Write to Life

Heidi M. Bauer’s poetry, writing, and commentary

Writing Portfolio-Land of my Father

with 2 comments











    A Portfolio submitted to the

       Department of English

        Kent State University

    In partial fulfillment of the

Requirements for the Writing Minor
















Heidi M. Bauer

  December 2007

























English 40010



Heidi M. Bauer













                                                Approved by:



________________________________________________________, Portfolio Director


________________________________________________________, Reader


________________________________________________________, Seminar Director


                                                Date: _______________________
























                                                                 By Heidi M. Bauer








Table of Contents


Introduction                                                                                                    6


I.                   HISTORY


Memory                                                                                                           8

Whaling, 800 A.D.                                                                                          9

Quga Bix                                                                                                         10

Potlatch Dance                                                                                                11

Nome, 1913                                                                                                    12

7.2 Million in Gold                                                                                         13

September, 1918                                                                                             14

Lynn Canal                                                                                                     15

Trans Alaska                                                                                                   16

Winter Carnival, Fairbanks                                                                             17

Iditarod                                                                                                           18


II.                FAMILY


Dad                                                                                                                 20

Whirly Ball Therapy                                                                                        21

Anchorage                                                                                                       22

Chess                                                                                                               23       

Highways                                                                                                        24       

Fault Line                                                                                                        25

Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to You                                                   26

Why I Couldn’t Stay                                                                                      27


III.             NATURE


Good Friday Earthquake                                                                                29

Wild Fire                                                                                                         30

The Last Frontier                                                                                            31

Attention Possible Visitors. S.O.S.                                                                 33

Flutter                                                                                                             34

Alaskan Tanka                                                                                                35










To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.

—John Muir

There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.
                                                                      —Linda Hogan




I didn’t choose Alaska. Alaska chose me. My father has lived in Anchorage for the past twenty six years and I’ve had the opportunity to spend two summers there as well as an extended six month stay where I finished sixth grade at Taku Elementary School. To date, Alaska is still the most beautiful place I have ever visited.

A couple of years ago in a creative writing course, I was given a picture of a gas station called “Frontier” and I kept thinking of “The Last Frontier” and hence, The Last Frontier was born, combining my interest in Alaska and my commitment to creating poetry about women’s issues. In a previous poetry course, I was required to write a historical poem and I remembered my sixth grade education of the Aleut natives of Alaska. Taking what knowledge I already had and combining it with some additional research, Quga Bix was created.

From there, I had this drive inside me to continue my Alaskan theme. I did more research and I wrote to my dad so he could refresh my memory on some of my visits there. Coincidently enough, I had asked him about a couple that we traveled with  in their Winnebago to go help clean their vacation cabin that some youngsters had vandalized and though he hadn’t seen them in years, the very next day, he ran into that same couple at a bookstore in downtown Anchorage. The mystery and wonder of Alaska never ceases to amaze me.

During my time researching, I was lucky enough to catch a History Channel special on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and also see an interview with the parents of Chris McCandless, the real subject of Attention Possible Visitors. S.O.S. and subject of the novel Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, now a major motion picture from director, Sean Penn.

Many personal poems that had been brewing inside me, many concerning my relationship with my father, were able to be expressed by writing about this theme. Alaska is more to me than beautiful land with an interesting history and culture; Alaska contains many memories for me, some good and some bad. I spent two pivotal times in my life in Alaska, when I was going through puberty around twelve and when I was nineteen and trying to find my way in this world, breaking away from my childhood. I suppose in that way, I can relate to Chris McCandless. I drove by myself through Canada to Alaska on a whirlwind four day trip. I was in search of something. Whether I found what I was searching for, may still be undecided, but I did find something and it has stayed with me all these years later.

I plan to continue my exploration into the heart of Alaska and my own heart. Time didn’t permit anything more than the current portfolio but I have much more material, ideas, and words rattling around my head. My journey still continues.


                                                                                                Heidi M. Bauer











































This frozen shield of ice

Embedded with past cries

Gasps stilled in cold air

Silent on the wind


Will I know my ancestors

When I meet them

Or will our bodies

Pass each other awkwardly


Afraid to come to close

To touch, to feel

To remember when

We were one





























Whaling, 800 A.D.

Eskimos of the Bering Sea
hunted the arviq and beluga whale
toggle-head harpoons and seal-bladder floats
wounded whales ran for days
leaking oil and baleen  

the butchering site
whale divided
among the crews, elders, widows
traditional feasts of Nalukataq and Qagruvik
the taste of the whale
prized food
Life, meaning and identity

Russian forced Eskimos
market-hunting in dangerous waters
64 men lost in one storm
the barque Superior entered the Bering Sea
a maritime “gold rush”

in 1880 the Mary and Helen arrived
ife, meaning, and identity


















Quga Bix (koo gä gik)                                                                        


I paddle upon my single-hatched baidarka

watching dense fog parting to reveal

the luxuriously grassy Attu

I respect this ring of fire as the sea otter respects

the whiskers of my chagudax

I remember when they came

in 42’

Could we have predicted them as we did the tides

Nineteen days of fighting between two great powers

Neither that were mine, like my ancestors before me

who dwindled decimated by disease under the rule of a Czar

in pursuit of fur

Few of us are left

The famine of seaweed and shells

replaced raw meat and dried fish

Even fewer remember

Save the bear, the sea lion, and the fur seal

Who cannot forget

Extracted, dried, and sewed

I am waterproof like the kamleika that I wear

I speak Unangan

and make my home up of

fur lined trenches, a barabara lined with

the artistry of shredded beach rye stalks

My obsidian ways are old-fashioned to some

but not to the salmon in the river

and the caribou on the mountain

for they have lived eight thousand years with me

Their ancestor’s bones are buried with mine,

Mummified in volcanic ash that

will tell my story, long after I am gone


UNANGAN (öön äng’ gən) (Eastern Dialect) Aleuts’ name for themselves.

KAMLEIKA (kam lï’ kə ) a gut waterproof parka, used especially when hunting from a baidarka.

BARABARA (Bə rä bə ra)a traditional style semi-subterranean sod house.

BAIDARKA (bə där kë) the Russian word for iqax or kayak.

QUGA BIX (qöö gä gix, like koo gä gik) Aleut word for shaman.





Potlatch Dance



Circling me

The wave of my arms

The thrust of my legs

I am the dance

Of ceremony


And far removed from you

But deep in me

Is Chilkat

Ensouling me

I am the dance

Of history





























Nome, 1913

“There’s no place like Nome”

Swirling frost pierces the tip
the Northern Star shrinks in fear
as timber splits and cracks—
No where


































$7.2 million in Gold


Purchase price of heaven

Unblemished water, limitless

Halibut, moose, wilderness


Mostly, rich with oil


Cut through the center

By a long grey line

Of concrete


Crank in the crisp autumn October

Russians at Sitka lower their flag

American troops raise Old Glory

The machine has touched our land





























September, 1918

In Seward, drive the
precious metal through
the earth. The last
 puzzle piece; the
    link of chain;
     last stretch
      of air that
      hasn’t been
       tainted by
      gold smoke,
       the line to





























Lynn Canal

Princess Sophia
cries on Vanderbilt Reef
350 of Yukon’s Gold
headed south from Skagway
stranded on sharp ledges
edges too rough for rescue vessels
inaccessible launch of lifeboats
she slid into dark green depths
resting forever



































