Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Birds of Waaxp̓inč̓a

Late spring evening, 
a thousand turnstones sing
across the harbour
on what we mamalthni**
call Neilsen Island.

The First Peoples of this land
have always known it 
as Waaxp̓inč̓a*,
island of the river otters.

The birds converse
in their ancient tongue.
The Nuu chah nulth say
there was a time
when human and animal
plant and tree
spoke to each other
in the same language.
It is we mamalthni
who have forgotten.
But the living land and water
cedar and osprey
orca, wolf and bear
must carry this wisdom
of interconnection
in cellular memory.

In counterpoint
upon the moment’s rapture,
a boat motor roars;
a seaplane flies in, low:
we humans, being –
our cacophony and clamour,
our relentless encroachment
on the wild -
the thousand singing voices
falling suddenly silent.

**Mamalthni is the Nuu chah nulth word for white people

* Waaxp̓inč̓a  means island of the river otters

This poem is part of the Sound Range Project: Poetry of a Soundscape, envisioned and brought to life by Tofino Poet Laureate Joanna Streetly. The project pairs poems, recorded sounds, and the language of the Nuu chah nulth people into an interactive map of Clayoquot Sound.


  1. There is a wonderful dream like feeling to this poem - like taking part in a gentle flight

  2. This engages our subconscious I think. Perhaps its a way to remember our own interconnection, whose truth is still in our cells, but asleep. Lovely poem!

  3. This is wonderful writing, Sherry. You paint such a beautiful picture … and then .. along comes Modernity and Man-the-Spoiler. Why-o-why do we do choose to go forth upon the land creating such a Hullabaloo.

  4. I was perusing poetry from other languages online and came across a selection of Mayan poetry (translated) - all x's and c's in the original, and I wondered, what kind of poetry is spoken and thoughts and images made, in all the tongues of the world? including the orca ~


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