Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vivian Faith Prescott

A Dead Woman's Shoes

Ten pairs of shoes, laces intertwined with Styrofoam and plastic six-pack rings, piled together, tossed aside at the Wrangell City Dump. I untangled laces as if unraveling the mystery of her lingering within the musty cardboard box.
I rummaged through her life–way worn soles of brown patent leather, faded red cheerleader shoes, black dress flats, tennies and white canvas slides. Now, I wear the dead woman’s shoes and each stride senses that my footfalls have somewhere else to go; each step pulses her soul’s quickening. And as I walk, I wonder where her shoes might have tread, where she is now—if she even needs shoes. And if I continue to wear the dead woman’s shoes, will she forever be a transient, footloose—walking from her world to mine.

In My Father's Cabin

The oil-barrel stove sears fire, spinning black soot into spider webbed patterns on the ceiling. Wool socks hang drying on bunk bed rails, river sand scatters across the floor. On cabin porch, I swat mosquitoes, and glimpse a dark silhouette awash in graying light; its yellow eyes lope into my thoughts.

It is here at the end of the world that clan brother chases sun and moon, fleeing with tracks and windblown sand. Inside the cabin, my sleeping bag is unable to warm the howls wounding the nightfall; its aching bay answered
deep the timber behind the cabin.

Like the man beneath the transformation mask, the cry releases loosely hinged cedar, unfolds its split image panels and exhales on the burning lantern, bellowing the flickering shapes, shifting cabin wall to forest path, invoking a story my grandparents told me about hunting in Thomas Bay—
at dusk wolves ambled through the treeline and in waning daylight, stood—transformed—and walked like men.


Last Sunday the preacher said she must believe
          in three gods, in wrath, in brimstone,

fire and death, things she could not see.
          But this, she glimpsed every night

from her veranda, their glint and flash,
          their phosphorescent fins.

So one night, shadowed on the cliff
          behind the old Iglesia, she stood atop

her grandmother's crumbling crypt,
          let her words be her guide, the black chant

of ancient fishermen curling her tongue in exotic fire.
          And with a hand loop on her wrist,

coiled line and net, the lead line over her left shoulder,
          she unwound her body into that space

between twilight and morning where belief
          sometimes nestles, gray and faded.

and pulled in with all her strength
          a castnet bursting with silver stars.

© Vivian Faith Prescott 2011

Vivian Faith Prescott lives in Kodiak, Alaska. She and her family are involved in the Lingít language revitalization in Southeast Alaska, and have established a non-profit called Raven’s Blanket, which is designed to enhance and perpetuate the cultural wellness and traditions of Indigenous peoples through education, media, and the arts; and to promote artistic works throughout Alaska by both Native and non-native Alaskans. Vivian has been published in several journals and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Poetry. She blogs at: Planet Alaska


  1. I was particularly struck with Dead Woman's Shoes. When my mother died, I cleaned out her closet and found about 50 pairs of shoes going back to the 1960s. I wanted so much to wear them but alas my feet were too big. But I thought about some of the things you spoke about in your writing. Keep up the good work both in your Lingit preservation and in your poetry.

  2. I keep coming back to these pieces and am especially moved by Doubt. Thank you for this dramatic and vivid tale so deftly sketched. I hope you'll visit MuDJoB again soon.

  3. I am so happy to hear the voice of a new poet -- new to ME, that is -- who has both craft and heart. I look forward to reading more of her. Thanks for providing a link to her blog. This is real talent.

  4. I loved the whimsey of "Dead Woman's Shoes, the mystery of "My Fathers Cabin" and the belief in "Doubt." Well done!

    Jeanette Cheezum


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