The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: How to Dress a Fish by Abigail Chabitnoy

BEFORE THERE WAS A TRAIN

I built my home
from perfumed skins
and crooked bones
far from the rotting boat
They took
the wrong shape
Sod not ice not body
not Other
Nikiiq
Engluq nikiimek patumauq
The wrong tongue
By the time you read this
I will have forgotten how to say
the house is covered with sod
or home
Part of me wishes it had sunk
it sank
it is sinking
but these sentences have not been written
Only, allrani suu’ut caqainek pukugtaartut
sometimes people salvage some stuff

She coughed and the women came out
violently
She opened her mouth and coughed out
a small bird
She coughed out matted fur
and fish with faces
and the rocks
she had tried to eat
until
there was nothing left inside her
but water and red
She coughed out the water
and the sea rushed to fill
the thirsting places
She took back fire
black fire-rock
and wrapped her many-body
in mountain
still and moving
many and
one
She wrapped her body in mountain
and dug her feet beneath the water
she spilled
where soft
she could feel a hardness moving
outward

She could feel many hearts
hard hearts
each small disturbance
press
the small rooms of her chest
Each sound in her chest
a heart
a rock
dislodging soft in the water
until
She was no body

 

 

 

This selection comes from the book, How to Dress a Fish, available from Wesleyan University Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Natalie Giarratano.

Abigail Chabitnoy earned her MFA in poetry at Colorado State University and was a 2016 Peripheral Poets fellow and 2020 Kenyon Writers Workshop Peter Taylor Fellow. She has been a resident of Caldera and the Wrangell Arts Center, and her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Boston Review, Tin House, Gulf Coast, LitHub, and Red Ink, among others. She is a Koniag descendant and member of the Tangirnaq Native Village in Kodiak, Alaska, was raised in Pennsylvania, and is currently a consultant for a company in CO that works to facilitate tribal self-determination. Her debut poetry collection, How to Dress a Fish, was released from Wesleyan University Press. Visit her website at salmonfisherpoet.com for more information. Twitter Handle: @achabitnoy

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway PoetryTupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her partner and daughter and is the city’s poet laureate. 

 

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