A Space for Women of the World
Wigwam-rhetoric, Hiawatha-speak, Gitchigoomie Savage
this, savage that. Gag me with a coup stick. Savage
literature for masses. Unbelievable—Barbie doll
in buckskin, a scarlet-haired, green-eyed Poca-ho savage
straight from a Land O’Lakes butter box, call
her fake like Tomahawk Tassels’ savage
burlesque show in Minneapolis, that girl who fell
from grace, fell in love with kitsch, like the Savage
Series romances sold world-wide, Dances with Schmiel,
Dances with Schmazel. Synopses are neat! Start with Savage
Spirit : Kickapoo Chief Fire Thunder (for real)
rescues his kidnapped sister from the circus side-show! Savage
Heat : Zoe Hawkins lusts after Kiowa brave White Shadow, all
taboo, of course, what’s passion if not forbidden, if not savage?
Another: Morning Hawk, crazy in love for a Mohawk she’d kill
for—naturally, an Indian maiden will cut a bitch, savage-
hearted they are, especially Apaches, they trill
at the sight of blood. Take the southwestern saga, Savage
Arrow: High Hawk and Rising Moon both love a white girl
with flame-red hair. Always with the gingers! Savage-
hearted as Indians on the prairie and almost as criminal!
Take Yvonne who’s lust’s ignited by Silver Arrow in Savage
Passion, dark storms and treachery, a virile (viral)
stranger sets blood afire, trembling like a fawn. In Savage
Torment, our heroine-in-heat sets out to steal
the heart of fierce Strong Hawk, a forest savage
of the Michigan woodlands, her daddy owns the mill,
they’re star-crossed but doomed. Rinse and repeat. Savage
rhymes with new age and that’s another kind of swill—
another bitter pill to swallow, savage
stomach indigestion. Guilty pleasures’ appeal,
sure, but in the final analysis, its lure’s all atrocity, all savage.
How is it that want begins? Or desire ends? And does it begin and end, or is it a
continuing stream constantly redirected towards another target?
Is desire an origami crane folded unto itself, paper wings constructed from folly?
Can desire be overly delicate, overly crafted, overly precious?
Desire is utterly fickle. Or is it? Maybe not.
My friend, a brilliant poet, wrote a list poem in startling detail about every penis
she had ever touched, and stories about the men who were attached to them. She
would never market the poem, in spite of my constant urging.
Once my want drastically plummeted after someone misspelled my name in a note.
There are many ways to extinguish desire.
You think desire is a delicate impulse but really if it had a face it would resemble a
troll or worse, a gargoyle. I only say this because desire is monstrous—the most
monstrous emotion since envy, since hubris.
Usually desire must live undetected, a shut-in within a hermitage of isolated
design. Even when desire is reciprocated, we still—even then—keep it veiled
beneath heavy gauze.
I have a friend who rarely reveals what she is feeling, who is always guarded. As a
result, her boyfriend was always insecure—always wanted her to qualify her
affection. Once, attempting to reassure him, she meant to tell him she loved him to
death. Only she accidentally said, I love you like death.
Desire is one of those crazy, yellow moons: you can’t get a purchase on its fathoms
absolutely, so it’s contained lest we’re dragged out into the night.
Desire is seldom reasonable, even when it tries to be. It remains a petulant child
and will become hysterical when persuaded. So we try to placate it, patronize it,
but its will is oceanic.
“Tell me what you want,” he said.
“You,” she said. “I want to want you.”
“Tell me what you want,” she said.
“You,” he said. “I want to not want you.”
Before her diagnosis my mother reported an owl visiting her back patio. Her guest arrived often as if on cue, having received no invitation nor warm greeting. A Sioux woman will worry about an owl’s appearance to her patio, superstitious, my mother was taught owls are harbingers of death. She admitted once that should she die she’d return as a small bird— a finch perhaps, or most likely a sparrow, so I was to be vigilant and kind to visiting birds. I think of her now waiting for the alders to fill with wings. Snow and more snow, a sluice of ice crosshatches the parkway, confuses the trees. Hope is a thing with feathers wrote Dickinson. Birds arrive and depart, they carry dreams and cry memory, bring both omen and fortune. Our people believed the owl guards the entrance to the Milky Way over which souls must cross to reach the spirit land. My mother believed her relatives resided among the air breathing alongside the living— emptying themselves as shadow into her rose beds, her foxglove, just as I believe that in her way she brings forth the turn of each new season, the rain, its start and little deaths— and owls, wide-eyed patrols, constant guards in the trees. (Hinhan means young owl in Lakota)
Mushrooms are seekers.
They sweat in a pan of garlic and butter,
fuss, bicker and toss—
toughing it out like the rest of us.
They furl, tucking into themselves
along an arm of steam.
They eye a slant of vinegar, the crush
of lemon rising like a halved sun
along horizon of skillet.
And all because they want
what we want:
the dose of salt, the kiss, to be poured
onto a plate. They want praise,
perhaps even dare, ask for love.
Tiffany Midge is the recipient of the Kenyon Review Earthworks Prize for Indigenous Poetry for “The Woman Who Married a Bear” (forthcoming) and the Diane Decorah Memorial Poetry Award for “Outlaws, Renegades and Saints; Diary of a Mixed-up Halfbreed” (Greenfield Review Press). Her work has appeared in North American Review, The Raven Chronicles, Florida Review, South Dakota Review, Shenandoah, Poetry Northwest and the online journals No Tell Motel and Drunken Boat. An enrolled Standing Rock Sioux, she holds an MFA from University of Idaho and lives in Moscow, Idaho (Nez Perce country).