Published on Academy of American Poets (


In a strait, some things are useful.
Others, true, she turns to ash. 

Thrust, thus—

her head thick with arrogance, 
infection and futility.

It could be how a young wife went,
strewn with net-veined willow 
and mountain aven— 

trespass, and wreckage. 
She could write about the year 
she turned to heat and haze, 

to laze: immurmurat-, 
imauraaqtuŋa. Of cannula
and silver nitrate. Of petiolus 

and achene, about to begin again. 
Of greens as they green. Of a man 

aged, eskered. Of a confined gleam— 
to hereby dissolve and hold for naught

the soil / gravel / silt groaning 
as the tools of our penultimate glacier,
a glacier I might pronounce like grief. 

One does wish for words to thaw 
in the mouth, but find instead a tongue,

welt. Erosional or depositional, raised 
& visible, rift into language & grit—  



Copyright © 2019 by Joan Naviyuk Kane. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 26, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem works with the geographical feature of a nunatak (a “lonely peak” or unique protuberance of land) as a metaphor for how something/one with complex features and surfaces might perennate through seemingly obliterative and inevitable forces (climate crises, cancer, colonialism, or divorce, for instance). I started the poem this spring after hiking on nunatat in southcentral Alaska, and finished this summer it after a trip through Resurrection bay on a vessel coincidentally named Nunatak with the writer and translator Jennifer Croft, whose friendship and work continues to inspire and sustain me and my children.”
Joan Naviyuk Kane


Joan Naviyuk Kane

Joan Naviyuk Kane is the author of Milk Black Carbon (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017). She lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

Date Published: 2019-12-26

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