Ozaagi’aan One Open to an Other

Gizaagi’in apii zaagi’idizoyan
I love you when you love yourself

gaye gaawiin zaagi’idizosiiyan
and when you do not

apii zaagijiba’iweyang
when we escape together

gaye zaagijinizhikawangwaa
and when we chase together

wiindigoog wiindamoonangwaa
the demons who tell us

gaawiin zaagiginzinog ozaagiing
nothing sprouts at the inlet

aanawi gikendamang jiigi-zaaga’igan
when we know at the edge of the lake

gii-zaagida’aawangweyang ingoding
where ashes were poured

zaagaakominagaanzh zaagaagoneg
the bearberry stands in the snow

zaagidikwanaaging ezhi-nisidotamang
branches reaching and tracing

zaagijiwebinamang gaye ishkonamang
what we have tossed and what we have saved

as we examine

gizaagi’in, gizaagi miidash ozaagi’aan.

Gidiskinaadaa Mitigwaakiing/Woodland Liberty

Apii dibikong gaashkendamyaan miinawaa goshkoziyaan
When in the night I am weary and awake wondering
endigwenh waa ezhichigewag bagoji Anishinaabensag odenang,
what the wild young Anishinaabeg of the cities will do,
mitigwaakiing izhaayaan miinawaa anweshinyaan.
into the woods I go and rest.
Nimawadishaag zhingwaakwag miinawaa okikaandagoog
I visit with the white pines and the jack pines.
Nibizindaawaag zhashagiwag miinawaa ajiijaakwag.
I listen to the herons and the cranes.
Nimaatookinaag zaagaa’igan ogaawag miinawaa apakweshkwayag.
I share the lake waters with the walleye and the cattails.
Niwaabaandaanan wesiinhyag-miikanan miinawaa nakwejinaanig
I marvel at the complexity of wild paths and webs woven.
Miidash apii bidaaban niswi giosewag miinawaa
Then when the dawn hides the three hunters
niizhwaaswi nimisenhyag dibiki-giizhigong gaazhad
and seven sisters of the night sky
baabimoseyaan nikeye naawakweg zoongide’eyaan.
I walk bravely toward the noonday.

This poem was written in response to "The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry.

Cream City/Doodooshabo’enaande Oodena

They gathered to trade
where the stones were white
between midday and midnight
between the good earth and the great sea.

Foxes, feathers and fireflies to the north
fins, skunks and onions to the south
different echoes whispered
different memories made.

Workers and wanderers stealing days
forging dreams big as melting stars
sometimes fantastic
sometimes familiar.


Translated into English from Anishinaabemowin by the poet.


Doodooshabo’enaande Oodena

Gii maawanjidiwag ji-odaawewaad
endazhi waabshkaabikong
abitoo-ay’iing naakwek miinwaa aapta dibikad
abitoo-ay’iing minoakiing miinwaa chigaming.

Waagoshag, waawaateseg, miigwanag giwedinong aayaawaad
ginoozheyag, chigagoog, zhigangwishan zhawanong aayaawaad
babikaan bedowe dibaaswewewaad
babikaan miikwendamowaad.

Anokiijig, paandajig gizhigoon gimoodaanaawaan
ningaabikizaanaawaan bawaajigewinan ningaabii’anong
naningodinong maamakatch
naningodinong endaayang.

Babejianjisemigad/Gradual Transformation

Chigaming gii jiisibidoon mikwambikwadinaa
The great sea was pinched by the glaciers

neyaashiiwan, neyaakobiiwanan, neyaakwaa
land reaching, water pointing, trees leaning

biindig zaaga’iganing, agwajiing akiing
inside the lake, outside the land.

Omaa zhawenjigejig zhaweniminangwa
It is here we are loved

epiichi agwaayaashkaa mii dash animaashkaa
by the slow swell of tides

gaye baswewe zisibimaadiziyang.
that echo the rasp of our lives.

Maampii gidanishinaabemotawigoonaanig
This place speaks to us

ginwenzh biboon, nitaawigin niibin
of long winters, summer growth

babejianjisemigad apane.
and slow constant change.

Related Poems

The Way We Love Something Small

The translucent claws of newborn mice

this pearl cast of color,

the barely perceptible

like a ghosted threshold of being:

here     not here.

The single breath we hold

on the thinnest verge of sight:

not there   there.

A curve nearly naked 

an arc of almost, 

a wisp of becoming

a wand—

tiny enough to change me.

They Don't Love You Like I Love You

My mother said this to me
long before Beyoncé lifted the lyrics
from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs,

and what my mother meant by
Don’t stray was that she knew
all about it—the way it feels to need

someone to love you, someone
not your kind, someone white,
some one some many who live

because so many of mine
have not, and further, live on top of
those of ours who don’t.

I’ll say, say, say,
I’ll say, say, say,
What is the United States if not a clot

of clouds? If not spilled milk? Or blood?
If not the place we once were
in the millions? America is Maps

Maps are ghosts: white and 
layered with people and places I see through.
My mother has always known best,

knew that I’d been begging for them,
to lay my face against their white
laps, to be held in something more

than the loud light of their projectors
of themselves they flicker—sepia
or blue—all over my body.

All this time,
I thought my mother said, Wait,
as in, Give them a little more time

to know your worth,
when really, she said, Weight,
meaning heft, preparing me

for the yoke of myself,
the beast of my country’s burdens,
which is less worse than

my country’s plow. Yes,
when my mother said,
They don’t love you like I love you,

she meant,
Natalie, that doesn’t mean
you aren’t good.



*The italicized words, with the exception of the final stanza, come from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs song "Maps."

Countdown as Slow Kisses

10. Here on my knees I look for the single animal: you left
                                                   ravaged at the edge of a meadow

9. Is everything accounted for? The fingers dipped
                                     beneath the torso—to keep this body bright

8. Every breath we are desperate to take
                             sounds as if a war lost against a country of promise

7. Discarded halos: the light you remember
                   in your head—you feed on what is crushed between the teeth

6. America declares these dreams I have every night be re-
                                                      dreamed & pressed into names

5. Upended petals of qém’es
                                 abandoned like torn butterfly wings—we’é I pray

4. I pray that nobody
                  ever hears us

3. An eye gone
           bloodshot: I tear through the crisp apple of your throat & find—

2. myself: this—a boy beside a boy. An eyelash
                            fallen at the base of a valley, our dark bones bursting in-

1. to bloom. I stare into your beloved face & enter: yes,
                 yes, this nation, under god, its black sky we lay our nightmares to

0. where I am your animal: my Lamb—now eat
            me alive.