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ISSUE:  Winter 2023


Note: Ædnan is an old Northern Sámi word meaning “the land,” “the ground,” and “the earth.” It sounds similar to the word ædno (“the river”) and ædni (“the mother”). In today’s orthography, these words are written as eana(n), eatnu, and eadni. Etymologically they seem to come from the same root word, which roughly means “great.”


Winter 1977
An apartment on Postgatan, Porjus

The telephone rang

half asleep
I thought it was Per
crying again

Rolf sat up
wide awake

and I remembered
that he was on call

He went to
the telephone
and I heard
him speaking

Where would Rolf
be going tonight:

Seitevare Randi Ritsem
Messaure Ligga
Harsprånget Akkats

All these power plants

impossible to separate
from the lunch boxes made of
stainless steel that I
sent with him

filled with dinner leftovers

But also specially
made meals

The dog jumped
bright-eyed around
us in the kitchen

on the floor

Then she stood awhile
on the plastic mat
and had a drink

While we waited
in silence at the kitchen table

A lone car
drove by

but it was
not his ride

I took out
a tray of food
from the freezer

Rolf’s wash bag

from the cabinet in
the bathroom

The small leather pouch
with a drawstring that Mama
had once sewn

as a gift to him

She had given
it to Rolf
right as she
was about to leave

As part of
her gesture to
get out of here

Surely to
his thanks

And his admiration

of her handiwork

I’ve never been
that good
with my hands

From inside the room
I heard our daughter

I didn’t want
Sandra to get up

to yet again

plant herself like a
tiny watchman between
you and me

The murk
in my chest pressed
into my throat

And the car came
to a stop
down on the street

I went back
to bed

without a word

Relieved that I
couldn’t think of
anything to say

that neither of us
had started

Sandra and Per
were breathing easy
on Rolf’s side
of the bed

Meanwhile his blanket
and pillows
were cooling on the sofa

where he’d been sleeping
since Per was born

Half a year ago

after having hung
in the air for so long

Because Rolf
and I noticed

that we needed to
surround ourselves with
one more child

At dawn

the phone rang again

I got up to
answer it but
no one was there

Only that mournful
gaze that watched
me sometimes

from inside the kitchen

The dead old
woman’s gaze


The woman who’d had
this apartment
before us

Nila’s mother

Nila who charged
around on the slopes
back home in Änonjalme

and who Mama
had talked about
so often

The overgrown

Who frightened off
Mama and the other children
with his cries when he
hit his mother

and who’d simply come
walking one day

Together with the
tightly forged group
of young women who had been
forcibly removed here

I can still tell
by their grandchildren’s
and great-grandchildren’s

In church and at

who comes
from Karesuando

Their caps aren’t
like ours

Now there she was again
lying on my kitchen sofa
wearing that lace-trimmed cap

As if embalmed
in a sarcophagus

A boat drifting
around on a dead sea
that was there just
for her

that was rocking her

What load
had she carried
behind her forehead

on the inside
of her cheeks

I stood there
receiver in hand

Taking in her slender
fingers at rest
on her womb

And I thought that everything

had yet to slip
from my hands

But I was so
angry at Rolf

I thought I
might grind
my teeth to bits

And really I couldn’t

but the children
looking at me


Winter 2013
The same apartment in Porjus

Mama what are you
keeping quiet about

Sandra asked

As if she were
fully aware of
the load that
she’d been given

and maybe
she is aware 

Sandra who has
gone and married a
reindeer keeper now

And fights for
every Sámi

as she puts it

I shake out
another cigarette

Smoke gently
under the fan

fondling the smoke

Remembering Grandmother’s
gesture when she stuffed
her pipe

I can hear
Rolf walking
into the hall

as if it
were yesterday

And the children
their overalls

I can see Sandra
sitting at the table
fifteen years old

We’re eating

And she puts
down her fork and says:

