A map of Alaska with the Prince William Sound region highlighted.
Organization: Valdez Senior Citizens Center
City: Valdez
Region: Prince William Sound
Program Area: Human Services \ Senior center
Grants Received:
2003: $23,382

Will you tell me stories?
A poem inspired by the residents of the Valdez Senior Citizens Center


Mission Statement
Valdez Senior Citizens Center

To provide an area-wide focal point for dealing with the concerns of aging people and of older persons; to provide for older persons in the service area activities, services, and programs that will enhance their dignity, support their independence, and encourage their involvement with the area communities as a whole; to enhance the quality of life for all older persons living within the service area; and to promote positive perceptions about older adults among the varied age groups living within the service area.
I.

Let me tell you about this pond,
now hemmed by highway and houses:
of late summer swims and sun-splashed picnics,
of moose grazing waters so clear that fish
and fisherman watched each other.

Now the pond blossoms anew
from what is revealed in the telling.

II.

Before planes sliced sky,
in an ancient wooden seiner,
he sluiced fjords and bays,
bringing mail to handfuls of people
scattered along the shores.
Those sagging moss-covered remains
that you and I have seen:
he knew those who once lived there,
he tells their tales.


III.
Is it true, she asks,
is it true, that the snow
was so high you could walk
out your second-story window
to the store down the road?
Tell me, tell me stories
of this new place
I want to call home.

A photo of a people attending a quilting class.Spacer Image IV.

True enough: the railroad engineer
a self-taught horticulturalist, his greenhouse
emanating growth equal to the tropics
while outside the frost tinged gold all leaves.

True, the Model A on skis
to track winter,

the Norwegian carrying
a full-sized oven on his back
up a mountain to the mining claim.

True, the birch branch curved
so the Denai'na could find their way,

water so pure they dug a hole in sand
from which to drink.

Weave their time here
into the landscape,
knit story into willow and alder
for the newly arrived
stars in their eyes
from what might come next.

A photo of a stained glass fish hanging in a kitchen.Spacer Image V.

The birds and neighborhood dogs
fell quiet and still
then the shudder and rattle,
all balance lost,
mud slide houses.

Tell me this tale again,
tell me what happened here
and here, at this spot,
before I arrived.

Let me know the stories
I stand upon.

VI.

He paces before us,
arms up and fists clenched, roaring -
he buckles over, arms encircling
his thin waist, whispering -
of a place he knows so well
its waters run in his veins,
of a spill that nearly killed it.

I know this story; I saw oil-soaked death.
This elder, in his clear water voice,
roars and whispers all of us,
the witnesses and the newly come,
straight into the heart of it.

VII.

Not by blood,
but by this soil, rock, water,
are we related.

Pushki, I call it,
Denali, I say,
and the ground
grows firm
beneath my feet.




Marybeth Holleman's most recent book is The Heart of the Sound: An Alaskan Paradise Found and Nearly Lost. Her essays, poetry, and articles have appeared in numerous publications, including North American Review, Orion, The Christian Science Monitor, Ice-Floe, Sierra, Going Alone, and The Seacoast Reader. She also teaches creative writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Her work recently won the 8th World Wilderness Congress poetry contest.