Shadows of Birds
Lullaby for a Maritime Archaic boy buried 7,500 years ago at L’Anse Amour, Labrador, in the earliest elaborate grave-site found so far in North America.
“Lay his fragile flute, my dears,
Safely wrapped in woven scraps,
Near his fingers, stilled at last.
Fever’s gone and peace returns,
Innocence replaces pain,
Once again my eyes can see
The buoyant youth, he left behind.”
Grief has frozen mother’s arms
About his body, cold as stones
Pushed and pulled by tidal waves.
Years of sea cold lullabies
Whispered in his salty ears,
Once his life had slipped away.
He’d been young, a traveler,
Loved companion at the hearth,
Where, one day, he took a bone,
The hollow shaft of some great gull
And whittled it into a flute.
Then wild music rocked the waves
And blew among the flocks of birds.
Great auks nested there, and terns
Spun in winds above the beach.
Out at sea the supple seals
Tossed their heads above the swell.
Winter, when the caribou
Stalked across the inland plains,
Called men to the common hunt.
But in summer, houses here,
Built of stone and roofed with hide,
Opened to them ample seas.
They buried him above the strait,
Behind his grave, the well known hills,
Before him the unchanging sea.
Spears, harpoons and walrus tusk
Lie beside his slender bones,
Red paint, pendants— and his flute.
His shade salutes all voyagers
Paddling past his tumulus.
And gulls still rise from racing waves
And cast their shadows on his grave.
Felicity Sidnell Reid lives in the Ontario countryside and is the author and co-author of several books for teachers and students. She writes poetry and fiction which have been published in anthologies and online publications. She has recently completed a novel about settlers in Northumberland County in the nineteenth century.