by C. S. E Cooney

Beneath the new blue ice
There can be no breathing out
There can be no challenge to a sing
No discourse for the discontent between
But I will send the whales with my song
I will send the seals and the whales with my song
And they will sing of Sedna, goddess, handless one

Laughter echoes off the ice floes
In the feasting-house
Men rub nose to nose
Wag their tongues in jest
Women dance in low, slow circles
Seagull feathers clutched above their heads
And to their breasts
Best among the archers chooses first among the women --
I want none to be my suitor

"Man will never win me with an arrow, father
Nor arrow woo me, though it fly so true
I want to be the hand that sends the arrow, father
I want to be the arrow, too"

Oh, my soul is sick!
It wanders from the ice-hut
South, to mingle with the caribou
Moves northwards, choking, croaking to the sky:

"Tatqeq! Aningaaq!
Tatqeq, take me, Aningaaq!
Or I will break the rules you set, smash the sacred
With my fingernails, with my tears, take your taboos
And break them, one by one!
Inch by inch, I'll gnaw my father's limbs
Until he cannot hunt or run
I will make myself so hideous, so insidious
That you will hide your face
And leave this world tasting of my darkness!"

Aningaaq the Moon-Man is a hunter
He understands the hunter's art
He knows a woman's womb --
He does not know her heart
But, Raven,
Grinning from his perch on high
Sneaks around -- steals a suit of seagull down,
Puts a brightness in his eye
Preens the lice and larvae from the furs upon my thigh,
And promises a world inside the whirl of sky:

"Eternal hunting grounds," he leers,
"The Land above!"

Where I should know his love
And bear his spears, and reign supreme
As queen, as Sedna of the seagulls
Never have to clean another kill
Or chew another sole to suppleness
Where I should have a throne
Away from wolves, mosquitoes, reindeer, shaman
And my father, in whose shadow I have grown

I follow him, my seagull love, into the northern beam
But by the lights, I glimpse beneath, beyond the seagull dream
A stir, a spark, a midnight sheen:
The glossy gleam of Raven
Black as broad musk oxen
Blacker than the soot on Moon-Man's face
Back before the dawn of time...
The blackest black of space

I challenge to a sing the Raven God
Begin by breathing out my mockery --
"You stinking carcass-eater!
Foul Innua-thief, I know you!
You are my creator!
Trickster-Bird, your promises are filth!
Your nest is old and full of bones, and I am chained!
And I am shamed!
My father comes -- I hear his lead-dog howling
I hear his kayak gliding
Bid farewell, my Raven husband
For my father is a giant
Who will best you with his shadow!"

I slide down to the kayak
Of the craftiest of Hunters
Of my father, Anguta
And we glide into the waters
Deep below Old Raven's aerie
But my clever Trickster husband
Does not let me go so lightly

Raven stirs a seagull storm
Raven stirs the cauldron of the sky
Raven wakes the winds and prods
The child-god to howling
(Poor Narssuk!
The infant wind-god
Growing fat with every baby
Put to sleep upon the snows
He grows, as they could not
Vaster than our thought)

The kayak battles with the arctic
Shaves a floating iceberg
Where a bear stands like a statue
Like a carving polar-white
He weighs us, waits and watches,
Reflects us back the skies
With his gentle, hungry eyes

The kayak dips and tips
As the sea-storm crashes closer
My father glances over
At the Raven on his shoulder
The kayak tips and dips
And the ocean sounds like thunder
And my father thrusts me under
With a backswing of his fist

Cunning Raven caws and
Sees me break to surface,
Hook the kayak with my claws
As the skies begins to lighten
So my grip begins to tighten:

"Oh, Anguta! Oh, my father!
Condemn me not to dwell here
In the gloomscape of the Deep!
In Adlivin the shadowland
Where stillness never sleeps!
Where winds can never blow!
Where spirit lies concealed
From the star-paths and the snow!"

The Kayak dips and tips
A cry erupts from Raven's lips
My father is afraid
He takes his sharpest tool
He takes his black shell blade
Presses down the point
Upon my fingers, joint by joint,
Severs me from life above the sea
One, two, three

First the sea cow then the sea bull
Surge swimming from the blood pool
Then the walrus and the whale
(Bright belugas, how they glisten!)
From my knuckles and my nails
Then spilling from my finger stumps
The hooded seal barks and jumps

They dance --
For they are new and warm
The work of Sedna, Handless Goddess
Sacrifice to Chaos, Spirit of the Sea
With his blade my father made me
Far more powerful than he

Raven swoops to skim
The heights of Adlivin
Raven sheds his seagull suit
And grins his slyest grin:

"Now, Jenget, Kunna, and Katuma,
Kannkapfaluk, Satlum Eeva
Sedna --
Sister of my whim
Now indeed we two are kin!
Sedna, goddess, handless one,
My toil with you is done!
Those who wanted you for wife
Will look to you for life
Be murderous or merciful
Bloodthirsty or bountiful
Compassionate or indolent
Show pity as you please
For your soul supports the seas --
And it's all the same to me."

Then Raven, with another hacking cry
Flaps from Adlivin the Ocean
For his aerie in the sky
I am alone
And I am home
And I am Sedna
Lady of the frozen foam

Beneath the new blue ice
There can be no breathing out
There can be no challenge to a sing
No discourse for the discontent between
But I will send the whales with my song
I will send the seals and the whales with my song
And all will sing of Sedna, goddess, handless one

By day, C. S. E. Cooney pushes books to bibliophiles at Kate the Great's Book Emporium. By night, she indulges in unlikely fantasies featuring Sondheim, Stravinsky and the Scarlet Pimpernel. Her alma mater is Columbia College Chicago, where she majored in Fiction Writing and minored in Acting. Cranberries are better than pomegranates, and pomegranates are better than everything else. She has been called "prolific."

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