Sheila-Na-Gig online


Spring 2018 Poetry Contest Winner: Vivian Faith Prescott

Vivian Faith PrescottI’m a fifth generation Alaskan of Sámi heritage living on the small island of Wrangell, Alaska at my family’s fishcamp. I’m the founder and co-facilitator of Blue Canoe Writers and Flying Island Writers in Sitka and Wrangell. I hold an MFA from the University of Alaska and a Ph.D. in Cross Cultural Studies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. My poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Yellow Medicine Review, Poecology, and elsewhere. I’m the author of a full length poetry collection, The Hide of My Tongue (Plain View Press) and three chapbooks: Slick (White Knuckle Press), Sludge (Flutter Press), and Traveling With the Underground People (Finishing Line Press).


There is mention of ambient noise,
how seals hide from killer whales

among the pop and burst of a melting glacier.
There are arguments concerning how high

we live above the present sea, how our tidal days
are spent with irregular fluctuations.

Old folks comment how the winter sky
has faded into a dull blue smoke.

But all this talk weighs less than a season
of dust and who am I to question

this weeping we have awakened.
Every week I participate in a familiar rite—

rebuilding my seawall, washing sea spray
from my living room windows,

knowing there is a time-honored way
we revel the sea lingering in our lungs

and its rinsing of our wounds.

White Reindeer’s Skull is the Sky

My weeping, my pleading, my begging, did not stop him.
No law then to prevent him from doing this thing I cannot
give voice to except as creation story —

            White Reindeer laid down on emptiness.

He forced himself into sacred hollow places, where old
women had gathered for generations within me,

            From White Reindeer’s body, veins opened up

traces of them still sloughed into crevasses, still etched on
inner walls with lichen.

            and blood streamed out, transforming into rivers

He clenched his teeth and whispered in my ear: whore,
bitch, cunt, adulterer, mine, did he do it to you like this?

            The White Reindeer’s stomach churned and gurgled and
            poured out and became the ocean.

Afterward he paraded me in front of my parents,
my teenage body and mind still wandering circles on tundra.

            The White Reindeer’s horns fell off and the horns grew up
            tall and became mountains.

The shape and shame of me traveled from animal to earth,
knowing story-instinct has followed other women like me

            Then the reindeer’s fur grew into trees and grass.

women telling these same stories, emerging from
beneath logs, from a palm holding a plucked leaf,
from scraping across glaciers, falling from the sky, even.

            and the White Reindeer’s skull became the sky.

Sometimes when I close my eyes, all these years later,
I see stars and northern lights in the reindeer’s eyes

            The eyes of the reindeer became the constellations—

and I’m able to I compress my fibers, and my small bones
fuse together, and I’m there as the world began,
my story sliced open and flowing.


She ground drifts with the wind overhead,
the first American generation Sámi Girl

A new study released

who’s unable to command the wind.
She senses it there, though—

argues there is evidence that

all delicate things turn from her.
Between buildings, a deer in the alleyway

local winds are a more important factor,

lifts its head from its grazing.
occasionally she reaches up to embrace

claiming changes in wind direction and velocity

the curl of her fear,
in the rising particles of air.

unrelated to climate change.

She is filled with lightning
and thunderheads,

Note that the wind changes consistently,

and feels ready to burst at any moment,
but into what she doesn’t know.

natural variability cannot be ruled out.

She occasionally swallows a thread of wind
and it spins her around

The wind acts to change

until she doesn’t know which way to go next.
Her outer garment is her too thick illusions,

like sweat drying on the skin,

her insides tumble disharmonic.
She names these feelings,

a pretty simple story,

these moments that shift something inside her
toward the wild.

that’s going to take people by surprise,

Call her a gradual adjustment of the body
to new climatic conditions,

pushing it in a warming direction.

or what her ancestors named campfire sparks
in wind—spirits-blown-about.

*Italics: Found lines from article “Study: Natural changes in wind cause Pacific warming” by Jeff Barnard, Komo News.

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