Audre Lord, Meridel Le Sueur and Adrienne Rich at a writers’ workshop in Austin, Texas
(source: Wikimedia commons)
Born into a family of social and political activists, Meridel Le Sueur is best known for her books North Star Country – a history of Minnesota – and the novel The Girl. An actress and a journalist, Le Sueur was blacklisted in the 1950s as a communist, but by the 1970s she was hailed as a proto-feminist for her writings in support of women’s rights. In her later years, Le Sueur lived in St. Paul, and wrote popular children’s biographies. She was heavily influenced by poems and stories that she heard from Native American women, which you can see in this poem, “Dead in Bloody Snow:”
Dead in Bloody Snow
I am an Indian woman
Witness to my earth
Witness for my people.
I am the nocturnal door,
The hidden cave of your sorrow
Like you hidden deep in furrow
of the charnal mound,
I heard the craven passing of the
And saw them shoot at Wounded Knee
upon the sleeping village,
And ran with the guns at my back
Until we froze in our blood on the snow.
I speak from old portages
Where they pursued and shot into the river crossing
All the grandmothers of Black Hawk.
I speak from the smoke of grief,
from the broken stone
And cry with the women crying from the marsh
Trail and tears of drouthed women,
O bitter barren!
O bitter barren!
I run, homeless
in the gun sight,
beside the white square houses
My people starve
In the time of the bitter moon.
I hear my ghostly people crying
A hey A hey A hey.
Rising from our dusty dead the sweet grass,
The skull marking the place of loss and flight
I sing holding my severed head,
to my dismembered child,
A people’s dream that died in blood snow.
– “Dead in Bloody Snow,” by Meridel Le Sueur, as it appears in the anthology The Wind Blows, The Ice Breaks: Poems of Loss and Renewal by Minnesota Poets, published by Nodin Press. Reprinted here with permission from the editor.