Tell me what it
was like at the nomad school

I’m supposed to write
an essay about
you in school

And I did not

want to talk about it

Not all of a sudden

With Rolf listening
and Per looking at me
with curiosity

The latticework of silence
its familiar crackling around
the soft heart

But it will be spring

somewhere the bluethroat
awakens sings

Inside me
something opens loosens
lets in the years

I stub out my cigarette

and go over
to the dresser

Sit down on the floor
and pull out the
bottom drawer

One by one

I take out
the old caps
I’ve been saving

The ones I’ve turned
inside out

Until one of the children
comes along and wants
to use them

I turn my Aunt
Ella’s cap
Aunt Susanna’s cap
right side out

and then Grandma
Máret’s cap

The red one
with forest-green

that she wore
so often

This was the cap
Sandra had worn

when the police put
their hands on
her head

And pushed
my grown girl to the ground

This ground
that she loves so much

Ground that she and her
friends want to protect
from overseas
mining companies

The police
tore this cap
right off
Sandra’s head 

Now this memory can no
longer be separated

from Grandma’s cap 

Which I must have
seen her wear
a hundred times

when she rowed out
across the water

What if I had done
more than just listen

When Aunt Ella
talked about the Lapp
as a primitive

who knew
nothing of the
great big world

What if I had instead
asked her

why she’d say a thing like that

Deeper down in the drawer

lay Mama’s piles
of colorful shoe bands
which I’ve saved

Bands she wrapped
around pieces of
cardboard she cut

from the phone-book

I can tell at once
by how the bands are
wound and
how the lace
is folded

that this is
her work

I’ve uncovered so much
of what she
left behind 

but never put it to use

Trimming ribbon and ruffles
torn loose
from other clothes

surely things
that were threadbare

Her many
buttons and
old needle books

The little needle case
made of reindeer horn that she
had on her belt
that one time

The seaplane made
an emergency landing in the fells
and she was there

and had to mend
a tear in the wing
with sinew thread

You didn’t usually
have the needle case
on you Mama

But that time
you did

You who always said
that you were sure
I’d marry a Swede

because I was too
impractical for
Sámi life

Even though it was me
who stripped and
sanded this dresser
for you

Your wine-red tall
heavy dresser

That has become almost
like the dam out there

An embankment
where all that has
come to pass collects

in a gliding
great cold whirlpool
that mixes
up all of time

Leeches the color from
every emotion

I’m about to
open another drawer
when my phone

Could be Sandra
maybe Per

But I don’t make it
up and off the floor 

in time to answer


February 4, 2016
After the Girjas verdict

It’s been a long
time since I heard you
this clear

and somehow astounded
as in-the-world as
yesterday Sandra

when you called

You said the verdict
had been passed

Girjas Sámi village
who is suing
the Swedish state

For hunting and
fishing rights within the
Sámi community’s boundaries

You said:

Girjas won Mama
we won in Gällivare
District Court

Now we wait
for the State
to appeal

I needed
a long smoke

after we’d hung
up the phone

Will a new
trust in the State
now begin to grow

Or will the great Swede
put on ever weightier

until we end up
in full-scale battle

What will you do then Sandra
which pathways do you
foresee in your struggle

above and beyond your voice

How many times now

haven’t you asked
me to talk

Talk to me about your
life Mama
you say

without understanding
how embarrassed I get
when you say:

You have to write
your story down

write your history

talk about your journey

I haven’t
been able to explain
to you Sandra how
wrong it feels

When you call
the fact that I
have existed and
am still here

my journey


July 2012

Hello voices

Hello Mama
hello Papa

Rolf my love

May I be
among your
emotions again

wash me forth
with your gaze

Hello friends

So nice to see you here
your arms are glowing

Come come

and clarify

Lend me
the features you have
borne with you

pour out my

Must I say it out loud

that I am thinking of life
and so I wander

Must I also say

that I am missing life

But surely you’ve
already sensed this

By my attention

my mood

The grass on the fell heath
is so brittle

the aged
hands yearn
the soul burns

Hello Papa

hello Mama

Jon-Henrik my
brother and Rolf
my husband

you’re missed here

You too Sandra
my daughter and
Per my son

Even though you are
still here

In the light I could
see Rolf again upon
the rocky beach

Now I’m no longer
sure if it really
was him

Or if my
old eyes lie

see what they want to see

In summer
I wander alone
through the tundra

my cane in hand

In my backpack
I’ve put coffee and salt
some bread

If I catch a fish I’ll eat
otherwise not

Dear Jon-Henrik

How am I to know
that you’re not a
dream I once had

of my own creation

So much time
has passed since
we last spoke


still beats in me
fingers searching
voice breathing

And yet so great is the loss
of what once was

your bodies


who sensed me

You were the first
woman in the family
to give birth in the confines
of a Western

