i twist and gasp

open and close my mouth

searching for air

whenever a sturgeon is caught in the rainy river

i know

the feel of strange hands touching my body

the struggle

to be free

the longing

to go where i want to go

i feel

the impact of stick or rock on bone

the splash of colour

then the emptiness that is my head

my head like a midnight sky if the stars and moon were captured

by another heaven

i know

even when i am awake again

sitting at the kitchen table

staring at my plate with its bramble design

and rough chipped edges

i know


that is why i do not eat sturgeon

because i know

when a sturgeon is caught in the rainy river

i am a sturgeon

and i dangle on hooks

Dive in

1. How do the verbs and line-breaks work to create a feeling of breathlessness? How might you read it aloud?


2. What is the relationship between physical violence and freedom in this poem?


3. Why does the poet talk about her kitchen table, her plate?


4. Does the poet anthropomorphize the sturgeon? Is she attributing human emotions to its experience?


5. How would you characterize the emotional effect of this poem? Does it affect what you think about fishing?


6. Write a poem where you imagine yourself in the body of an animal. What resonances and empathy can you find in relation to its life and/or death?


Useful links


Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm founded Kegedonce Press in 1993, to publish and promote Indigenous writers. The motto of the Press is w’daub awae or ‘speaking true’ in Ojibwe. Find out more about their work here:


Read an interview with Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm about the marginalization of Indigenous voices here:


Sturgeon can grow really large! See this video for a 9 year old boy catching (and then releasing) a 600lb Great White Sturgeon in BC in 2015:



Dive In written by
Bibliographical info

Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, “sturgeon” from My Heart Is a Stray Bullet. Copyright © 1997 by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Source: An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature in English, 4th ed. (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Start here: