Kimberly M. Blaeser
THIS STRANGER'S BEAUTY
Barely formed fetus feet and tiny Spock ears
Ripley’s surreal—this listing on the edge of small perfection;
pink mouse pup bald and suckling blindly from the doe
feeding as we all do on the driven milk of becoming.
Somewhere beneath the sealed lumps of black eyes
a swimming to awareness under the stretched membrane of skin,
you a mere half gram and every pore and wrinkle a vanity
of knowing your own ghostly poetry, your fragility.
Everywhere we look—whimsy and a holy clamor for survival:
wolf spiderlings cling like moss to their mother’s back
while guppies and even angelfish gulp their fry
and still my lonely violin heart tunes to frog song,
to wolf howl and loon calls and other darker matter.
I believe in the fluid arch of frill-necked lizards,
impossible serrated swirls, like cirque de soleil
Seeker’s eels. All a reptilian anti-splendor—the horror.
The heart of darkness illuminated by small gods
or blind and relentless human hunger for beauty,
as if each striped haunch and stretch were our own
each turquoise spot the simple reversal of revulsion.
We know contortion of birth, our own grotesque
sad embrace of air, of gravity. The slither and purple weight
of voice, the awakening flex of body. Hold this strange light—
a relentless spilling of fever over the untrammeled earth.
IKWE-NIIMI: DANCING RESISTANCE
365 jingles in rows upon my dress
turned by the hands of one who deserted
escaped a mandated Pipestone education.
266 miles looking backwards for pursuit
hiding from promised punishments by day
migrating like maang relatives by moonlight.
365 ribbons hold the jingles to my dress
colorful strips cut tied and threaded
stitched by the laughing women of my childhood,
women who earned 2 dollars and 25 cents
for piece-stitching geese aprons, pot holders
whose stiff fingers tapped drum beats to sew by.
365 prayers swing and tap one against another
zaangwewe-magooday, ancient medicine dress
silver-coned legacy sounding the cleansing voice of rain.
145th White Earth Nation celebration pow-wow
the weight of anishinaabeg history on my back
a dress made light by resistance—this healing an art.
This is not a photograph of the woman inside the house.
This is not even the door to the quiet room where she lies,
more quiet still. No, this is a waabooz, a wild spring creature,
its nose twitching in a way the camera cannot show. A rabbit
that has come for the dew, the dew on the grass outside the house
that is not pictured here. A rabbit who will feast on the garden
that is still in seed, the garden that will grow plants wild
like the waboose. The garden that will belong to the rabbit
and will not be hoed by the woman who is not pictured here.
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, in 2021, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. Blaeser lives in rural Wisconsin; and, for portions of each year, in a water-access cabin near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota. Additional information is available here: http://kblaeser.org