Ernestine! I’ve been looking forward to posting this poem, and today just seemed like the day. It is permanently installed at Totem Bight Park in Ketchikan, where I first encountered it. Ernestine Hayes is our current Alaska Writer Laureate.

The Spoken Forest

By Ernestine Hayes

I was thinking about the forest one day
and it came to me—
our stories,
our songs,
our names,
our history,
our memories
are not lost.
All these riches are being kept for us
by our aunties, our uncles,
our grandparents, our relatives—
those namesakes who walk and dance
wearing robes that make them seem like bears
and wolves.
Our loved ones.
Those beings who live in the spoken forest.
They are holding everything for us.