Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
Winter Dawn
By Constance Lindsay Skinner
THE DARK rolls back.
Like dropped stars,
The willows shine on the sides of the water-courses:
Their ice-blades clash,
Making a slow thin music.        5
So wakes he, Tem-Sotetc-Kwi;
So comes he slowly—like a slow thin music.
Ah—ah—hi-i, brothers! Lovers of trails and sea-paths!
It is the time of sorrow and the time of shutting-in:
For he has come again—Tem-Sotetc-Kwi—        10
With heavy winds,
Like frozen ropes of cedar, hoary,
Uncoiling from his thighs
To bind the world.
I have seen his white moccasins upon the mountain:        15
His steps have hushed the waters
Of the great and little falls;
The rushing rivers are stopped.
He has fed the lake’s watery breast to the White Bear
That follows him.        20
The canoes of the Coast-dwellers are hung under the roofs
Like empty cradles:
We can no longer rock on the wings of the great Blue Heron!
The great Blue Heron has hidden herself
Under the thatch of her nest,        25
Because of his pale gray foxes, with white ears—
His hungry foxes,
Huddled about the brink of her nest.
He has taken away the brown fields,
Where our bare feet danced with Autumn        30
At the feast of berries and maize—
The bare brown fields that were glad
When we drummed with our brown bare feet,
Singing, “Hoy-mah-ah! hoy a-mah!”
Ai-hi! The mats his witch-woman weaves for him are thick and cold:        35
We have put beaver-fur about our feet,
And made us long, long flat shoes to bear us up.
(This is our magic, wise men’s magic,
To save us from the White Bear’s maw!)
His great snowy owls fill all our cedars.        40
Aii-hi! The red breasts of woodpeckers
No longer flicker in our forests.
His witch-woman is plucking the wings of the sky,
The air is stuffed with white feathers:
We no longer may speak with the sun—ai-i!        45
Gravely, with bowed hearts, we greet you,
O Tem-Sotetc-Kwi, Snow-chief, Ice-hunter,
Priest of the Long White Moons!
Slowly, slowly, like thin music,
Murmur the sorrow-chant,        50
Coast-dwellers, my brothers:
For Tem-Sotetc-Kwi has carved the death totem
Over Swiya’s house-door—
Q’ulx—se—wag—ila—making pure!
Our mother Swiya, Swiya our mother is dead.        55
Sorrow, sorrow, my tribe, for Swiya!
Much joy had Swiya, our mother, who loved three lovers!
As a maid, boldly she went forth
And met Spring among the willows;
He pierced her with hope.        60
Singing she entered the green doors of Summer;
Singing she came out, girdled with fragrance.
She took the yellow harvest-moon in her hands,
And waited in the maize-fields behind our village.
Autumn clasped her there in the fields; he crowned her with maize,        65
He filled her pouch with berries, he gave her much deer’s meat.
Autumn, Feast-maker! Dearest was he among her three lovers—
He was the strong one: he gave the most food; he was the last.
Ai! great joy had Swiya, our mother, who loved three lovers,
And took their gifts.        70
All their gifts were ours: Swiya, our mother, kept nothing back.
Now she lies bare, her hands are empty, her face is cold;
Her eyelids are shut, for her eyes are in the Place of Death,
Under white eyelids! Q’ulx—se-wag-ila!
Tem-Sotetc-Kwi has carved the death-totem over Swiya’s door.        75
Slowly, softly, like thin music, murmur the sorrow-chant
For Swiya, our mother. Swiya, our mother, is dead.
Q’ulx—se—Q’ulx-se-wag-ila wa!
Gravely, with bowed hearts, we greet you,
O Tem-Sotetc-Kwi, Snow-chief, Ice-hunter,        80
Priest of the Long White Moons!

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