Why did it make you so
sad to give birth to
me Mama

Just because I wasn’t
a boy
like Jon-Henrik

I remember

when you cut
my hair

You said it didn’t
much matter

it would grow
long again

I stretch out
on the grass with
my backpack on

to recover
a bit

It’s not far
to the creek now

The cold one by the
old reindeer-herder cairn

where Papa and
I would get
into such long talks

My legs quake

when I lean
over to scoop
up water

And can’t I just
hear Papa saying:

If you stop
for a drink
at every stream

you’ll never get
to where you’re going

Once I ask
him out here
on the tundra

it was up
by the gorge where
one can find

Why Mama
had so wanted
another son

We didn’t have
any reindeer to
care for after all

Papa said and smiled

you think too

But still wasn’t I 

the one

Who slid
Sandra’s wedding ring
on her finger

Who sent Per out

into this hallowed
bright room

That I’d
prepared for him


I’m aware of how
plain my admiration
for Per has been

And how differently
I’ve perceived you Sandra

You’ve always said
this is because you
unlike Per

will one day turn into me

I know that I
should have talked
to you

When you as if duty-bound
stayed together with your
first love

Who you met
when you were sixteen

and are still
married to

But I said nothing

Not a word did I share
about myself

Even though the years
coursed through me like
black paint 

when you said you
were moving in together

And not a word
about myself did I share
with you Per

When you said
you’d taken on a new
driving schedule

And would only be
seeing your daughter on
the weekends

My grandchild Jasmin

who reminds me
so much of
my mother

Who I was
forced to leave at
the age of seven

I had to leave
my life behind

when will I return

Oh how I missed
you ieddne when I was
at the residential school 

oh how I missed
you áhttje

Oh how you missed Rolf

when he was
off working

At Vietas or


Spring 1959
The Nomad Residential School

The Swedish
language grew
along my thoughts

The Sámi since long
asleep in the body
of shame

obedience overlaid

shut up inside

The voice moved
barely perceptible
almost impossible
to budge

The Swedish history
of power-hungry kings
mighty great nations

lifted the entire class
toward worship
closer to worship

But of our own
history not a word
was written

As if our
parents and we
had never existed

had never shaped

My heart saw

a ruling body
remove itself from
the world of bodies

A hero’s
ruling body

I was not
dismissive of
that radiant

Not resistant
in the face of the mighty

The instinct to adapt
was strong

tumbling from my chest

While the ruler’s
eye gnawed its way
into my life

right through my time

A wide-open

Having lived
for years in its
conquerors’ house

Recast by
its great

gazing halls


Pentecost 1973
In the kitchen

It’s called Blue Danube

says Britt-Marie
as I unwrap
the paper

A teapot
cups and plates made of
blue-patterned porcelain

I say thank you and
feel her soft
back against my hands
warm under her blouse

as we hug

Then I carefully fold
up the wrapping paper
put it in the closet

From inside the room
I hear Rolf sit down
with the others

He says that it
was one of his
work friends’

who usually handled
the funerals
in the Communists’
little chapel

A small gray building
at the far end of
the churchyard

which Grandmother
kept away from

And was built
for those who didn’t want
to be buried by the priest

I hear him laugh

and think again that
Rolf is not me

Even now

though so many
years have passed since I
graduated from nomad

I only need to shut my eyes
to wander out among
God’s angels

dancing in circles

Yellow trumpets
to their mouths

I can hear the sound
of their rustling mantles
as they file into some
verdant kingdom of heaven

