Chiegar, Saami Word Meaning “Old Snow Dug Up By a Reindeer” …

Poetry / Ron Riekki

:: Chiegar, Saami Word Meaning “Old Snow Dug Up By a Reindeer” (With Each Line’s Final Word from a Poem by Kevin Cole) ::

                                                            “to those familiar with their ways”
                                                            –Kevin Cole, 
                                                            from “Deer Fording the Missouri in Early Afternoon”

Diermmes clutched a rainbow in one hand—O, the ways
he’d crush yellow when angered, blue dripping, startling
the world with color from his anger. (All last afternoon

we talked about Saami mythology and I said how much
I despise the four-letter word myth, how it’s tied to rumor, all
the ways story becomes hid.) Vuorwro would suck souls from ears,
putting a straw inside the skull; the only protection was to have water

in your room at all times. My girlfriend, Saami too, keeps a shoal
in a glass by the bed, her rainbowed four-winds cap a mantle
that she said she would kill Diermmes if he touched it. We are hooves,

my girlfriend and I, reindeer in blood; even when our hearts rest
they still are filled with aurora borealis, our arteries that bound
with ice. I am so goddamn Arctic that I always suppose
I’ll die in snow. In Saami, north means where the water

is, not where a compass needle is sucked. Grandma drowned off of an island
in Sápmi, an island so beautiful the relatives didn’t complain, the lichen stands
up there and prays to the world, the way that the Greeks bow to olives,
except we are prayers, are stars, are reindeer, a cross of reindeer-star-prayer,

and I love the one time I got to run through a river with reindeer, all the things
of the world silenced so that I just experienced life. This is my story,
my connection, my culture, my heagga, I share with you this afternoon.


From the writer

:: Account ::

I’m not sure if there is a poet­ic tech­nique where you take the final word from each line of anoth­er poem and then write your own poem using those end-line words, but Sir Ian McK­ellen gave me the idea when he did his won­der­ful analy­sis of the “Tomor­row, and tomor­row” speech from Mac­beth, where he laid out how crit­i­cal those punch­ing final line’s words are. I love poems that pay homage to oth­er poets, and so that homage aspect is inher­ent to the tech­nique. And I’ve also found that I nev­er have writer’s block if I use this form, a form I like to call riekkis, a Saa­mi word for ring (how there is a mar­riage between two poems with the tech­nique). I hope oth­er poets would hon­or me by doing this with one of my own orig­i­nal poems, or even with this very poem, where it gets to con­tin­ue cycli­cal­ly (with the star­tling prayer of sto­ry).


Ron Riek­ki’s books include And Here: 100 Years of Upper Penin­su­la Writ­ing, 1917–2017 (Michi­gan State Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2017), Here: Women Writ­ing on Michigan’s Upper Penin­su­la (Michi­gan State Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2016 Inde­pen­dent Pub­lish­er Book Award Gold Medal Great Lakes Best Region­al Fic­tion), The Way North: Col­lect­ed Upper Penin­su­la New Works (Wayne State Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2014 Michi­gan Notable Book award­ed by the Library of Michi­gan), and U.P.: a nov­el (Ghost Road Press, 2008).