The Dice Changer

By Duane Niatum b. 1938 Duane Niatum
Raven steals your name for an autumn joke:
buries you along with it under
the thickest hemlock known to chipmunks.
Too bad you were awake for the event.
He accuses you of asking all
the wrong questions over and over.
You attempt revolt to prove his medicine
wheel is cracked and filling up its own pit.

He hollers your face is unmasked and madness
has found a home. All stink and rotten fur,
he says to you, claims you had a choice
and forgot what it was. Now he says
your pain must run for the river,
the river for the wind.
He chuckles and the dark chatters, turning
you around until your shadow is the earth’s.

Duane Niatum, “The Dice Changer” from Drawings of the Song Animals: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 1991 by Duane Niatum. Reprinted by permission of Holy Cow! Press.

Source: Drawings of the Song Animals: New and Collected Poems (Holy Cow! Press, 1991)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Duane Niatum b. 1938

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Living, Death, Religion, Other Religions, The Spiritual

 Duane  Niatum


Poet, fiction writer, playwright, and editor Duane Niatum has been has been writing poems, stories and essays for over 50 years. Born Duane McGinness in Seattle, he adopted the name of one of his S’Klallam tribal ancestors early in his career as a poet. After his parents’ divorce when he was four, he studied S’Klallam tribal ways with his maternal grandfather. At age 17, Niatum joined the Navy and was stationed in Japan. He . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Religion, Other Religions, The Spiritual

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.