Alaska lost former first lady Bella Hammond on February 29, 2020. Hammond is remembered as a gatherer, commercial fisherwoman, activist, and Yup'ik leader who made a good life on Lake Clark. Listen to these poems written in dedication to first lady Bella Hammond by Kuskokwim poet Alice Rose Crow-Maar'aq and artist Chuna McIntyre, both read by Crow.
When centuries of untold knowledge vanish in a day. Moment by moment. Where are you our beauty.
We allowed a glimpse of you the other day. Far away on the hills of my mind. Picking celestial berries I see.
Written by Chuna
March 23, 2020
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A Feast of Words for The First First Lady of our World
Written by Ali Crow~Maar’aq, March 23, 2020
to say her name
and count her among us, still.
joins absorbing ancient lichen
as crusted evaporating snow
rushes to recede,
revealing tundra berry patches
joins fresh water
—flows steady under river ice—
carrying salmon out
an offering toward intricate simplicities.
Good lives returning carry celestial mysteries of time immemorial.
Candlelight flickers before a blush of two hands full with sunlit blood red white heart spring bulbs, reaching toward radiant north shores.
We sing after sipping comfort from early morning milked dark roast coffee served in blue willow as stars fade with moon jellies into new morning skies.
We sing to travel past settling into
tricks of lopsided lonesome isolations.
We sing to arrest the spread of yet another version of unseen, disrupting, deadly pandemics we are still warned not to bring against one another.
Dream songs join auras of alluvial fans.
Bring fresh air enough for everybody.
Bring clear water enough for everybody.
Bring fish enough for everybody.
Bring meat enough for everybody.
Bring birds enough for everybody.
Bring berries enough for everybody.
Bring gratitude enough for everybody.
Bring warmth of dream songs enough for everybody.
Dream songs echo
across moonlit nights
as Bella joins a refuge clustering together
in aurora’d dances
of watchful witness
up sloughs and creeks and rivers,
and headwaters of ranges
of unbounded galaxies of our being.
our brief sorrow
and unending joy in knowing you
are among our
quiet invisible, echoing
here in this world,
Alice Rose Crow-Maar'aq was born and raised on the Kuskokwim River, and now nests in Anchorage's Spenard neighborhood. Crow holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts and has published works in many publications and journals.
Chuna McIntyre is a Yup'ik dancer, singer, and artist. He is from Eek, Alaska and learned songs, dances, and stories from his grandmother. He founded and directs the Nunamta Yup'ik Singers and Dancers, which are well-renowned and travel the world.