“Game With Failed Absolute”

A Poem by Joan Naviyuk Kane

September 20, 2021  By Joan Naviyuk Kane

I do not know the whole allegory from start to finish—
at most a white maculation, vertebrae, chasm, & clatter.

At times, I refuse to admit that I harbor designs
and disavow that I can go a day without summit

or cincture. Perhaps we diminish the paradoxical
wound of the woods now felled & the owl

that would have been, in the conditional perfect,
but a word in an indicant chain—a tense I will

have had to change while the trees unleave.
How we could undo if he had not given chase

to a pair of hares and cleaved in two— what
we do not remember regresses through him.

We do not miss a myth, do not scavenge
for wit. We glean from the vixen

while she falls always from the cliffs,
we fix influence only by swallowing it whole—

its foxhole, its fable, its cognate for pebble.


Dark Traffic

“Game With Failed Absolute” from Dark Traffic by Joan Naviyuk Kane, © 2021. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Joan Naviyuk Kane
Joan Naviyuk Kane
Joan Naviyuk Kane is Inupiaq, with family from King Island (Ugiuvak) and Mary’s Igloo, Alaska. She is the author of The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, Hyperboreal, and Milk Black Carbon. In addition to serving as the 2021 Mary Routt Chair of Creative Writing and Journalism at Scripps College, she teaches poetry and creative nonfiction in the Department of English at Harvard University, is a lecturer in the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora at Tufts University, and is faculty in the graduate creative writing program at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

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