MN poetry: Heid Erdrich’s “The Way To”


Heid E. Erdrich has authored three poetry collections including National Monuments from Michigan State University Press and Fishing for Myth from New Rivers Press. She also authored The Mother’s Tongue, Salt Publishing’s Earthworks series, and co-edited Sister Nations: Native American Women on Community, Minnesota Historical Society Press.

A member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibway, Heid grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota. She earned degrees from Dartmouth College and The Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. She and her sister Louise Erdrich recently co-founded a non-profit clearinghouse for indigenous language-centered literature called Birchbark House.

The Way To

In the dimly lit cosmos of the body

one egg turns planet-like, its gravity

draws currents through a woman

like tide pull in caves by the sea.

Try to keep such images revolving

when even benevolent passion

seems too close, ironic, unnatural.

Not one of your girlfriends will ever

describe the actual moment:

How her eyes might have wavered,

tilted to his, her chin a perfect emblem,

sweet offering of someone wholly else,

and a bondage gone to willingly.

Certainly no one mentions

the little fear cries. Aloud or silent,

who knows for sure.

Some women hear both at once

Not me! And the twin call let me!

The risk of stage fright’s greater

the bigger the production.

Forget what it is you mean to do.

Make dinner. Pay bills. Wash the car.

The moment will come upon you.

He closes your eyes with kisses,

Aims his love and you pray he misses,

then you unpray for days.

– “The Way To” by Heid Erdrich, as it appears in her book of poems The Mother’s Tongue, published by Salt Publishing. Reprinted here with permission from the author.