on one of the cardboard posters

nailed to the wall
in every classroom

I remember when I
met Rolf

I was still sure that
you’d get a lightning bolt
to the head

if you disavowed God

At nomad the
Læstadian girls wore shawls
to hide their hair

And when Mama once
heard that a little first cousin
of mine wasn’t going to be baptized

it became to her a
child of sorrow

Who was going to hell

where several of the Læstadian
girls’ parents were
also going

The earnest Læstadian

who weren’t allowed to look
at themselves in the mirror

Who surely suffered
from the knowledge that
their parents had already
as children
been damned

because they’d made
guilty of mortal sin

In the tent schools
in the twenties

Where one summer they
let themselves be

by the racial biologist

Because the teacher
and the priest had convinced
their families

That the parliamentary
decision these
so-called scientists
had invoked

to get them to
undress for those pictures
had to be followed

they would
never get to see

And would never
find out what they
were for

In the morning
we wake early
drink strong coffee

Hear Uncle Ernst
treading around in
the apartment below us

Before he turns
the key
tramps into the stairwell

Then he knocks awhile
on our door

Some article in Flamman
has probably upset him

and now he needs to
discuss it

But we don’t
want to be home

we disappear
under the covers

Later in the evening
Rolf and Malte talk for ages

mostly about work

We sit in the kitchen

and I fill our new cups
with coffee

There’s knocking
at the door again

But this time it’s not Ernst
it’s Papa

It’s the first time
he has stopped by
for a visit
on his own

I see him at rest
bringing the cup
to his mouth

As Rolf and he
start talking about someone
they both know

Right as I get
up to put
on more coffee

I hear

Malte saying to Rolf:

