Here is where we live, I’m pointing (Harald
translating). Mountains, here where it’s green,
east and west of our city, no more than an hour’s
drive to go skiing, or to the beach, and Eugene
has just about everything: opera, ballet, health
foods, tofu (all week I’ve been planning this scene),
and here is Tucson. My mother lives in Tucson.
Here in Arizona. (I’ve brought the map with me,
pictured this route to sharing our lives, in Finnmark;
something to offer Harald’s mother, Kristine.)
Three days by car, to Tucson, it’s that far away.
But she was born in Michigan. That’s even
farther. My sister’s in upstate New York.
And here is Illinois, the place I’d dream of,
if I dreamed of home. I grew up in town,
and Ralph, on an Iowa farm his sister’s keeping
going. Our daughter’s in Italy, working.
She’s fine. We try not to worry. This scene,
just as I envisioned, back home in Eugene.
But something else has been added–our week with Harald
and Britt, with Kristine–and without warning, between us,
invisible, swaggering, there for all of us
to see, that old assumption: it’s natural, leaving
behind our family, our home. Yesterday Harald took us
past the birches he used to get lost in–between
his mother’s house, where he was born, and the house
his father’s brother built (now his own)–green
leaves deeper than green, full of midnight
sun, and a tangle of flowers I’d never dreamed
survived here–took us down to the river to fish.
Past the place the German army, retreating,
burned the turf hut where his mother was born.
Past the salmon nets–all those centuries leaning
into the current, rows of wooden poles
bedded in Sami tradition–and past the creeks
whose mouths on the Tana have always offered fish
whose names Harald told us, and told us, Here
in Tana, even the stones have names. Yesterday,
the sun on our backs, with Harald and Aslak and Siri,
the sun off-center, each moment was full of forever.
This map was a way I thought we’d meet each other.
This map is a stone in my heart.
From Surgeonfish. Cincinnatti, OH: WordTech Editions, 2005
Winner of the Editions Prize