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Elemental Conception

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She wants to grow from the rich-rotten trunk
of the stamp left to sprout in the chain-linked
alley yard. She wants to be born there.

Or out of dry wind rushing debris around
and cleaning the world like a slate that
hasn’t yet written how her birth will be

if she be born slick-wet and shimmering
in rings like gas spill, born from long trickles
run off curb-piled snow that flows in curtains

any northern winter when it is possible to burn
in water, when flakes against skin so cold brand
their pattern on the new-thought, engraved self.

Heid E. Erdrich, “Elemental Conception” from The Mother’s Tongue. Copyright © 2005 by Heid E. Erdich. Reprinted by permission of Salt Publishing.
Source: The Mother’s Tongue (Salt Publishing, 2005)
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Elemental Conception

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  • Poet Heid E. Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, was born in Breckenridge, Minnesota, and raised in nearby Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her Ojibwe mother and German American father taught at the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school. She earned a BA from Dartmouth College and two MAs from the Johns Hopkins University, in poetry and fiction.
    Erdrich is the author of several poetry collections, including Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems (2012), National Monuments (2008), winner of the Minnesota Book Award; The Mother’s Tongue (2005), part of Salt Publishing’s award-winning Earthworks Series of Native American and Latin American literature; and Fishing for Myth (1997). In a 2012 review of Cell Traffic, critic Elizabeth Hoover wrote of Erdrich: "It's too pedestrian to say she "writes about" biology, history, spirituality, motherhood and her heritage as Ojibwe Indian and German American. She doesn't write about these subjects as much as she uses them to create a...

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