The Elders’ Palace brings together two cultures that meet on the common ground of parenthood and of children lost, dying or dead. In these bilingual poems, Button documents her meetings in Kitikmeot in the Canadian Arctic with families and Inuit elders, who asked that her poems be translated into Inuinnaqtun. The stories they tell are heartbreaking, the fruit of a harsh land:
“. . .the children he counts on his fingers./One died of alcohol. One froze. One burned. . .//The first child was killed by a husky. The second fell from a Honda./The next died/and the next one—though he doesn’t say how./I’ve had enough of this telling./No tears, no drama, only lines/traverse his face . . . ”
The poems weave together the stories of the Inuit with that of the poet’s own schizophrenic son, who stabbed himself to death when he was 26 years old.
Mary Kasoni translated the poems, illustrated with ink drawings by Inuit artists Bella Kapolak and Mary Kilaodluk