“Howlin' Time"  is a spirit song that my heart just wrote all by itself.

 It speaks my truth.

 

"Howlin' Time"

When the haunting howl of grey wolf

cuts across the arctic air

and you stand beneath the mountain

and the frost is in your hair

and your soul is bent and bleeding

but there's nothin’ you can do

you're awake and yet you're dreaming

all there is is god and you

it's howlin' time

 

and you are part of everything

and everything is you

yet you walk along forgotten

by a world you never knew

and your life is like a season

when the moon has gone insane

and it shimmers down your shoulder

comes to life and dies again

it's howlin' time

 

           it's howlin' time

           it's howlin' time

           when the spirits of the lost ones

           come to walk with you again

           it's howlin' time

           it's howlin' time

           when there's only god and you

           it's howlin' time

 

so you wander in the willows

and you cut across your pain

and there's magic in the treetops

and a raven calls your name

and your eyes are bright with sonnets

and you wonder if you're sane

as the spirits of the lost ones

come to walk with you again

it's howlin' time

 

and you ask about your mother

and the child that never was

as a thousand answers leave you

but the question never does

and you reach out to your father

he's a million miles away

he'll be gone by monday morning

but by god he heard you pray

it's howlin' time

 

and you know that he is dying

and you know that no one cares

as you stumble up the mountain

and the frost is in your hair

and you hunger for a reason

and you hunger for a clue

and you hunger for a season

but there's only god and you

it's howlin' time

 

           it's howlin' time

           it's howlin' time

           when the spirits of the lost ones

           come to walk with you again

           it's howlin' time

           it's howlin' time

           when there's only god and you

           it's howlin' time

           when there's only god and you

           it's howlin' time

           ©pj johnson 1993

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The poem "she walks with a certain pride"  was inspired by the vision of a Yukon elder I have seen many times, in many forms. A most admirable spirit quietly living a remarkable life yet she is all but invisible. Some of the most amazing people go unnoticed.

 

"she walks with a certain pride"

moving slowly along the highway

each step a labor and leaning heavily

on a gnarled willow stick

she walks with a certain pride

her wispy hair flowing out

from under a fox-trimmed hood

that frames her sun-dark face

in the tedious tailwinds

of traffic rushing infinitely

 

her teak-brown gaze

unwavering

and destination-fixed

betrays no air of expectation

only the steady dark prints

of moosehide moccasins

and the rounded tracks

of her pack-laden Husky

trail out behind her

 

panting, the two plow unbroken drifts

their trail growing distant

in the lengthening of shadows

her old eyes bright in bitter winds that whisper

of a day when Raven stole away the Sun

of drumsongs. dancing.

and of legends passed down by elders

weaving baskets

over pine-scented campfires

 

as a cool December moon

outlines her smallness

she pauses to tug at the Husky’s harness

sighing frostily

and trudges on

the steady thrust of her

willow stick

piercing the snow

like the rhythm of an ancient drumbeat

 

she begins to chant a tuneless song

of burning sweetgrass.

sinew-threaded moccasins.

and great warriors

gone back to the earth

like old totems

returned as she

the circle of her life complete

will

©pj johnson March 1989

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According to Native legend it is said that when our days upon the earth have drawn to a close the owl calls your name. When a loved one moves on into the Spirit World there are often many things left unsaid. This song is dedicated to a friend of mine.

"The Owl Called Your Name"

Now the winds blow cold on the Skagway road

And the snow falls without end

And I never said goodbye to him

Even though he was my friend

Oh why is it so hard to say

What's hidden in the heart

The words that mean the most to us

Before we’re torn apart

 

Well I saw a sparkle in his eye

As he said, "I’ve got a load

Haulin’ ore from Whitehorse

Down the Skagway Road

Well she's a steep grade down to Skagway town

And it ain't much fun to do

But I'll drive that 18 wheeler

Just to make a buck or two”

 

I said "Hey that’s great, I’m running late”

He just smiled and walked away

I said "It's been fun I’ve gotta run."

But I wish that I had said…

 

"You touched my heart

You touched my soul

And I have loved you more than you could ever know"

And I wish that I could have told him so

But it was hidden in the heart

 

That night in a blinding snowstorm

On a winding mountain pass

The fog rolled in and the route got thin

And the road was smooth as glass

And somewhere on that mountain

On a lonely canyon lane

Came the growl and the squeal of smokin' steel

And the owl called out his name

 

Now sometimes when I'm dreaming

I see him lookin' good

I see that sparkle in his eye

And I would tell him if I could....

 

“You touched my heart

You touched my soul

And I have loved you more than you could ever know

And I wish that I could have told you so

Before the owl called your name”

 

Now the winds blow cold on the Skagway road

And the snow falls without end

And I never said goodbye to him

Even though he was my friend

Oh why is it so hard to say

What's hidden in the heart

The words that mean the most to us

Before we’re torn apart

The words that mean the most to us

Before we’re torn apart

©pj johnson 1999

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Written Feb 28 2004 while living in an old trailer on Burma Road, Whitehorse Yukon.

"morning falls finely through my frosted front window"

morning falls finely through my frosted front window

quietly. silently.

almost afraid to wake itself up

as the incessant crackle of an errant radio

-Trader Time and other madness-

yak-yakking away in the background

dances a jig in my half-shut mind

and the first few rays of today

break over the massive mountains

revealing

 

old sleighs and dog bones

frost-covered

and glittering

mad with sun

about the endless ranch yard

and a string of straggly Ravens

hanging from the clothes line

all lined up and waiting

to score a little breakfast

with the cows

 

the winter-dead river

ice-thickened and flushed by the sun

cracks like a gunshot

the frosty shriek

of an enraged squirrel

shoots to the top of a hoar-frosted pine

and the sharp shrill roar of a

snow machine howls through my soul

as it cuts across a pasture

somewhere in the distance

 

such is life

such is Saturday

such is a lazy winter morning

through my frosted front window

somewhere north

of Whitehorse

©pj johnson 2004

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The poem "Set Not Your Face In Grief"  was inspired by my cherished Gramma G.G. She is in heaven yet always with me. Life is meant to be a celebration.

 

“Set Not Your Face in Grief”

Set not your face in grief against the wind

This death is but a word

That wanders in the night

Planting sorrow in the hearts of men

Cast down the seed

 

Set not your face in grief against the wind

I am the rose so full of life I cannot die

Celebrate me

For this death means nothing

I am beauty in full bloom

 

Set not your face in grief against the wind

For I am new and perfect

Like the snow that falls around you

I the silent miracle sift down from heaven

Knowing heaven

 

Set not your face in grief against the wind

For I am Raven, free in spirit

Soaring highly without bound

I am Legend reminding you of life

Reminding you to live

©pj johnson 1988
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This poem was inspired by respected Yukon Elder, Elijah Smith's famous call to arms,"Together Today For Our Children Tomorrow"  that resulted in Yukon Native Landclaims finally becoming a reality. The idea behind it is that you cannot claim something that is already yours - you have to reclaim it.

"Reclaiming"  

The Spirit of Raven is rising

The Wolf howls out to the moon

The day is ripe for honour

As lonely weeps the loon

 

The land cries out to the people

The people cry out to the land

“What price for the soul of Wolf and Crow?

Does anyone understand?

What price for the ancestral homeland?

What debt is there need to repay?

What ease for the loss of a heritage

That never was given away?”

 

As the stream knows its path to the ocean

The caribou knows where to roam

As each star knows its place in the darkness

A people must know a home

As the crocus knows when to be purple

The salmon knows when it must spawn

So the sleeping bear wakes in the springtime

To reclaim its place in the sun

©pj johnson 1988