A Space for Writers of the World
His mother tells me a real woman can braid until the tips of her fingers fall on fire, until the tail we weave together submerges, reignites in spring carried heat. Only then, Are you are good to marry. My fingers knot, be a good wife.
“Deer ticks,” you whisper,
“once engorged with blood,
look like an infected ear drum.”
We wander the grotto, swamp,
in woodish den where fawns hid themselves
in a ferns clasped hand. Fallen trees, fungi,
like deer ticks swollen half their size
their grayish color rotten fruit
piled high on forest floors, nesting inside a doe’s ear.
We count them on our shoe
strings, and leave them.
Once a woman ran down a doe,
chased her barefoot through marsh,
through weeds, in the flaxen underbrush before
glass and beads burdened the people in shine,
glistening as if Gitchi Gami had licked herself clean.
Battle had drained her village of men,
painted the people a feverish red so they all would suffocate
with their mouths locked in cough and sweat.
Her feet left paw prints in the forest,
her hands shook and she buckled.
Her skin smeared in pigment,
in earth cracked colors.
I recite this like a psalm.
You show me tapped trees.
sap thicker than coagulated blood,
than the field beyond the casino,
laser lights, reflection on tracks we leave behind.
Pinch a deer tick and you will find that they too have muscles.
We leave it all in shadow, shed everything lost,
language, pieces together on our backs,
carefully so the words are left unpronounceable,
untraceable, and becomes our own.
There is no “R” in Ojibwe.
You, and I
two 40’s and I’m
not wearing any clothes.
The lake, the body
of a moose tongue,
wrinkling in waves and
it isn’t even twilight.
The bitterroot taste
of lake water, my stomach
on yours and even that
His mother says, tie it as tight
and as neat as sweetgrass braids,
the crossroads, the stones bead
like vertebrae, like a wolf’s teeth bare.
The trail is buried in birch,
bark stripped too much because
we need the extra cash.
It’s Halloween, and I hear
pine snapping against orange gloves,
the remnants, needles sticking to deer trails.
And a wealthy family hangs another
Christmas wreath worth 25 cents a pound.
You are counting every branch shorn
first cut on sapling, holding
its nude body between
the folds of your elbows.
We are snapping too.
We dream of deer, soft
bodies brushing against our skin,
the herd bounding to the plains
we can’t trek by ourselves,
a tree tunnel, river’s mouth, a light
kneeling on the corners of
a thousand deer eyes watching.
We reach for them.
The deer are bound to us.
At night they scatter
round railways, cross tracks.
We rest alongside them,
like tree branch shadows
on a child’s wall, like
a foul’s tongue stacked
inside the spaces of
her missing teeth.
This is a remembrance,
a celebration of things lost.
It is not a passage, though I
on these vacant trails.
The Arctic Circle is the absence of sound they say,
but the children know better.
I remember frost webbing my eyelashes,
the last place my feet trekked to the forest ground.
Mother told me the wounded wander there, on two legs,
then hobble, then crawl to frozen pits
where the dead still cross themselves then pull you down
with them. Snow crumbling on a bear’s brown hump,
he was at her side, a monster of a mammal steadied
by a leather harness. His yellowed teeth brandished
like rusted paring knives bunched between red flesh.
The Snow Queen stepped from her sleigh,
a canopy of silk skirts billowed around me, a bodice
embroidered in winter moult and tuffs of down.
I’ve forgotten everything winter worn, my mother’s face, the
smell of linseed oil soaking into maple furniture,
my brother’s broken smile against the backdrop of snow,
everything, except her fox pelt, the hollowed fur
settling over her neck, yipping at my shoulders,
to where my heat frothed heart could only be extinguished
with bite. Where I stood, blood stained pine soaked
scent of fresh kill spilt and swallowed my feet.
I was neither wounded nor afraid, because the milk
bluing behind her eyes calmed me, her blindness,
a relief. And briers felt like kisses, frostbite,
was woven sheep scarf coiled tight about my face.
I can remember only her and all that embraced her,
the wind blackened leaves, the stoic gaze of the bear
heaving his shoulders to pull her sleigh through the winter
of white mice and white moths.
My memory like a pine branch brushed against the first frost,
it hide my tracks from predators, the winged, the hunting owl
that draws its head backwards to tempt me out.
I lost myself inside the brow of the forest,
the wooded fox dens, the deep breath pushing its way
from beneath the crown of her lips, the Snow Queen,
the advent of red and missing children.
I am imagining myself drowning
beneath black slabs of ice,
a sculpture of carved muse,
riding a white bear to a melting throne.
They say when the last frost carries her belly
over the slow stoop of tin roofs or when
three black dogs bark in unison at a quarter
moon rising, a mother dies in childbirth.
They say when you prick your finger
on an oak lattice shutter, and the splinter
opens like a paper parasol inside your skin,
your child will become blind.
They say when a raven greases its beak
inside the stomach of an decaying elk, but
does not feast on the mass of braided innards,
your child will find no pleasure in love.
They say when a snowshoe hare gnaws
at birch velvet until the soft molded wood scabs over,
your child will adhere to everything cold. Her spirit
will dim like a lantern burning on a block of flaming ice.
And then they say when you are alone
and hear the rumble of twenty of more
stampeding bears, beware the sleigh
they drag behind them. And the woman
who sinks inside a hundred white ermine pelts.
Her hedgehog balled up like an orbital prayer
within her hands. Her eyes bitten venomous white.
It was love and love’s winded heave. It was a memory
and memory’s stolen feet. It was caress, nails tearing
tailored shirts; it was the taste of lips, a woman on the sleigh,
and my breath like white spiders.
Kateri Menominee was born and raised in Michigan. She is a member of the Bay Mills Tribe of Chippewa Indians. She became interested in poetry at an early age and began exploring different mediums of storytelling using writing and sketching as alternatives to such. She graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts in 2012 with her Bachelors Degree in Creative Writing and was the first recipient of the M. Scott Momaday Award and recipient of the 2012 Truman Capote Scholarship. She has been published in the Institute of American Indian Arts anthologies such as Radical Enjambment and Birds, And Other Omens as well as in the online literary journal Drunken Boat. Her chapbook of poems, Effigies II which features other IAIA alumni will be released in the spring of 2013. She attended the four week writing workshop at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado in the summer of 2012 and is focusing on obtaining her Masters Degree.