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By Louise Erdrich

For Angela

The Windigo is a flesh-eating, wintry demon with a man buried deep inside of it. In some Chippewa stories, a young girl vanquishes this monster by forcing boiling lard down its throat, thereby releasing the human at the core of ice.

You knew I was coming for you, little one,

when the kettle jumped into the fire.

Towels flapped on the hooks,

and the dog crept off, groaning,

to the deepest part of the woods.


In the hackles of dry brush a thin laughter started up.

Mother scolded the food warm and smooth in the pot

and called you to eat.

But I spoke in the cold trees:

New one, I have come for you, child hide and lie still.


The sumac pushed sour red cones through the air.

Copper burned in the raw wood.

You saw me drag toward you.

Oh touch me, I murmured, and licked the soles of your feet.

You dug your hands into my pale, melting fur.


I stole you off, a huge thing in my bristling armor.

Steam rolled from my wintry arms, each leaf shivered

from the bushes we passed

until they stood, naked, spread like the cleaned spines of fish.


Then your warm hands hummed over and shoveled themselves full

of the ice and the snow. I would darken and spill

all night running, until at last morning broke the cold earth

and I carried you home,

a river shaking in the sun.


Notes:

The epigraph of this poem was originally omitted in the changeover to the new website. Because of this, reciting the epigraph is optional for the 2019-2020 Poetry Out Loud season.

Louise Erdrich, “Windigo” from Jacklight (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1984). Copyright © 1984 by Louise Erdrich. Reprinted with the permission of The Wylie Agency, Inc.

Source: Jacklight (Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1984)

  • Living
  • Mythology & Folklore
  • Nature

Poet Bio

Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich is equally adept at poetry and fiction; her debut volume of verse Jacklight and her award-winning novel Love Medicine both appeared in 1984. Many of her poems are dramatic monologues, which allow her to inhabit characters from different eras and backgrounds. Born in Minnesota to a French-Ojibwa mother and German-American father, both of whom taught at an Indian school, Erdrich grew up in North Dakota near Turtle Mountain Reservation, and has credited her culture’s rich tradition of storytelling with her desire to write. See More By This Poet

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