Carol Lee Vail Prize Honorable Mention 2021


        by Denise Merat

Inuit hunters listen, moving as one
watching the natiqvik sift like white sand,
the drifts growing tall with the wind.

The smooth, slick ice cave,
stenciled in frost gives shelter.
Slush puddles give way to hidden streams
where knuckled chunks of snow
drift and meld.

Piece by piece,
the ice flow, corpse cold,
floats, freezes, cracks again—

Splintered ice under footfalls,
Quietly, the men move deeper, away from the storm,
breaking for cold jerky.

They chew dried tuttu and drink piqaluyak –
fill their skins, and speak soft
ice fog breath.

Outside, the Pirtuk rises –
screaming like frightened owls.

And all the night was buried.
Their huddled forms now
Kikittuk – white marble,
still waiting for home.

Inuit to English translations:
natiqvik – snowdrift tuttu – Caribou piqaluyak – stream water Pirtuk – blizzard
Kikittuk – ice block