Read excerpts from Jordan Abel’s third book, Injun

Though it has been phased out of use in our “post-racial” society, the word “injun” is peppered throughout pulp western novels. The new book Injun retraces, defaces, and effaces the use of this word as a colonial and racial marker.

Injun is a long poem about racism and the representation of Indigenous people, and the third book of poetry by acclaimed poet Jordan Abel, a Nisga’a writer currently completing his PhD at Simon Fraser University, where his studies focus on digital humanities and indigenous poetics. Composed of text found in western novels published between 1840 and 1950, Injun uses erasure, pastiche, and a focused poetics to create a visually striking response to the western genre. In some ways, Injun stands as a companion to Abel’s previous book, Un/inhabited, which was composed using similar methods and treads related territory (pun intended).

Here on Meta-Talon, read excerpts from Injun.

he played injun in gods country
where boys proved themselves clean
dumb beasts who could cut fire
out of the whitest1 sand
he played english across the trail
where girls turned plum wild
garlic and strained words
through the window of night
he spoke through numb lips and
breathed frontier2

he heard snatches of comment
going up from the river bank

all them injuns is people first
and besides for this buckskin

why we even shoot at them
and seems like a sign of warm

dead as a horse friendship
and time to pedal their eyes

to lean out and say the truth3
all you injuns is just white keys

some fearful heap
some crooked swell

bent towards him
and produced a pair

of nickel-plated pullers
a bull winder of

dirty tenderness4
that stiffened into

that low-brow ice
that dead injun game