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Digital Subscriptions > Boston Review > What Nature (Spring 2018) > I Am Chopping Ivory or Bone

I Am Chopping Ivory or Bone

How many Eskimo words are there for white people? How many Eskimo words are there? How many Eskimo?

My mother told me to attach a string to a claw, then the other end of the string to a scrap of wood: “take the claw and put a string with a little piece of wood.” I must have asked her something or paused for her to continue. Or she paused, and then continued.

“You swing it and try to put the wood through the claw.” I asked her what kind of crab claw. “Crab from King Island.”

There is a game my mother perhaps invented but certainly became adept at, as a girl, in King Island Village. With a string, dried stem, or sinew, you attached a crab claw to a smithereen of wood (even driftwood being not easy to come by) and tried to catch the claw on the small wooden stick. I asked her what kind of crabs. I think she said something about king crabs or kinds of crab, but she definitely said the words “King Island.” I asked my husband later that day where he thought she got the wood. The thing upon which the crab claw balanced; not pierced or punctured.

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About Boston Review

The poems in What Nature were not written on Walden Pond. They were not written because poetry can save the Earth. If they are a far cry from last century's nature poetry, it is because "nature" today is a far cry from sanctuary or retreat. These poems are not at ease and there is no place left to retreat. They are themselves far cries: urgent calls for rethinking our place on an imperiled planet.