Snow in Inuit
“Here we find one word, aput, expressing SNOW ON THE GROUND; another, qana, FALLING SNOW; a third, piqsirpoq, DRIFTING SNOW. . . .”
—Franz Boas, Handbook of American Indian Languages, 1911
Poor us, then—winterless.  Who want,
still, to believe such surfeit.  Firm pack.  Slag
drift.  The myth, I understand, is license
mostly.  Boas gone poetic.  & yet
imagine that world.  Its one snowfall come
into plenty.  Its many—one.  What whiteness
is not so manifold?  So—squall whip?  If,
I mean, I am the corn fields’ flyover-
state vacancies, my neighbors, last year, line-
dancing to Billy Ray Cyrus, the five
Ford Escorts in my father’s driveway, I
too am the stitching in the T-shirt—sic
semper tyrannis—the medaled veteran
wore as he dropped the truck keys, after, one
then another down a storm drain, April
1995, in Oklahoma.  So—ghostSea-
shellIvory.  So—in Ohio, on Craigslist, men
lure three strangers to a farm for work
we know, now, did not exist.  For fishing
rights.  Sixty dollars per week.  One victim
drove from Virginia.  It was Christmastime
in the United States.  I watched my uncles
play euchre in the garage, their Busch Lights
sweating in coozies, their conversation
sweet, I remember, as of men—my father
among them—who, in the standard squalor
of their childhood, huddled all winter in
their single hand-sawn bed.  What Boas meant
was language is relative.  Dependent
on weather & custom.  In thundersnow,
therefore—in firn & graupel & slab, Scott
Nelson, known then as Scotty Skyfire, falls
again from the Moose Lodge light rigging, his
wrestler’s mask crumpled beside him, while I,
six, stare up.  In chop, syringes of Narcan.  Cop
haircuts.  Country bars.  The Misfit marching
John Wesley to the woods.  What part of me
is the six-minute window the white boy
emptied eight magazines in?  Which portion
the vertiginous face of the dam the desert
so was humbled by?  What bone & cornsilk
champagne.  On Baffin, Boas, they say, dragged
his sled three days alone through a blizzard
in fifty below.  “The snow terrific.”  This
meant “dreadful” once, as when—in the age
before I existed—in the pit crew
at Little 500, my father, the jack-man,
caught fire near a damaged tank.  He tells me
his skin, sometimes, still tingles.  Touches
the gleaming slick of forearm.  The flames,
he says, were invisible.  Isn’t that terrific?