ungava-4Sacred pilgrimage to our ancestral Inuit ceme-
Tery, my twin sister’s gravesite, cairns in stag-
Gered rows overlooking Ungava Bay, motoring
North on Koksoak River, “Great River,” ancient
Life-provider of Nunavik Quebec. Effects of old
Age and cold, I fear this boat trip will be my
Last to visit Seepa’s coffined bones.

Huddled next to Jacopee, our spiritual leader,
We shared body warmth as the freighter canoe
Cut water north along fringes of meandering
Treeline, spruces diminishing in number and
In height approaching Ungava Bay. Our tenth
Pilgrimage, we bring plastic flowers, small
Offerings for loved ones lost to disease.

Reaching crest of glacier-scarred slopes, we
Discovered polar bears had disturbed cairns,
Bones in meager wooden coffins under hand-
Placed stones, Seepa’s tiny ribs, arm and leg
Bones lay open to predators, her delicate skull,
Thin bony plates, had fallen to pieces within
The decades-old shrine of rocks.

ungava-6In silence of this solitary plain overlooking
Cresting Ungava waters, Jacopee and I collec-
Ted my sister’s fragile remains, coffin boards
No longer intact, we realized more of Seepa
Was missing than we could find, each bone
Collected in my scarf, Seena and Seepa, twin
Sisters of snow, one lost sixty years ago.

At age five she died, ravages of burning flu,
My other self, struggling for life by light of
Soapstone lamps, prayers and damp cloths,
Her breathing shallowed in the night, child-
Hood agonies, by dawning light, our parents
Whisked her away, last memories of Seepa,
As her bones today, lay delicate and pale.

In spiraling flurries, Seepa and I are once
Again sisters of snow, her bones bundled in
My arms, remains of my other self, ironies of
Fate, how disease kills and spares another,
Except Jacopee and I are taking Seepa home,
And when I breathe my last, he promised to
Scatter our ashes on this desolate ridge.

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