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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Kimberly Blaeser

On the Dignity of Gestures

for Nathan Phillips


Remember hands, ungloved and notched by life. Watch them pour stove-top coffee into tin cups, lift cross poles onto fence bucks, mend nets, rock your children.


Pay homage and speak the names of sweepers and shovelers, canners, cafeteria cooks, baby doctors, and death-bed watchers. Esme, Dale, Margaret, David, Mike, and Colleen.


Receive all gifts (crocheted afghan or prize money) with humility. Gratitude spreads easy as butter; unworthiness endures.


Watch the eyes of turtle. Admire the neck-courting of swans. Study wingbeats and tail rhythms. Note how otter sows stoop to lift pups. Listen to wind in fall, to trees bending and unbroken. Announce like spring frogs the unfolding of each holy year. Carry candles into cathedrals, poetry into prisons.


Do not become beast in the fray. Remember the Indigenous hands that drummed on, the man who stood calm.

Rosetta Stone, Two

    The fan of holy

uchiwa or time  bending

  folding and unfolding.


Like scalloped


         of swallowtails—

     pipevine papilio.


Or Monarchs

   marking range

       as they cross

and  recross borders;

milkweed or common tiger,

their weave     of migration,

   of color.


Or ribbon rosettes   accordioned

military awards   (remember

to distinguish  wing wave

from waive—as in 28 federal laws).


Ripple effect

    of chaos theory.


The spend of title (Individual #1)

of partisan laws:

oil greed disguised

as job security,

a tinker toy wall as pristine




This epidemic

death  by paper—

of the Grand Staircase

Bear’s Ears and 200 butterfly species—

(here the blur   of copper viceroy

there the black smear

     of sovereign

authority  viceroy becoming



     Yes, each purple proclamation

booms (ex/im) plodes

another cannon song (cymbal)

   across      captured lands—

(symbol) these americas.


Still winged


the power of small—

       these words.


Kimberly Blaeser is a Professor of English and Native American Studies at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee and serves on faculty for the Institute of American Indian Arts low rez MFA program in Santa Fe. The author of three poetry collections—most recently Apprenticed to Justice; and the editor of Traces in Blood, Bone, and Stone: Contemporary Ojibwe Poetry, she served as Wisconsin Poet Laureate for 2015-16. Blaeser’s scholarship, creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry have been widely anthologized, with poetry selections translated into several languages including Spanish, French, Norwegian, Indonesian, and Hungarian. Her new work in photography and picto-poems has been featured in exhibits and publications including “Visualizing Sovereignty” and is forthcoming in Geopoetics in Practice. Blaeser is Anishinaabe, enrolled and grew up on White Earth Reservation. A fourth collection of her poetry, Copper Yearning, is forthcoming from Holy Cow! Press in fall 2019.

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