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February 2011

Scene4 Magazine: "The Old Barn" | Griselda Steiner February 2011

by Griselda Steiner

Poem #3 of Earth Poems Trio
Interpreted from Inuit Legend

A steep blue sky lit with the rising sun
Cast forest shadows down the mountain to the stream
When Raven soared over the autumn arc
A black arrow shot from spirits bow
From the mystic cosmos behind the land

Raven's wings spread in flight
His eyes sharp on the ground
Where no creature ran, nor insect swarmed or bird nested
Alone he felt the cold sadness of loss before knowing
He scanned the clouds and high branches for a mate
Below a torrent of water fell down the ravine shattering rocks
To the purple darkness of a lifeless stream
There Raven perched on a giant white clam shell
And peered at its tide rippled surface
When he took a black rock in his beak and smashed its thin skin
The terrible power of the birthing of life pushed out the massive primal substance of being
Spirit's hand had seeded with the instructions for survival throughout the ages

The white foam eddied down the broad stream that narrowed in time
Past the distant morning horizon to the rivers
That joined the oceans of the world
A great unfathomable life force that sang in harmony with the place

From the depths of ancient oceans currents
North – South – East -  West
The single cell evolved into fish and sea mammals 
Breaching continental coasts to become great world species
That lived in jungles, plains, deserts and mountains
Teaming generations that kept pace in endless cycles of extinction
Layering the ground with ancestors buried as fossils
That tell their story in a language of bone

In his home in the Northwest valley, creatures ran and insects swarmed
When Raven drank from the crystal stream, a mirror that scanned the sky
Flock of birds in dust clouds darkened the tree line
In a flash of black lightning, Raven's mate flew to his side
And with their coupling came the Raven clan

In the afternoon of time 
Spirit sang humans into its long necklace of intelligent life
Who walked the earth in vast changing seasons
Creating civilizations for millennia that made animals slaves
Over-breeding themselves, taking possession of the wild
Stealing nature's ever-eluding secrets and destroying the earth

One day they walked up Raven's hill
Made a barn painted red, filled with livestock and tools for an abundant life
Cleared the fields, planted and ploughed the earth 

Centuries later Raven and She perched on the Old Barn's roof       
Watching the evening tinted stream below
When a terrible roar of whales swarmed up with the hulks of their dead poisoned in toxic seas
White polar bear brawled on the banks in battle with brown bear over ice and land
Eagle soared overhead screeching with mangled birds he ate in terrible cannibalism
Wolf ran up the mud heavy with pack skins stolen from cowardly hunters
Deer, elk and caribou herds, fox, rabbit, sea lions, porcupine
And musk oxen dragged their bullet ridden pelts
Fish swarmed up in a stench, rotting in confused migrations
With snakes, insects and small rodents burnt with by untimely fires

All these dismembered tribes came as one dying family
Trailed into the Old Barn laying in great heaps awaiting their final end
Raven mourned these tormented beings returned to him
Who once lived in the cold Northlands and seas under his reign
As sunset sparks its red blaze over the West in this vision valley
The evening breeze lifts the sweet smell of crushed leaves under foot
The Old Barn, abandoned to vines and the season's golden haze
Sets weathered beams slanted on the path
Now a relic left to nature's tricks
Its massive doors unhinged
We hear the terrible death of the fallen ones on the barn floor

Like the Old Barn, no man-made intention can change Spirit's course
With these lost animals, legends and companionship are destroyed
We are left to grieve in concrete canyons alone

When stars appeared in the midnight sky                                                          
She-Raven knew she had witnessed life ages coming to an end
Raven would be summoned by Spirit to return for new instructions
She hears the call, drumming thunder behind the mountain
When Raven cracks the night wind with a bitter cry
Returns to the mystic cosmos behind the land
All falls silent on the dark hill
All black except for She-Raven's silhouette on the moon.


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©2011 Griselda Steiner
©2011 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Griselda Steiner has written book reviews, drama and poetry published in Scene4. Her new book is My Take ... Your Take (Cultural Reflections) at
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives


Scene4 Magazine - Arts and Media

February 2011

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