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Poem: "Huk-Huk" By Robin Coste Lewis

"The dogs do not speak English / So you curse each one in French..."

Posted on September 1, 2016, at 11:26 a.m. ET

The First Peary Arctic Expedition Arrives in Greenland

The dogs do not speak English
So you curse each one in French,

Trying to crack your new virgin
Whip - a finely scraped strip of dried walrus

Hide. But there's no snap.
Nobody cringes.

If you could speak Inuktitut, you would
Hear the King Dog cackling

At your attempts. You could understand
Ikwah's and Analka's silence,

Inside of which they ponder how a man
Who commands such a vast wooden ship

Can’t convince a dog team to huk-huk
Not even an inch, yet still believes

He can survive one year on the ice
Trudging north toward – of all things – just

More ice. Between the private flakes
Of falling snow, and their secret discussions

On Beauty, a royal crown of bitches
Toss and purr, rolling onto their backs

Eyes wet and wide, smiling
At their King, waiting for his cue.


Robin Coste Lewis was born in Compton, California. She received an MFA from New York University and an MTS from the Divinity School at Harvard University. She is the author of Voyage of the Sable Venus (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), winner of the National Book Award. Lewis has taught at Wheaton College, Hunter College, and Hampshire College. She currently serves as a Provost’s Fellow at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles.

  • Picture of Robin Coste Lewis

    Robin Coste Lewis was born in Compton, California. She received an MFA from New York University and an MTS from the Divinity School at Harvard University. She is the author of Voyage of the Sable Venus (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), winner of the National Book Award. Lewis has taught at Wheaton College, Hunter College, and Hampshire College. She currently serves as a Provost’s Fellow at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles.

    Contact Robin Coste Lewis at saeed.jones+RobinCosteLewis@buzzfeed.com.

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