Still Life

dg nanouk okpik

1.

A tempered steel knife piercing my throatbox,

Splintered sand silt in my eyes rage itching,

A crush of spindled yarn both cruxes can be settled

But too many to untangle knot and frayed ends.

At the unraveled present, here now. Here we go;

Mukluked feet on my waist a rick-rack ribbon.

I trip and fall, fall and trip into slate-blue quicksand,

The taste of black licorice in my mouth

A digger wasp burrowing into my flesh brown skin.

It burns and stings like ice-cold Coca-Cola in my throat.

2.

In deep water,

Abysmal blackened

The edge of the road

Potato chip bag,

Cigarette butts,

Beer bottles,

Furrowed as a

Prune moth flitters

Past me, to gut-edge

Of the cliff’s seaside,

Marine green waters,

Abysmal blackened

The edge of the road

Potato chip bag,

Cigarette butts,

Beer bottles,

Furrowed as a

Prune moth flitters

Past me, to gut-edge

Of the cliff’s seaside,

Marine green waters,

Arsenic land up down,

Some part of the surface

Area: extending upward

Mossed rocks and chill

Water, warm. Everything

Was damp hot, dimly lit,

Crumbling silvers of topsoil.

Dim and dank my mind,

In an underpinning of a net.

I purge and drink, purge.

Sea bells on the ridgeway,

Or is it the ridgeline? Mold

And form and adorned with

Sea bells, I hike down the hill.

Back the shore of the black

Lake water, floating on the

Surface quarantined barrels,

Sloshing uranium shards.

3.

Underfoot each grain a pebble of ash, incapable of being touched we’re not alone. Once a man set a fish trap on the Susitna River catching many he jarred it sold it in the general store on every corner of every rez. Then the man set his wolf trap, we all know, impending doomed and death. He set it right and placed seal fat in the clasp snap punctures the stomach lining of the wolf (again). The fur I cut to make a full ruff on my atiguluk parka. In the background, silence.

dg nanouk okpik is Inupiaq, Inuit from the north slope in Alaska. Okpik resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Originally published:
December 11, 2023

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