The task began the year I was born

Patient Oil gushing out of block valves

As I pushed out of the womb impatiently

Wanting to be worth as much as

Black gold; to my mother

I am

No check valves

To the earth


I am

800 miles to Valdez

Above surface

Below ground

Telluric currents


Chilled brine

Looping for stability

Miles of permafrost

Billions of barrels

Swirl to blood























Winter Carnival, Fairbanks


O’Grady pond’s chain saws

And 60 inch bars

Forklifts, flatbeds, and loaders

Sculptures crowned on thrones

Piestro Vigna’s Eskimo with a spear

Seals nearby look on in appraisal

Ted Lambert in his bush cabin


In carbon vapor light

Behold the Ice Palace



































gusts of termination dust

loss of visibility in bright daylight

puffs of icy breath

arctic air, well below zero


the parka hugs the musher

atop the toboggan sled

which carries his will to live:

an ax, snowshoes, dog booties


ahead are muzzles above

solid muscle; 75 pounds of speed

faster than horses and

able to live off the land;

fresh fish and moose


weathered fur that warms

the weary racers

sixteen Malamute champions

a grain of rice embedded

in their skin and

collar tag around their neck


1,150 miles where

the East wind blows

from checkpoint to the next

through mountain ranges, frozen rivers,

desolate tundra, treacherous overflow

the search for clear water

in a distant place


cheering crowds egg them on

to greater paces

swing dogs turn

through twisting chutes

as the lead dog guides

the way, encouraging his comrades


-to pull harder

-to dig in deeper

-to hear the fire siren

-to see the Widow’s Lantern

-to cross the Burled Arch in Nome








































rough worn wood of the picnic table

fresh grilled halibut and salmon

my fork pierces a link of reindeer sausage

a touch of spice on a coastal afternoon

I look across the table at him

and realize how much alike we are


karaoked lips move to the fifties

faster than the old knee

around second base can take him

Home. now thousands

of miles away from

his youth and mine






























Whirly Ball Therapy


twelve years old

in a ponytail and baseball cap

singing, “Hey Culligan Man!”

with nine grown men

drunken softball players in bumper cars

i shoot the waffle ball

and miss my target

try to catch it with my scoop

Ram my car into them

my rage released in

a breath of laughter
































Anchorage Philomena


Playing Battleship

In Cook Inlet

Until you could

Win no more

Strategic lessons learned

Surrounded on all


By the Chugach Mountains

Your love was

Worth more

Than El Dorado’s gold

But not enough

To anchor me


Around my heart

The arctic circle





























Chunks of clunky ice

Fused and frozen

On black and

Red squares

You taught me

How to play

To hear the

Sounds of Prince William

Echoes across

The Devil’s Gorge

Check Mate


































Running to and running from

4,000 miles

Of dirt gravel

Mashed potatoes at

Canadian KFC’s

Six dollars for a pack of Winston

Courtesy of the Queen

In color

Louisville Slugger

On the bench seat

Beside me. In my

Hand to the roadside

Out house

Quarters in truck stop shower rooms

Wheel in the Sky

Twenty hours straight

You can smell the cold

The clean

So far removed from

Cleveland air

Is this what the old poets meant

About nature?

None of them ever witnessed

What I am now

To look and want to touch

What is untouched—

A male phenomenon

I thought

Can I feel without touching?

Rolling lush green hills

Only read before

British Columbia cliff side roads

My fear of heights


In splendor








Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to You


Remember the beer that doused my camera that Grandma bought for me.

Your drunken friends ruined it, you blamed me. I was 11.


The new pair of jeans you promised me if I lost weight and I did.

Still no jeans and I’ve gained every pound and then some back.


The paper route money you took, IOU notes left in ceramic jars.


The soggy soaked sock drenched in a foot of snow and underlying mud,

boot molded in ice and no one to help; the notes that you had “company”

so couldn’t get up to help. I hope the sex was great.


Telling me you never cheated. How stupid do you think I am?


Sending me away to camp when I was already sent away to be with you.


I love you.


























