a kayak full of ghosts

“IN THE TIME of floods and earthquakes, there was only one woman in all the world and she lived off by herself on a rocky island. She was an angakok who’d made her penis into a vagina. Her name was Putu, Hole, and she was quite pretty as well.”

Each night I read myself off into the dreamland,  with Lawrence Millman’s  A Kayak Full of Ghosts as my swinging lantern. It’s a collection of Eskimo tales, and it was published in 1980, which makes it feel safe and cozy and childlike to me. I remember watching a film called Iceman that was made around that time, about a group of explorers at an arctic base who thaw out a prehistoric man and resuscitate him.

You could say this book has had the same effect on me, brought my internal ancient being back to life. For these are very primordial stories, those strange urges you feel in between dreams and lucidity, laid out in parables about walruses and seals, narwhals and giants, entrails and shit piles, cavernous vaginas and corpses. There’s even a tale called, “Him-Whose-Penis-Stretches-Down-to-His-Knees.” I think I once had that dream, too, though I never dared to speak of it. It was very hard to ride a bicycle in that dream, though.

Or, sometimes when I see Inuk throat singer Tagaq grunting I have those same bloody, pounding recollections. Tagaq, who I saw in Viljandi at the Pärimusmuusika Ait. Yet these days, when America is spelunking about in the underground caverns of its homosexual regions, I am left feeling that my own delirium, my core hetero heart, is dismissed as ordinary, or not that important. My own subliminal furies  are like the frozen Greenlandic wastes — people look at it and yawn and say, “But there are no trees up there,” or, “It’s covered in ice.”

That’s all. But I believe there is much more to it than that, and this book is like an old treasure map for us last few adventurers. It’s leading me somewhere, I think. But not into myself. Into the pulsing, sinewy substrata that connects us.

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