By the way do you know
how to tell a girl is a Lapp
just by looking at her

Well her slit runs
crossways instead
of down the middle

and he laughs<

But Rolf doesn’t laugh

Nor does he see
the temper in
Papa’s eyes


Fall 1975
Stuor Stuodak Mountain, Gällivare, Norrbotten County

When Papa is on his deathbed

he asks me to help
him get home

He’s been cared for
awhile at the hospital
in Gällivare

He seems so

by his own

On what
I do not know

But it makes me
not want to interrupt

Jon-Henrik and I
have been smuggling
beer in to him
for several days now

We dress him in
warm clothes

As usual we say
that we’re going
for a stroll and take
him with us

get him in the car

Mama didn’t want
to help

She says
it’s too taxing

Fall’s cool
mist sinks gray
through the air

settles in the grass
gleams on
the rocks

We’ve got Papa
in the ATV

We make our slow way
to the lake

Then there he lies
in the wilted grass

gazing at the water

I sit on a rock

Let my fingers wander
across the rugged
rock-skin under me

while the nature
around us gently
ferries me off

To a starker

That might exist too

It is high up
on the Norwegian coast

Great boulders
lie there rattling
against each other

And the Atlantic winds
blow through the crevices
between the rocks

I can hear them
playing on the coast

as if on a
colossal organ

Papa died
that day

we never thought
it would

He gets stiff and
far too heavy for
Jonne and me

And we have to arrange
for the seaplane
to come 

take him
down for us

His shrouded
body does not fit
in the plane

We end up having to
strap him
to one pontoon

What was I to
say to Rolf

what was I to
say to our children

How am I to
tell stories about life

Without becoming the
eccentric Sámi

Making jokes
at my own

How am I to
explain to them

that the ruin
is in my voice


Summer 1977

Rolf and I
we bought Mama
a life vest

After Papa
had died she kept
on fishing alone
up in the fells

but she didn’t want
to put it on

I’m not about to float
around in the water
freezing to death
is what she said

But I’ll tie
my handbag
to the boat

So you can fish
the money out if
I fall in


come for a visit
I begged

I said that Jonne
was coming
might eat with us

so then she came along

In the car she refuses
as usual to
buckle up

But she holds
the seatbelt
across her lap

in case the police
pass by

So she won’t get a fine

Her restless steps
in the kitchen
is it hot in here
she says

Once more she asks
when Jon-Henrik
is coming

And if I know
when he’ll next be
up in the fells

where he now has
his handful of reindeer

I wonder how
it’s going for him
she says

He has it good
don’t you think

And I could see
him in front of me

six seven years old

He’s lying
on the grass
talking with Papa

And is wearing
that sweater she
knitted him

With a glossy yarn
that shone
in the sun

the one on which it said
The Son

After we finish eating
he calls to say that
he isn’t coming

And I scoop
his portion into a
lunch box for Rolf

stick it in the freezer

Something smells
Mama says

and goes outside to
get some air

When she comes back in

she’s already arranged
a ride homeward along the river
with some Swedes

She says she can
walk the final stretch

And I send a
pack of cigarettes
with her

So she’ll have
something to do


Winter 2015
The Swedish Conversation Club, Porjus

The waves rustle

they turn and

Life by the river

has often
been like life
in the reeds

the reeds by the river bank
where Moses was placed

An awareness that
someone might
unexpectedly arrive

and suddenly
exist here

I have walked along
the rocky beach

By boat I have taken
myself across the river
to the other side

That’s as far as
you can go

Downstream the dam
stands in the river’s way

And upstream
the rapids
stop you

I’ve taken the car

followed the asphalt where
it has been spread

Roads that ran between
the Swedes’ power stations
and mines

to which so many
people had come

Blown ashore

to then put down roots

Here in this haphazard

high up in the river valley

The German deserter
who Papa
would talk about

The one who came
wandering across
the fell one evening

all the way from the
Norwegian side

One winter when Papa
was young

Barefoot in the snow
the soldier had shouted
that his feet were burning

And the American
draft dodger

who boarded with Mama
and me in the fells
when Sandra was small

Rolf was about to leave for
the summer to work in Vietas

when that young
American arrived

With the tourist boat

The man had been
called up for Vietnam
but fled

He boarded with us
for a few weeks

We taught him to weave
Sámi bands that he
would sell to tourists

He was warm
he said that
I was warm

behind the rocks

Sandra had lain in the grass

Eaten cloudberries and
dried meat from Mama’s
cutting board

which she had brought
out with her

Outside the window
it’s snowing now

And people
have begun blowing
this way again

After all these years
of thinning out

When all they did
was drift away

After Vattenfall

Now they’re whirling
up this way again

I put on the down jacket
Sandra gave me
zip it up

Then I walk down
the hill to the conversation club

Bibbi’s already there

I think she looks
the same as she did
back at nomad 

But of course I know
we’re over the hill
to them

to the young people
who’ve moved here

Nearly two hundred
refugees came to Porjus

Until then there were
three hundred and fifty
of us living here

I try to talk
with a young man

I want to say that he
looks like my Per

Per who’s only ever
on the road

in his truck

But my English
won’t stretch

Then I sit a long time
and search his face

For signs
of dreams imagination
and calm

I think
I find traces
of violence

but I don’t know

And then I think
I see

something I recognize
from my own life

In Bibbi’s high
closed hard

sitting across
from me like
a leaden shield

And around her
heart as well

have you also done
everything you can

To never
be taken for dumb
or primitive

for someone who
let themselves
be conquered
and has been too

The door opens

And in comes
a cousin of Bibbi’s who
takes a seat at the table

They speak such a
lovely Sámi

It’s the same dialect
that was spoken back home
on our hill

The language that
still existed when
we started school

Jonne and I

Am I that dumb 

that I can’t manage
to keep my own
language alive

I just let it slip away

be driven from my children

So now Sandra
sounds like a book
no dialect at all

as a grown woman
to learn Sámi
with her children

I can’t get a sound
out those many times
she says:

Answer me in Sámi

And I want to share this

With that young
man sitting at
the table next to Bibbi

with his coffee cup
and cinnamon bun

But all I can do is smile
and he smiles back

nods knowingly
raises his cup

Does he know that I’m
sitting here listening
to his language

Between the words
that are no more than sounds
to me

and which I
do not understand

I can sense something
he has left behind
has lost

and that he does
not want to do without

Will he also
have a child here
at some point

Which language will
his grandchildren
get to speak

Which birds and trees
will they learn
the names of

and which songs
will they sing

About sun and wind

war and men

rich and poor


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