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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Abigail Chabitnoy


Fox Hole (disambiguated)

We make mountains in the rubble

having cleared those we were given

cut the sky from our feet.

 

We knew how to swim once.

 

Must every daily siting become ordinary?

the deer, the elk, the canary, the fox—

 

these days I am only stopped by predators

along the highway, on power lines and in fields

for selling.

 

Maybe there were three of us. Maybe

there were three hundred. They told us

we needed seeding.

 

I have a slip of sand from a

home I don’t carry when I travel:

this too will be taken. this too buried. Take

instead the smooth white stone that could be axe

or back scavenged from the guarded

beach

maybe a tooth—always a tooth

 

(I am writing them into the surface

like a skin, because)

 

the truth is the stone I carry

is too soft and shiftless. There were more

in the water there were others but

I shied from the weight—enough

to bring small wings down

the body a risk soft

under pressure.

 

I’m trying to tell you

a red sky is a sign

you know instinctively.

 

Still we believe in mountains

insist on their promise

 

(in every falling story we survive

the higher ground).

 

Still we dig up teeth.

 

Still we plant the seed

insist we will grow.


How We Break

In the fog the outline

in the island

in the earth

wherein my kin

 

dwell well with holes

fox and gaping:

 

Present mortars ringing window

shards and red salt

pocked brick working the emptied

block.

 

Siege the day.

 

Sometimes the cards are warning,

the crows not what they seem, and naturally

the ravens, the brass eagles

young enough to be golden.

 

From feels like this

this molting

this body stone slipping

silk string from string and

sinking

but for the water

pulling from these shores.

 

Line bolt after body after beam on the beach

and count the dead.

 

In the records, in the time that comes

of flooding, turn

the body garment, hung

and carried to light

in the haustellum of the eclipse.

 

Dust collects, catches

to wet sand through small fingers

slipping. Cut

from the boat.

 

Child, my ark, would you believe me:

 

The point is how I love?


Suppose the Hero’s Journey Cast in Unkind Light

I tied the string1 round my finger but it caught on the corner

and broke.

Tied the wrist behind the fist, not such

a broad hand open

and it was

a wide mouth. I tried my arm

at the elbow

in the pit

but these gave up light ly

in pairs. So I left my arms

without a fight.

 

Anywhere

below my waist the string found

knots to tie

and I— with knowledge of

knots negligible

with my teeth

cut them.2

 

Hang the line next on my hips until spinning

turn silk.

Turn silk.

I hadn’t made any turns

per force/

that is—directly—

That’s how stories go:

suppose

hero finds a way with string

hero follows a line from the mine (or the well or the womb

or the tomb)

from the birth/

of one with horns

to the white light opposed3 it.

 

Hero turns hips. Turns silk. Turns profit. Hands tied. The maze

remains the same:

 

Maaninguall’raq macamek tang’rpakartaan’itukut.4

WiRafkuuq ilag’ngauq.5

 

 

It all comes out in the wash, with the tide.

 

I wanted to find the way out

I threaded/

line between my teeth

baited my hook and

swallowed the knot until it anchored

sure beside a mother

readying

to break.

 


[1] In any event, abandoned or slain, and faithful, and hung, and hung
and hung. Possibly pure, possibly snake, possibly descended
from snakes. Give her a ball of string.

[2] “To begin with knots, many people in different parts of the world
entertain a strong objection to having any knot about their person
at certain critical seasons.”

[3] Unquestionably.

[4] Here (pitifully) we do not see the sun.

[5] Either the rope is secured with a knot, or the rope is tangled, confused, impassable.

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Abigail Chabitnoy is the author of In the Current Where Drowning Is Beautiful (forthcoming from Wesleyan 2022), How to Dress a Fish (Wesleyan 2019), shortlisted for the 2020 International Griffin Prize for Poetry and winner of the 2020 Colorado Book Award, and the linocut illustrated chapbook Converging Lines of Light (Flower Press 2021). Her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Boston Review, Tin House, Gulf Coast, LitHub, and Red Ink, among others. She is a member of the Tangirnaq Native Village in Kodiak and currently teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts and Eastern Oregon University low-residency MFA programs as well as Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver.


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