Four Poems

by Kimberly Blaeser


Oh Sisters
              of dark earth

                                             H E R E. 

Where               tribal lands hold us     we flower 

     seasons on end                     go         to            seed. 

Oh floral and feral! 

Ikwewag and nookwezigan—our women ash spreading like freedom,

                                                                        our medicine plants: 

chokecherry tobacco cedar sage sweetgrass diamond willow
wild mint skunk cabbage elderberry cattails balsam bloodroot
plantain yarrow jo-pye arrow root panic grass tamarack bulrush. 

Praise the uncultivated meadows of our bodies, 

                                         dream now of coppering like leaves 

                                                                    fallow and holy of time.



Giishpin Ikwewag, Giishpin Nibi
       (If Women, If Water)

(If food is medicine,
if water is food,
if women and water are one—
Ikwewag, we are medicine.)

Now go on this way—
in promise.

Our bodies made of flow—
(oh) moon-blessed.
This dark seed of longing.
Night’s liquid womb. 

How to live a medicine life?

As sap,
as the beauty blood of the planet—

how we glisten.

(Medicine is not first for illness—
                                         but for wellness.)

When words feed wellness:

these quiet songs
medicine us.

Perhaps our molecules betray us—
like water refuse containment.

Perhaps cycle is too small a word. 

for nibi, for injichaag (our spirit within)
for ikewag (women).

We drip, flow, drain, seep—like moons, endure.




Spring a season of drama—late snows
heavy enough to down power lines;
then melting, flooding—and mating.
Here March madness is strutting and display—

ritual bows of cranes, aerial dances,
flamboyant feather fans, vibration of bird song.
I walk rural roads content amid sandhills
puffed-up tom turkeys, territorial geese. 

But pickup cowboys multiply—spend their fever
speakers shrieking, throw beer can missiles,
whistle and aim their spotlights
at prey—the whitetail deer who leap away,

at bodies like mine, caught always in history
in the lies they spit, tobacco juice bullets.



In the pause before you speak

You will wonder who brought crimson
who dared scarlet the white place setting.

I am not saying I sent my doppelganger
—not saying, but you will wonder.

At your toast, more than one eye will dart
the room will fill, cool with uninvited.

You will want the applause to sound different
less like red hands red dresses red hollow.

You will wonder what went wrong in America
this real estate you call your country. 

I am not saying the fabric is unraveling
pulling apart where your voice has snagged.

But you will hear mumbles about fires and climate
your eyes will burn in the silence of who to blame.


Kimberly Blaeser, past Wisconsin Poet Laureate and founding director of In-Na-Po, Indigenous Nations Poets, is the author of five poetry collections including Copper Yearning and Résister en dansant/Ikwe-niimi: Dancing Resistance. An enrolled member of the White Earth Nation, Blaeser is an Anishinaabe activist and environmentalist, a Professor Emerita at UW–Milwaukee, and an MFA faculty member at Institute of American Indian Arts. Her book, Ancient Light, is forthcoming from University of Arizona Press in 2024.