Monday, April 21, 2008

from Notes to Nomenclature


I should begin with adik, with reindeer and caribou. To know the geography of it, to start with its features.

Your face is this blur of fur and antler.

My story is the history of frontier, a wooded terrain. We could not see each other through the cacophony of trees. But I could hear you breathing. Some kind of wind the nose sings. Adze is a way of stripping the layers of. When the skin is stripped from muscle, cleaved from bone.

Agawaatese is not the sound but the shadow. An interception of light.


Offering. I have only this. A life without footprints.

From the rooftop anything is possible. Free of ground and its gravities, there is no track of your departure. I found a book of two tongues from which I describe twilight. I too am this in between thing.

Miziwekamig is not earth. It is adverb; it is strewn about and across. Aki is the name by which the earth is called in secret, what I would have whispered into the soft yield of your belly if you had remained. Now, alone, I could call the world akiiwan, this celestial body. To be gravity and mass, to cling to what you know. I would have given you this, my slippery tongue, but you were walking backward toward the edge of the rooftop. Beyond you was the emptiness of horizon, asphalt, another inanimate future self.


Dawn is not self referential. Neither is dusk. If I could speak this, if I could, anishinaabe-gaagiigido.

I know only what language makes possible. A tenuous transmission of. I could describe it as inendaagozi or inendaagwad, but meaning is something else entirely. To be remembered is not to hold the idea of oneself, some bundled thing wrapped against the cold.

You once said that nouns were for accumulation, for bartering and trade. Use everything you can, you said. I have laid out all my assets on the rooftop. There is some duplication, an echoing of. In which language should I describe the different parts of me? Inzid, my foot. There is another.

By dusk the buzzards have blanketed the sky overhead. There is shadow and body, memory and mass.

I have sorted the dismembered pieces of me according to their function. Apendage is crowded, but indengway has no one beside her. What can one do with a face? Peel back the skin and her features are indistinguishable. Remove nishkiinzigoon and, now sightless, she is without point of view.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

from Notes to Nomenclature


It is true, I have spent all my ammunition. I am unarmed on the rooftop, the site of your absence from.

Below the world is its own clamoring. When akiwenzii, the old man, settles in the doorway, he fills it with his accumulation, a lifetime of. I am not the only one watching. Behind the flowered curtain is my neighbor, a woman whose life is a fearful surveillance. A half an hour later, the police have come. I am like mizise, a bird hovering.

Below the world repeats itself. A policeman kicks akiwenzii’s legs, which in sleep have protruded beyond the shadow of the doorway. I shout from the rooftop, nimishoo, grandpa, but akiwenzii does he not to hear me. The other man takes out his nightstick and waves it across the spread of disastrous belongings. Akiwenzii gathers his legs, but does not flinch. Every uniform is a reference to its violent origin. Akiwenzii is old enough to know the etymology.

Nimishoo is the one whose own family called him other. His mother said as much, even without the stink of history on her breath. When he was twelve, his uncle gave him a pet lizard and a waagikomaan, a hooked knife, something to split the life from. For his gifts, uncle made certain requests. Simple things really, a touch, a brief opening. Only later did nimishoo learn to read his life according to the shape of another man’s intestines.

Who can say what it means to be spent, empty of. In one move, akiwenzii lifts himself to his knees and draws the knife across the policeman’s waist. He grabs the mess of entrails as a talisman against the other. Nimishoo knows the world is flat. More than once, he has fallen off.


One quarter of rams prefer the horned, the horny male of their species. Older studies of human mammalian behavior found something closer to one in ten. What the ewe desires is anybody’s guess. If you sheer the coat of wool you will find tender pink flesh. Beneath your coat, you are desiccant, unyielding. You are that which cannot, won’t. You are only what you refuse to be. To quell is to rattle until the pen breaks. The ewe will choose her own direction. She is warm and fat. Her whiteness is bright against the green hills. Maanishtaanish have been called simple, docile, flock. But she is alone and grazing up toward the mountain’s spine. When night calls the wolves howl. She tucks her legs beneath her white coat and dreams of men, penned and naked, bleating like sheep.