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By Heid E. Erdrich

When a whole being
births into your hands
still you see your hands
no matter how unworldly
the beauty of the child

Then the universe of words
works past cosmology
to a useful name          a handle
in English unlike the Indigenous
genderless language of verbs

Moon blues           comet misses
moon looms super            moon bleeds
many cosmological shifts later
our hands eclipsed by
the lovely being come so far

Come closer than ever
across the several heavens
we Ojibwe name
the layers of our atmosphere
and further out there
the fourth sky               forever sky

When you first came to us
we did not have an Ojibwe name
to know the sky beyond
the sky beyond the sky

How were we to know
he was she was
they are

How were we to know who?


“How It Escaped Our Attention” from Little Big Bully by Heid E. Erdrich, copyright © 2020 by Heid E. Erdrich. Used by permission of Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Source: Poetry (March 2021)

  • Living
  • Relationships
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Heid E. Erdrich
Poet Heid E. Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, was born in Breckenridge, Minnesota, and raised in nearby Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her Ojibwe mother and German American father taught at the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school. With her sister, the writer Louise Erdrich, she founded and lead the Turtle Mountain Writing Workshop and The Birchbark House, a fund to support indigenous language revitalization efforts. Since 2010, Erdrich has directed Wiigwaas Press which publishes Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) language books, films, and other media. Erdrich teachesat Augsburg College and lives with her family in Minnesota. See More By This Poet

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