“The lake was originally called Onamaniig which means ‘ochre’ because it was remembered by Anishinaabeg as a place that the people of the Red Ochre culture lived.”
                  —Margaret Noodin

The red eye 
of a loon
for vision,
depths of water

who can say 
what will pass 
as, protection

edges of place
are only

filters the blues
and greens
as they have 
always done

dives for minutes
crayfish, light re-
fracted, what could be

just enough 
to catch a meal
or your eye,
indelible flash, 

a crimson ribbon
ablaze, crossing 
the lake
where you stand 

just then
with the grasses
from shore.


Copyright © 2021 by Molly McGlennen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 3, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Vermilion is one of the largest lakes in northern Minnesota. Official state documents boast its capacity for settler recreation, the ‘lake of the sunset glow.’ The lake was already named, however, before French fur traders ever translated what they deemed discovery. As Ojibwe language scholar, poet, and friend Margaret Noodin told me, the Anishinaabeg knew and named the place in a storied and cartographically rich way. For Native peoples, the land is carefully remembered and related to. Those are the stories that I am interested in telling through poetry, the ones that orient our relationship to places on Indigenous terms.”
Molly McGlennen