the ladies can coo to her in Iñupiaq. We share news about the weather and animal sightings—Enok spotted a musk ox on the island this morning. Too bad the channel is not frozen hard yet. That moment, Ethel’s sons return from hunting and head to a side room for butchering.

At the desk where Ethel conducts official business, I ask about our mail. “None today,” she says sorrowfully. “Blizzard winds near Kotzebue.” She asks me how to spell the name of the state I come from. “P-e-n-n-s-y-l-v-a-n-i-a,” she repeats. “Nice long name—just like Iñupiaq ones.”

Wishing her good afternoon, I head to the storm porch and wait for Kristen to dive inside my parka again. As I yank open the heavy outside door, Enok catches up to me.

Aaka says to give you this.” Inside an old pillowcase, I find half a caribou leg.

“Enok, no, way too big a gift.”

“She won’t take it back. Can I carry it home for you?”

“I have the sled.” Gently, Enok takes the caribou piece and ties it to the sledge’s driftwood base. Avoiding snowy mounds of sled dogs, I head home, savoring the thought of fresh caribou stew for dinner.

the clanging
of husky chains
dog constellation rises


Note: In the the Iñupiaq language, mukluks are boots made from caribou fur and aaka means mother.

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