Mosha Folger: “Leaving my Cold Self behind”

Mosha Folger a.k.a. M.O. was born in Iqaluit.  He is a poet spoken word and hiphop artist.

Mosha Folger

“Ancient Patience”


If you look back to the North

A couple of thousand years ago

To where the Atlantic ice fields

Battle the granite shield of the Arctic coast

You’d find a man staking claim to a land

That just doesn’t seem inhabitable

an Eskimo

a patient hunter who stood unmoving for hours

crouched over small bumps in the ice

subtle seal-breathing holes

Wicked winds pushing the temperature back down

from the comfort of twenty below

Facing the low sun so his shadow fell back

away from his goal

Waiting for a freezing breathe-out

to break the crystal white flatness of snow


Arm cocked, harpoon ready

eyes unblinking, blazing their own little holes

in the ice floe

Mouth closed, breath low

Because less movement, less sound

meant the night’s dinner was more likely to show

Yet sometimes that hunter

stood till the moon rose

before he finally shifted, breathed hard

and set off for home with nothing but cold toes

Nothing to bloody his wife’s arms to the elbows

Nothing to warm the guts of five kids

or silence the dogs’ moans


Nothing but the knowledge that

the next day when he woke

to stand again over that hole

maybe, just maybe

a seal would finally show him his nose

so the harpoon could come down

to deliver its lethal blow

Or maybe, just maybe



It’s that patience that allowed my people

to settle down and call the Arctic

our home.

.     .     .

“Summer Play”


In the Arctic desert where

the earth is sand and rocks

and the lichen cling

to the frayed edges of life

in granite fields

and the wet season feels like

three days of monsoon rains


In that place

patches of pavement

to a kid are

hallowed grounds

where devout children

offer their time

as sacrifice

with an endless circling of bikes

and an incessant bouncing of balls

like the pounding

and kneading

of rubber into cement

could stretch out

that holy land


How wondrous that

a tiny square of earth

can be home to so many

boundless dreams


But the reality is mostly

the sand and rocks

and gravel roads, and so

the games played adapt

games of writing

or drawing in the sand

and for one reason or another

chasing each other around


A television drawn in the dirt

with movies and shows

initialed inside

to be guessed at

D dot P dot S dot and

if someone gets it right

a frantic chase ensues

Or I Declare War

with a giant circle divided

into America and the USSR

Canada and sometimes Uganda

where the war of course

is chasing

and the fastest world leader

had dominion over all Man


And on the longest nights of daylight


Inuktitut style where groggy kids

up two days under constant sun

and stumbling

play with a rubber ball

by rules that themselves

are drowsy from the endless light

so the outfield

spans the whole town

making foul balls

as fair as any other

and the bases are run wrongwise

and whacking a runner

with the ball

is an out


Which means of course

the rest of the game is secondary

to learning how to throw

to anticipate

to picking off the right kid

in the right spot

every time


And so when a parent

with a voice that too

spans the whole town

finally calls in

one too many Expos

the real winners

aren’t on the team

with the most runs

but the team that

on the quick walk home

brags about the best


.     .    .

“Where have all the Shaman gone?”


In the blink of an eye

we’ve gone from a culture where

shaman conjured spirits and

swam, fed and bred

with giant Bowhead whales

for months at a time

And people held out hope that

sometime in their life

they’d be lucky enough to witness

that rare instance

of a distant-Inuit visit

Where men from another planet descended

to collect caches of rich seal fat

overloading their space-sleds

before packing up to head back

But blink

and we wake to a world where

all of that’s been reclassified filed and stacked

under the wild imaginations of

savage heathens

still unclean

cause they hadn’t discovered their

one true saviour and

path to heaven yet

Now elected Nunavut officials can be found

in a big hall amongst a big crowd

falling face down

wailing at the top of their lungs

praising Jesus’s name

and speaking in tongues

The holy spirit come upon their earthly vessel

leaving them convulsing

Spastic believers

shaking under the giant blue and white

Israeli flag they’ve hung


Inuit in the day

must have been some of the easiest

lost souls to convert

A hard frozen life of

struggle pain and loss made more palatable

with the promise of a kind of

spiritual dessert

Swallow the death cold and starvation down here

and when you die

enjoy the warm salvation up there

And some of those Arctic locals

fell hard for those lies

Or promises I guess you would call them

if you fell on the other side of the line

But it couldn’t have been made easy

or simplistic could it? No,

First the Anglicans and Catholics

split villages and

pit kin against kin

Families feuding over which clan

would really get to go

And which side

picked the wrong guy’s

rules to abide by

They’ve gotten over it now though

living in a kind harmony

that the rest of what we call

civilized society

should get to know


But now in the Arctic we have these

evangelical proselytizing types

whose fervour makes the Anglican and Catholic devotion

seem downright secular cause

they’ve got no HYPE

No souls being sucked

from bodies to on high

No chanting and dancing

with arms to the sky

No religious stakes in the continuation

of the state of Palestine

No possession

The craziest thing they’ve got

is a little blood into wine

Maybe a little shaman incantation

would do those folks some good

Could we at least get them a little reading

from the Koran or Talmud?

