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 Post subject: Missing Poem
PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2003 2:11 pm 
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Many years ago I taught an epic poem about a Native American woman. In the first section, she was trudging across a frozen lake during a blizzard. She cut a hole through the ice, bated a hook "with her own flesh," caught some trout, and so saved herself and her child.

In the second section, that child paddled away from an island, probably on the same lake, leaving his now elderly mother to die, as was the tradition. The poem describes a beautiful, almost sacred death.

I've never been able to find this poem. Anyone know its title, author?

Dave


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2003 5:32 pm 
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Well, as far as I can tell, the author's name is Ernest Thompson Seton.
In the book The Writing Life Annie Dillard tells the story of an Algonquin woman that the writer Ernest Thompson Seton came upon - he noticed a scar on her thigh and asked through his interpreter how she got the scar. In a winter camp everyone but she and her baby had starved to death. She walked to the lake and found a fishhook. She rigged a line and cut a strip from her thigh for bait:
"One bad winter in the Arctic, and not too long ago, an Algonquin woman and her baby were left alone after everyone else in their winter camp had starved. Ernest Thompson Seton tells it. The woman walked from the camp where everyone had died, and found at a lake a cache. The cache contained one small fishhook. It was simple to rig a line, but she had no bait, and no hope of bait. The baby cried. She took a knife and cut a strip from her own thigh. She fished with the worm of her own flesh and caught a jackfish; she fed the child and herself. Of course she saved the fish gut for bait. She lived alone at the lake, on fish, until spring, when she walked out again and found people. Seton's informant had seen the scar on her thigh."
http://www.doyletics.com/arj/twlrvw.htm

Found this on the Internet:

A Scar With A Story To Tell
One terribly-hard winter in the Arctic,
an Indian woman and her baby
were left alone after everyone else
in their camp had starved to death.

All alone with just a fishing line,
and a bone fishhook—
plus a powerful will to survive,
no matter what it took.

The woman walker a long way to a lake,
tied the hook on the line, but had to bait;
her baby was crying, she had to do something—
so she cut a strip from her thigh.

All alone with just a fishing line,
and a bone fishhook—
plus a powerful will to survive,
no matter what it took.

Yes, she fished with her own flesh,
and eventually caught a jackfish,
which provided not only several meals,
but also guts to use as bait.

And so it went; they stayed at the lake,
living on fish, until Spring,
when they set out to find
the rest of their people.

The wound on her leg,
had healed by then,
and the scar, like all scars,
had a story to tell.

All alone with just a fishing line,
and a bone fishhook—
plus a powerful will to survive,
no matter what it took—
no matter what it took
~ adapted from The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard


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