KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 9: Spring 2018
Prose Poem: 186 words

Words for Snow

by Roy Beckemeyer
The white bears have already forgotten the continent of ice; they think they have dwelt forever on this archipelago of small and scattered islands.

—The Yupik, indigenous Arctic people traditionally residing in Siberia, Saint Lawrence Island and the Diomede Islands

Each of the many Yupik words for snow will be written on a sliver of willow bark, placed in a seal-bladder sac. Year after year words will be pulled out, one by one, gummed by a toothless elder. Blubber-oil lights will flicker on their faces as they tell the words. This is how the people will remember, once the snow has gone: they will recall blizzards when they see the white cataracts cloud in an old woman’s eyes; when an old man says the word qetrar, the children will repeat it as he describes the feel of the crust of snow crunching and yielding to the cushion beneath. This is how the people will remember when white is known only as the color of clouds, when the land is only mud and stone, when the Arctic Sea remains lapis-blue the entire winter long.


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