That’s unlikely though

Their faith blinds them so deep

The Good News Bible’s the only text

their eyes can see

We’ll have to get a closet shaman

to do a little midnight chanting

see if we can’t set some of those zealots free.

.     .     .

“Leaving my Cold Self behind”


Now there will be no more falling down

unique crunching packing sound

or children who know no other way to live winter

than to tumble sideways and upside-down

from snow banks ten feet off the ground

There will be no snow wind-blown

from parts unknown to all

but the most trained hunters

who brave the vast white fields alone

There will be no high-pitched wailing moan

of snowmobiles flying down

snow-packed gravel roads

No riders with grins plastered

Reveling in their temporary freedom from

small-town poor-me isolation syndrome

There will be no husky howls to wake me

to call me to their battle with the wind

the wind that howls back in kind

and relentless remorseless never fails to win

There will be no more dancing northern lights

chased from their nightly show

by southern skyline stage-fright

There will be only the warm glow

of a cold city that states its case

with what it sees as some divine right

to throw its gaudy remnants

high and loud into the night

There will be only nights where time is slowed

No sleep no comfort no peace

only this page this pen my words

and my message that

no matter the price sometimes

you just have to come in out of the cold.

.     .     .

“Old Indifferences”


Inuit existence was dependent partly on every member

of the encampment being able to at the very least get up

on their own two feet walk across the jagged tundra to follow

the moving caribou so everyone could eat


So we adopted an effective means of excising inefficient limbs

from the family tree that left the aged floating on ice pans and

insolent sons turned away to find their own path through

the cruel Arctic days


This isn’t a tradition we should reprise as it slides snugly into

its place in the still mostly unwritten Inuit histories but

it has a related convention that’s made its way down into

unofficial modern Inuit custom


If you’ve walked downtown Montreal you’ve seen it and in Ottawa

the spring thaw brings about the re-emergence in earnest of the

panhandling Eskimos downtown between the Mall and King Edward

on Rideau Street


Whether these people are a nuisance isn’t a question to me because

I have to ask if these people are friends or family maybe a second cousin

and do I have to follow protocol stop and ask a few

inconsequential questions


I try to avoid having to do that by changing up my Inuk stride

and remembering that from a distance I could look Thai

but Inuit could never fully ostracize so when I meet one

I stop say hi and try to be polite


I ask about my friend their son despite the likelihood that I

was the last to see their child and it hurts inside when they

ask and I have to tell them I hadn’t seen their kid in a little while but that

I knew he wasn’t going to trial


It requires a certain distance to sit back and witness these lives with blood

that courses from the same point as mine float away on slabs of concrete ice

but disease strikes and existence has always insisted

on a little bit of indifference.


All poems © Mosha Folger

.     .     .

Mosha Folger (aka M.O.) was born in Frobisher Bay, North-West Territories (now called Iqaluit, Nunavut) to an Inuk mother and American father.  A poet, writer, performer, and “Eskimocentric” spoken-word/hiphop rhymer, Mosha has taken part in the Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival, also at WestFest in Ottawa, the Railway Club in Vancouver, and the Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik (where he was chosen a Best New Artist).   His video, Never Saw It (2008), combined breakdancing with traditional Inupiat dancing, and was an official selection at the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival.  His very-personal film, Anaana, examined the effects of residential school (upon his mother).  His hiphop song Muscox (2009), with Kinnie Starr, includes lyrics that refer to the suicide of a young friend:  “I couldn’t be there when they buried my boy Taitusi … epitome of a boy who should grow into an Inuk man … artistic and witty … too smart for his own good God DAMN, too smart to live shitty … … Not knowing when he died / part of the rest of us went with him.”  In North America circa 1491 (2011) – from his album String Games (with Geothermal M.C.) – he says he’ll “show you how far back in time you can date my rhyme … I’m a native son but I speak a foreign tongue – this is North America circa 1491.”  And:  “I’m out to win this – but the prize isn’t for the witless.”

Hiphop as self-expression for Inuit youth of the next generation younger than Folger is bursting into being, and performers such as Hannah Tooktoo of Nunavik (Northern Québec) effortlessly combine it with the unique “throat singing” of older generations of Inuk.

Mosha has been an active poetry performer in Ottawa, also a member of the Bill Brown 1-2-3 Slam collective.  At Tungasuvvingat Inuit and at the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre he has brought the power and the fun of spoken-word and hiphop to teens and children.

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