6 a. m.Syllabus I typewhile outsideAugust lake shivers,stretches silver
under wisps of fog,then lifts itselfas from downfilledsleep.
6:20.I sip steaming stove-top coffee,write Course Description.Now sift recollectionsof other chill mornings—in the French villageSt. Hippolyte du Fort,baggy brown pantssway, the arc of the broomcarrying the sweeper.I am the swept debrisold streets, detritus,duty of language.
At 6:32 a.m.My fingers click on keys,but on the other side of airI touch your table.Again finger the lamp screw,carefully twist it beyondblack burned edge of wick.Now the lick of new lightrises behind etched glass chimney,and shadow companions startle and dartacross sheetrock walls.Some light still frightens.
6:55 a.m. 6:597:08 Course Requirements.In the hyperreal font bankof my computer screenI search a color I might know,some pigment like boiling maple saplike dried fish blood.Vital reflection on the eye,a variant on crayola imaginationlike baked dust on a brown beret.
At 7:16 I type Grading Policiesand list in mathematical formulaa future.7:30, Due Dates.Yetsomewherehalf a world awayas I sit in ice-carved stadium seats,voices of Norwegian childrenvibrate the arctic nightthey sing the cycle, the sun’s return.
7:35. 7:40. 8:00.
LED time accumulates like image.I let it pass.
And each morningI still come in slippered feetsteady time at the doorway:there my blue-sweatered Daddyold formica tablea small radio before him.His thick brown fingers curvelike the notes; the beat he tapsbends into some dimension—not sound exactlynot light,but the motion of darknesson walls mime simplein a world of flame,some turning of memorywe too trace,maybe with fingersfolded over keys. [stanza break]
So this is why I write.Not because my uncle’s new horsetried to roll me off its back that spring,not because of the Mahnomen sheriffwho, with a body bigger than mythsunk devil deep into the squad seatpushing us all to pavement.I tell you the vote to buildyet another bank, new road,casino was incidental.
I type Syllabus.8:20 comes and goes.I add Reading List.Supplementary Bibliography at 8:48.The province. Not memory exactly.Not story or language. Nor even pure sound.Winter count.The year grandma dodged rabid skunks.Fuel bills tied in embroidery floss.Following blue trouser legsdown each thorny path of months,months not named for roman gods.Following sun-dappled work bootsto berry patch afternoons,a dimension both hungry and sweetred-fingered and flushed.Don’t call it happiness.Think of the morning lakethe ice stadium the broomcarrying human motion in its arc.Who can explain the scienceof alchemy, the texture of stillness—one thing suspendedminute in itsturning.
9:22.Final Exam Date.Two hours to declare knowledgein lines and boxes.I turn from counting and there,in the sliver space betweenone second ticking,you arrive—a dawn child.Call it return.Nothing as accidental as birth orderdictates destiny.Who knows of sources,only image and refracted light.Assembled here like tincture,medicine color or errand of memory—as if the alphabet songwere made of scents or gesture.Each lilt of meaninglike the living flame of old campfires,like the synapse of a moving bobberon Pickerel Lake.Not spellingbut the consequence of the barely visiblefilament, line stretched taut between infinities.How evidence spills from every water surfacethat rises and falls as code or signfingers gripping the translucent thread—with life pulling hard on either end.
Kimberly Blaeser, writer, photographer, and scholar, is the author of three poetry collections—most recently Apprenticed to Justice; and the editor of Traces in Blood, Bone, and Stone: Contemporary Ojibwe Poetry. Blaeser served as Wisconsin Poet Laureate for 2015-16. A Professor at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, where she teaches Creative Writing and Native American Literature, Blaeser is also a member of the low residency MFA faculty for the Institute of American Indian Arts. In addition, Blaeser serves as a member of the board of directors for both the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters and the Aldo Leopold Foundation. An enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe who grew up on the White Earth Reservation, she is an editorial board member for the “American Indian Lives” series of the University of Nebraska Press and for the “Native American Series” of Michigan State University Press. Blaeser’s poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction have been widely anthologized, and selections of her poetry have been translated into several languages including Spanish, French, Norwegian, Indonesian, and Hungarian. Blaeser is currently at work on a collection, Ancient Light, which includes ekphrastic poetry and a form for which she coined the term “Picto-Poem.”
BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month
The theme of teaching and learning poetry, and our emphasis on student poets, speaks directly to the action of poetry in our country and global community. Never has the education of our students been so threatened, and never has truth been more challenged than in the current political climate. The truth emerges through education and the resistance and questions of our youngest generation, and it is their lead we absolutely must follow if they are to live in a society that fosters their achievements, liberation, and justice. Truth emerges through poetry as well — poetry bears witness to what truths seem impossible to speak any other way. Its constraints limit the temptation to misconstrue, obscure, and bury.