Why I Couldn’t Stay


What I thought I lost of you

I couldn’t gain by force

It was already gone

If it ever existed

Cannot be retrieved

Though I tried

I was too young

Your inexperience


Your irresponsibility


Your love

Not quite the same

As I imagined

I looked

I saw

The mountains blocked

Me in

The freedom I sought

Surrounded me

But it was beautiful

While it lasted





















Fault line


No ground surface indication

Ever discovered

The bowels of Denali

Sick with progress

Coughed, hacked

Under pressure

The truth lies

In the cracks of earth

Dirt brown reminders

Of shameful rape

Fragile foundations


The fault remains


































































Good Friday Earthquake


Risen from the dead

Amazement mingles with fear

The strength, the power

The destruction to come

The terrible beauty of

Mothers; Nature and Mary

Both produce revelations

That crumble with time

Pressure explodes in

Rumbles of earth

Cave opens its Devil’s Canyon

Pockets. The Earth

And the Son have swallowed

Us up at Resurrection Bay





























Wild Fire


Northern Lights

Burn too bright

Smoldering shops

Entire districts

What little is

What little left

Northern Lights

Burn the sky

Hoonah ablaze

Tlingit culture—


Rivulets of ashes

Down St. Michael’s cheek

Whittier whittled away

While Lazy Mountain mourned

Its children

Candle Extinguished


























The Last Frontier


Past Whitehorse, Yukon Territory in Canada,

just across the Alaska border

Beth couldn’t help but smile


She saw the sign, large and luminous


The last frontier


She didn’t really need gas

She wasn’t really thirsty

but the sign pulled her in


And who was going to tell her

she couldn’t get gas or a drink if she wanted to?

No one, not anymore


The bright lights overhead

were like a beacon in the night

She sought refuge from her long road


The smells

Gasoline, grease, oil

lay heavy in the air


Bugs could be heard

meeting their demise

at the hands of the fluorescent lights


She touched the gas pump’s handle

A couple of dollars

would put her back up to full


She could taste the chilly crispness of the evening air

No doubt, Jack would be looking for her by now

Calling her friends, the police, Mama


She pushed open the shop’s door

After filling the paper cup at the fountain station

She tasted the plastic of the straw at her lips




Beth’s blackened eye and swollen lip

reflected back in the cashier’s eyes

who said nothing as he passed back her change


A cherry red slurpee

a suitcase, a beaten up Chevrolet,

and her freedom with her as she drove away


She had discovered what’s beyond the border

What’s inside one’s own self

At the last frontier


































Attention Possible Visitors. S.O.S.


What were you thinking,

In your patched pair of jeans?

Were you complete in the end

Or just ravenously hungry?

Alexander Supertramp could have

Wrestled a bear

But Chris sat alone in a bus

Far from civilization

Not living, but dying off the land

Your thumbs could only get you so far

Some rubber boots, two tuna melts and

A bag of corn chips

Stampeding along Denali

With a hunting rifle

10 pounds of rice and 113 journal entries

That local plant life book

Couldn’t unblock Teklanika

“S.O.S. I am all alone, this is no joke”




Seven months later, they took

a journey to the bus. His mother

said, “I could sense his fragrance.”





















Adrift on stillness

I float upon my back


Tiny fishes kissing my skin

with puckered pecks


I try to make out shapes

from the clouds that hover above


The cool water laps

my adjusted and warmed flesh


Pruned in fresh fluid

I am cleansed


My eyelids are heavy

as lashes flutter down


Just before they close

I see the black eyes of a reindeer


Her spirit sings me to sleep




















Alaskan Tanka


salmon on rivers

they dance with rainbow trout

in the wilderness

between the city and frontier

they are the kings of the stream


onion dome churches

graze the skyline of Juneau

a mark left behind

from Russian fur trappers

a long way from home


willow ptarmigan’s

coated in spilled oil

on the shores of Valdez

struggle to walk away

from the scene of their death


panning for metal

among the Grizzly bear

the great Denali

looks down on specs of gold

littered among specs of man















































Written by hbauer

July 31, 2008 at 6:11 pm

2 Responses

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  1. More great work, Heidi. I really think you are one of the best writers that I have ever read. Seriously, I am not just saying that. You are an excellent writer and you should be so proud of your work and all that you have accomplished.



    August 2, 2008 at 6:19 pm



    August 4, 2008 at 1:08 pm

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