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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


Mashkiki, this Medicine Earth

Here a landscape endures—a vestige of before;

beyond mask, abundance for ailing human souls.

Oh sweet glimmer—white frost a sprinkle on winter prairie,

marshland a glazed and ghostly paradise where ice crackles

echo and echo across the expanse of its mirrored floor.

Here we small, we holy disappear into etched ice patterns;

swallowed by reflection, we trace belonging skin to skin.

Like land inscribed, we harbor stories, walk each ancient pathway

where tribal mounds still rise, hallowed and endless as copper memory.

 

In this curved alcove of sandy shoreline waterfowl dive and feed and bob.

We pledge allegiance to the water—nibi relations wet and blessed.

Here a rock point stretches black into winter water,

this outcropping a gesture, an arrow we follow.

Then abracadabra! Each round rock suddenly plump and feathered,

a gathering of dark knowledge rising.

Oh, shelf of duck

launching into air!

Like the sigh

from my lips—

the song.

 

Praise the peninsula of

human body.

We surrounded

by gifts of water

breathing plants

this healing earth:

Aki

our

sacred

our

 medicine—

m

a

s

h

k

i

k

i.


A Love Poem to Common Arrowhead

I trace the length

of your leaf blade

larger than my hungry hand

pointed like all deeply-held secrets.

 

I whisper names: arrowhead,

water plantain, duck potato—

badakidoon.

 

Your tuber body

my buried history

the old dream where we all grow

wholesome and laughing—nibi time.

 

Anishinaabeg water nations

feasting on the submerged—

ancient plants

and their stories.


Tracing, Kinship Lines

for Juane Quick-to-See Smith

 

Deep bellied world:

a prairie of saw blades and sweetgrass

skeleton fish who crossed realms

rice kernels and elk antlers,

all watered by manidoog—tempestas

and noodin spirits, these sky relatives

who answer red willow bark prayers.

 

 i=ndigo lines:

(how they feather brush and conjure

animate geometry of angle, arc, of spiral;

how color sacreds each relative—

each broken

a wing palette of translucence.) 

primordial genealogy:

(makwa indodem, the climb of corn plants,

bee buffalo raccoon branch lightning—

each mothed starred and furred

holy the hooved the leafed the four-winged kin.)

 

How we story: water // bodies

crow and messenger shadows, Memegwesiwug.

Each feast, spirit plate, offering of aseema

a follow—how lines of pencil smoke lift like music,

scent and conjure mino-bimaadiziwin.

transform into animaled eyes masks claws. Into crossings:

no lock, no chain of being—only this blue brush

 

of likeness.

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Kimberly Blaeser, poet, photographer, and scholar, is a past Wisconsin Poet Laureate and founding director of In-Na-Po, Indigenous Nations Poets. The author of five poetry collections including Copper Yearning, Apprenticed to Justice, and the bilingual Résister en dansant/Ikwe-niimi: Dancing Resistance, Blaeser is an Anishinaabe activist and environmentalist and an enrolled member of the White Earth Nation. A Professor at UW–Milwaukee and an MFA faculty member at Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, she lives in rural Wisconsin; and, for portions of each year, in a water-access cabin near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota.

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