Like the sun,
I cannot stare directly at you.
Please excuse the sidelong glances,
they are all I can provide.
You are an ambrosia
and I am in the cloud of you.
Nonpareil dear; it must be confusing,
to think that you are common.
I know you wait for life to end;
I wait for you redoubled.
Don’t know that you that are
medicine to me?
Don’t you know,
that you are medicine?
It is no accident —
Your cheeks are shaped to
fill cupped hands,
that your laugh is as resonant
as the box drum,
if your legs take the shape that
the tundra gave them, or if
years of challenge mean you
love too hard.
If your People’s language still echoes
even when you speak another or
that your skin holds the memory of
every Elder’s hug.
It is no mistake that you are both loud and quiet
because the land is loud and quiet.
You are as accidental as the aġviq
having baleen to catch its food.
In My Ataata’s House: A Poem of Identity
When I walk into my Ataata’s house, he knows I am there to visit.
I do not live in Wainwright, like him. I’ve come from somewhere; it’s no secret.
When I walk into my Ataata’s house, he does not test me how well I can cut fish.
That I grew up fishing too, is well beside the point.
When I walk into my Ataata’s house, he doesn’t stop me in the qanitchaq,
and make me recite the Atchagat before passing through.
He just says, “You come! Oh, it’s you!”
And when my Aana still had her body, she didn’t ask if my stitches were tiny before hugging me,
if my dancing was graceful before kissing me,
or if I was fluent in her language, before praying abundance over my life.
Or any of the skills in that would make me a good wife.
But when I walk into my Ataata’s house,
I can sense what they are truly expecting.
When I was requested to bring Aana yarn, I am asked to be giving;
Buying groceries at the store, I am asked to be serving.
Helping my cousins, I am asked to be caring.
Telling me how the land has changed, I am asked to be listening.
When I walk into my Ataata’s house, he’ll tell me stories of what used to be.
My blood quantum doesn’t cause him to pause from teaching me.
My shareholdership isn’t considered before loving me,
My CIB card isn’t needed before feeding me the
caribou and muktuk I’ve enjoyed my whole life.
I am one of many in my family’s house.
Wherever I’m coming from to visit, I always will be.
Ataata — “Great-Uncle” on the North Slope, but may mean “grandfather” around the Kotzebue area
Aana — “Great-Aunt” on the North Slope, but may mean “grandmother” around the Kotzebue area
qanitchaq — “Arctic entryway”
Atchagat — Iñupiaq Alphabet