Anthropology Magazine

When Asked if the World Would End They Answer No

When Asked if the World Would End They Answer No


An Indigenous anthropologist-poet visits Woody Island in Alaska, formerly the site of the Kodiak Baptist Orphanage in the early 20th-century, where her great-grandfather lived before being sent to the Carlisle Indian School.

If you missed the introduction to “When Asked if the World Would End They Answer No,” you can find it here.

 

I knelt in the blanched tub
for the photograph

not wishing to offend.(Were there claws?)

How could the young
missionary know—
neither of us belonged
on that island
anymore.

How could he know that
that ground was not for
breathing.(Were there claws &
were they softened by
the weather? Field turn
relic—)
How could he know that
the children didn’t nurse
the story back
to health

That she knew
she was ill then—
the teacher
before she left
the boat.

It was only after
the boys’ summer
cabin was complete

they learned about
the grave.(Graves?

How many holes
are required?

How many
bodies
counted?)

I knelt in   the belly
the sinking
shape and when
the limbs grew
tired

settled for the bottom
the sea

a landscape free of ruin.

Long ago they say
we started in boats
on a trip
we were young,

returned old.

Not even then did we find an end.