Joan Naviyuk Kane
Up the Mountain
Cover him with willows to spare
the ravage of wind which brings
a carrion bird bound from oxbow
to the bend of the cove—
we find no shelter, no firmament,
no family, no flicker of light save
azure beyond fissure of shore ice
and ocean, the current a warm river
once under, not open. My daughter
uncoils from her course mistaken—
let us position her well even as the bird
banks, banked, and moves on.
She perceives, far off, my body
still body as it comes into glass,
breaking it. Until I release her
name to a newborn she will not
be retained in this song.
No way to ruse a flame back into being.
The ice doesn’t appear to move. One transforms
into an owl arising away and does not revert.
With it cold enough yet for the sun to be missed,
scrape the pitch to mend the rifts in the hull
of the boat split during rough portage.
We return together beyond the blue white churn
of the ocean, so vast, at the jut of rock.
There must have been known to us alone a line,
a brink, a bluff long private. One could not cross
the shoals or trouble surfaces left worse
without the turn from I did not know,
but now I know you. A life thick with pieces
now moving with concision: a hell of lexical
squall. Some do not deal with loss, but provision,
build, eye and embody. Her sky above the horizon
of stone and pewter light: row upon row of peaks
like teeth: winter furrows, snares of white.
The improbable order of ash and snow falling
back to fill the emptied sky: a blue bead I bury
to recall our quarrel. At the edge of a sea of milk,
you fled me following four hundred white foxes,
your trail of white hardened together with earth.
What he was
the man could make
& with little
called by stone
back into the small study
of solder and wire
filament file and filigree
to destroy then rebuild
and refine again
one’s lungs fill with cold air
bone dust and a want
livid hues of
encircle the neck
with rope and a wreath
when I do not wish to
consider his hands
in a chop uneven
along my collarbone
for what else learned
to hold me together?
It is not winedark. Its bright break a page of script repeating—
there is not land and land submerged. Everyone sleeps.
Let us return to chase the thoughts the waves erase
and rake over again in a mind following the heat of its fevers—
the woods gone white. Winter of a prime disturbance,
said before, subsumed, and said again.
Hours until the sun cusps the brow of the mountains
that ring the wolves away. A hush peculiar from months of rain
and wind lifting the eaves, rindling rot and gape. Child,
I am called to carry you to see the world, snowy as it was
before, but more so, and so still, with other snow yet overhead.
JOAN NAVIYUK KANE is the author of The Cormorant Hunter's Wife (NorthShore Press, 2009 & University of Alaska Press, 2012) and Hyperboreal (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). She's a faculty mentor with the Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts.