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The Talisman            by Timothy Murphy

"Summer was longer,           the sun warmer
when the barley-eaters           built their barrows,"
said the seal-stalker,           toothlessly smiling.
"Godhavn, their helmsmen           named this harbor
when longboats rode          through open water.
As for the raven,           they called him hrefn.
I eat bone marrow,           blood and whale meat,
so I know nothing           but names for snow."

In a tattered tent           the red-haired trekker
stared at the soapstone           unwrapped from a rag.
Bear cubs basked           on a blue whale's back
and salmon soared           over a skua.
Hewn by the hand           of an idle hunter,
narwhals twined           with the Talelayo
whose severed fingers           fluttered like fishes
or dreams drawn          from the depths of a stone.

Copyright © Timothy Murphy, 1999.