The Kobuk Maiden

A poem by Charlotte M. Kruger

Where the sun shines bright at midnight all throughout the month of June
And the winter sheds its twilight on the snow and ice at noon
Lived a dusky, dark-eyed maiden, and her heart was free from care,
For she thought not of the morrow as she ate her salmon, rare.
She was handy with a needle, and also with a bow.
She was never cold or hungry. She could hunt and fish and sew.
She could run before her dog team, and she laughed with childish glee
As the waters of the Kobuk rippled onward, to the sea.

 

She was not tall and slender, as the poets' verses tell.
She'd have been far more attractive if she'd had a different smell.
She was clothed in skins of animals, and wherever she would roam
Many tiny little creatures in her parka made their home.
Don't lay this up against her now, for she had never seen
Pear's soap or Colgate powder. She had no comb of Cameline.
Yet no high-born Lady in the land had warmer heart than she
As the waters of the Kobuk rippled onward, to the sea.

 

When the Kotzebue excitement brought a crowd of miners there,
Came out one young man among them with blue eyes and sorrel hair.
He was smitten with the maiden, and that summer he was seen
Hanging round about her igloo, which was not so very clean.
Outside, he looked so dignified, it would be hard to tell
How he ever got accustomed to her greasy, fishy smell.
He brought her flour and sugar that year, and bacon, beans, and tea.
As the waters of the Kobuk rippled onward, to the sea.

 

When the sun came back next summer and the winter's storms were spent
All the miners left that country, where they hadn't saved a cent.
Ruined cabins, rude reminders of those days of 'Ninety-nine,
Stood all up and down the river amid stumps of spruce and pine.
Now in her deserted igloo sits the maiden, all forlorn.

"Na ka muktuk. Kow pow peeluk." All the white man's grub is gone.
And a chubby, blue-eyed
mickening she holds upon her knee
As the waters of the Kobuk ripple onward, to the sea.