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The Snow in Us

In 1984, David Reiter began a journey of discovery well above the Arctic Circle. Rather than an expedition requiring physical strength and endurance, this was one of artistic exploration. David lived for several weeks with one of Canada’s First People, the Inuit, well before their sovereignty was recognised by the federal government. Immersing himself in their lifestyle, culture and craft, David responded with sensitivity and admiration through the filter of poetry. Theirs was a lifestyle under threat from the incursion of southern culture and technology, but the Inuit today have proven as resilient as any Indigenous people.

Thirty years and several poetry collections later, David returns to his first work to celebrate not only the adventure of exploration and also to reflect on how far the Inuit have traveled since then.

Enhanced by the drawings of Canadian artists Marilyn Higgins and Lloyd Bennett, this collection will transport you to a land and people worth contemplating as a model of endurance and survival.

ISBN 9781922120724 (PB, 74pp);
152mm x 229mm

AUD $25 USD $18 NZD $27 GBP £12 EUR €14
ISBN 9781922120731 (eBook) AUD $13 USD $10 NZD $15 GBP £6 EUR €7


‘…a poet of energy, a tremendous energy, which spills over into some marvellous monologues, as though a single speaking voice is not enough to contain it.’
– Martin Duwell

‘Articulate and endless curious, Reiter sets no bounds to his taste for the world’s many places, people and happenings.’
– Judith Rodriguez

‘Phrases, lines, stories that reflect back and forth touching always on the dream of happiness, the longing to make sense of ourselves.’
– Peter Boyle

David P. Reiter

David Reiter is an award-winning poet, writer of prose, and transmedia artist. His book, Hemingway in Spain and Selected Poems, was shortlisted for the Adelaide Festival Awards and was made into a film. The Cave After Saltwater Tide (Penguin) won the Queensland Premier’s Poetry Award. He won the 2012 Western Australian Premier’s Award for his digital narrative My Planets Reunion Memoir and was shortlisted in 2011 for Nullarbor Song Cycle. A recipient of several grants from the Australia Council and Arts Queensland, David has been artist-in-residence at places such Bundanon (the Arthur Boyd property), the Michael King Centre (New Zealand), the Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre (Perth) and the Banff Centre for the Arts (Canada). This second edition of The Snow in Us is a remix of the first edition published by Five Islands Press, marking 25 years since his first title was published in 1989 – a quarter century of accomplishment across several genres.


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Breath Channel

They squat along a channel of blue water
that seams a shelf of ice soon to be a floe
in spring: a father with steady line,
a mother with sharpened blade,
a child wishing the myth of seal
might shatter the surface calm.
Breath’s debt to air gives them patience.

Blood always takes its time.

Under cloudbanks of ice, a seal surges
toward the fissure of shadowy green light,
air sacs nearly spent. Down here
the choices    are never trivial. The blur
between breath and death depends on
monotony, unrelenting silence, absence.
A single shift of bone above can echo
against eardrums like a quavering spine.

Blood always takes its time.

Above the gap, death is never kind, only
sudden – a slap of bear claw that rends
the skull, or a thrust of sharpened steel.
The seal must finally choose its channel
or drown. So, after knives and ropes,
it bleeds spring onto the warming ice.

Blood always takes its time.

Lead Dog

The sled is ready
yet even its whip
depends    on you
to see over ice
that sun forgets

At harness
the other
dogs wait
for the urge
of leather
that sparks

with you

How do you find
the track before
the footfall?

How do you find
the heat before
the flame?

How do you find
the will before
the thought?


Before his flight down into underworld,
Kunigseq swilled the floor
with salt water to appease the helping
spirits. He put his foot on them
to pass through a reef   slippery with weed.
When he met his mother she tried all day
to kiss him but a spirit thrust her
aside: “He visits only.” Her sack full
she offered berries red as blood
but a spirit snatched them back:
“If you eat, you will not live again.”

His brother chided: “Return to snow?
Here is no end to seal or your kin!”
Never had Kunigseq seen shore
so smooth with summer. Two kayaks laughed
and threw their bird darts. Others weathered
on an island of men drowned at storm.
They said: “Send us ice
for we thirst for cold
down here.”

After the helping spirits set him
back again, Kunigseq thought of winter
breath. His son died, and Kunigseq caught
guillemot and raven and ate both
to die. Then they threw his smiling
flesh on the sea.

Chewing The Pieces

If you only dry and scrape,
the sealskin lies tough    even for ulu*
no needles prick through.

Once the foot curves are scratched on
see how you must slice against stiffness
to trim the edges of sole!

From toe to heel
and a finger more for duffel –
that’s a kamik’s right measure.

Then you chew. Until your jaws
ache and your tongue feels dry
as a ledge rasped by winter wind.

While babies lean on your hips
by the night coals you chew until
heavy eyes flicker you at last to sleep

Sometimes your chewing goes on
for days. Not easy for us women
to soften death into a second skin.

Love Behind The Foil

> No drapes are thick enough to mute
this midnight sun, so we tin the glass
with foil before sleep. Our murmurs

of love all night wear thin    when boys
can whistle outside the window as though
they know our song before    we sing it.

We marvel at Inuit mothers and fathers
feigning naked sleep for such eyes.
Can their hunger wait seasons for reprieve?

Bloody Falls

You called it so, Samuel Hearne,
after Chipewyan spearheads struck down
the Inuit host here over copper queens.
For days, the falls lost its green
and protested with Inuit sap,
all for your deed. And your pleas
spent in leaves.

That morning, falcons sortied for blood
over tundra as the Dene lugged your sacks
on skin husks. For weeks, Klugluktuk spewed
foam to test your metal as the fires
of Fort Prince of Wales flickered
down into cooler coals. One night,
ice fractured your dreams.

One less ulu was the difference
that crushed skulls. You could not predict
the sting of such imbalance. Nor believe
the babel    your silver could cast.
Your pleas, then ashes, smothered
in leaves.

Water pools into green again
beneath the falls. Not far,
a river’s mouth polishes stone.

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