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I’ll not write
of the belted
its winter-sleek
plumage, twittering
cry, a cleave of sky
and silence.

Nor will I write
of trumpeter
swans escalating,
circling in flight,
sunlight tempered
through wingbeats,
like broth simmering

in a rattling pot
on a stovetop. Instead,
my thoughts drift; new
snow descends, occupies
mountain valleys,
flutters like a way-
ward feather.


In the room
of present tense
all the windows
slide open. The wind
drifts cottonwood seed

and I sit mesmerized
forgetting breakfast, watch
the lackadaisical flight
as if watching new snow.
In the room of open

windows, the wind
vortexes, lulls me
into the sleep
of a second

Alaska Yellow Cedar, Nootka False Cypress

-Ikigai (n): a reason for being; the thing that gets you up in the morning

Thieved from owls and ravens, we would always cut yellow cedar for our Solstice celebration, for Christmas that trailed in its wake. My longtime sweetie indulged my whimsy, my affinity for the drooping branch. He would have preferred a stout bull pine, or even a spruce to keep our daughter’s once-toddler fingers out of the tangle of lights and baubles, but it was the cedar that would hang its felted wool hat in our home: stretch limbs to gather twinkle and shine, bounce its glow off high ceilings, cradle our family into another new year. One winter, a visiting artist-in-residence hunted the elusive cedar, reminded us that we shoulder the guilt of a warming world, that in the last century the snows that protect the cedar’s root systems have abated, exposing the heart of the tree to damage and decline. Late in her residency, she danced naked at the low tideline in front of Totem Park. A writer friend enamored of all women offered to hold her camera, but she declined and I digress. My daughter and I attended the artist’s shadow puppet theater, a show of lamp, cello and paper cuts: bear, bird, tiny snowflakes fibrillating, dancing in the moon shadow of a papered cedar, the artificial radiance of an overhead projector. There is a soft quality to the fanned needles of a yellow cedar, comparable to the wide sleeve of a lace blouse, the perfect space for tucking love letters, trinkets from distant roads, cedar berries. My longtime sweetie was the deep snow of our family: return of winter-reliable, robust, and achingly mortal. Now my daughter and I follow truckloads of bucked yellow cedar throughout town, laughing at our impulsive silliness of stalking firewood, basking in its forest sweet scent broadcast by wind and rain. Now my daughter and I transplant a found heart into the faux tree from True Value, burn cedar-scented candles, reminisce.
Parmesan heartwood
born of a woman; fearful
of owls, not ravens.

Kersten Christianson is a raven-watching, moon-gazing, Alaskan. When not exploring the summer lands and dark winter of the Yukon, she lives in Sitka, Alaska. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing (University of Alaska Anchorage).  Kersten has authored two books of poetry:  What Caught Raven’s Eye (Petroglyph Press, 2018) and Something Yet to Be Named (Aldrich Press, 2017).  She is also the poetry editor of the quarterly journal, Alaska Women Speak.


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