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Mud City is an online literary journal promoting the ideals and vision of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) Low Residency MFA Program.

One Poem by Heid Erdrich

Heid E. Erdrich is a poet, writer, and arts consultant. Her current positions include Minnesota Humanities Center scholar and faculty mentor for Augsburg College Low-residency MFA. She is author of four books of poems including Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems. Her recent work of non-fiction, a memoir-in-recipes titled Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest, was a City Pages Top Ten food book for 2014.

Heid E. Erdrich is a poet, writer, and arts consultant. Her current positions include Minnesota Humanities Center scholar and faculty mentor for Augsburg College Low-residency MFA. She is author of four books of poems including Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems. Her recent work of non-fiction, a memoir-in-recipes titled Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest, was a City Pages Top Ten food book for 2014.

Sets of Circumstance            


Three hundred thousand years ago, I read today,  

creatures alike as dog and wolf and coyote diverged 

—unknown circumstances,  paths split, that was it. 

 

The wood floors creak at his feet, 

announcing his excellent shoes.  

They state a fashion, 

as intended, 

identify him against the scuffed floorboards

of a dim coffee shop.  

 

My hand strays to my cup.

Circumstances are such—I look up. 

He orders more, without asking. He pays. 

 

Even brief illness leaves its little deaths. 

The practical thing is to dress, brush, 

walk the body back to life. 

 

Pastel chalk on sidewalks means Passiontide, 

Passover, Easter. Or a college where, her hair

raining across her red face, a young woman

might trace a mermaid’s tail as banner —Earth Day

already flowing from her rectangle of cement  

into the river of the next student’s drawing

and so on until a waterway circles the square. 

 

Chalk and gray, and light later, 

circumstance walks me

into the wrong cafe.         

 

My fever leaving, called me darling

smoothed my face, woke me in the mirror 

to my own eyes.                                      

 

I saw the milk gleam 

my husband calls health.                     

Tired as I felt, tired as all the earth, 

I was yet revived. 

 

When we start dying, 

it is work to be alive. 

To clear a counter of eggshells 

in chalky purples, pinks, 

turquoise as cloudy as the sky

—all effort. 

 

The practical thing is to dress, 

brush, walk the body. 

 

Blue, and gray, and light later, 

I pick the wrong table. 

Read the wrong way. 

Coydog, wyote, coywolf. 

 

He gulps and stares sideways; 

sees no prey, 

sees game. 

 

Three hundred thousand years ago wolf 

we were, and coyote.  We diverged. 

Our paths split and that should have been it        

but now he snatches me with his long eyes, 

sidles closer, whines: 

Your hair’s different. What you do to it?

My hair. 

The practical thing is to dress, 

brush, walk the body. 

 

My wild streak, my fall, 

my feral brown

over black, 

aged with fire. 

My only me I wish seen.                  

 

I’ve never done a thing with my hair     

            

but let it speak for me, move

in attitudes, my braid flipping

shoulder side or over a breast, 

a curtain, now a convenience 

when I try to skirt his eyes. 

 

Just past an eclipse, so he’s dragging,

crazy talking about how he kept up

all night breaking it off with Moon. 

How she ran raw faced and hid her eyes.  

 

Doesn’t skip a beat from love of her 

to bait for me: We two 

should get together soon.  

 

Circumstance, vanity, chance. 

Spring trembles like a pastel thing. 

Alive.                        

 

I catch him this time, when he leans,

grasp his chin hairs and say it plain: 

 

Rage owns a shadow named shame. 

My husband keeps my bed. 

The moon may have bled. 

I slept.