The Strange People

The antelope are strange people ... they are beautiful to look at, and yet they are tricky. We do not trust them. They appear and disappear; they are like shadows on the plains. Because of their great beauty, young men sometimes follow the antelope and are lost forever. Even if those foolish ones find themselves and return, they are never again right in their heads.

—Pretty Shield,
Medicine Woman of the Crows
transcribed and edited by
Frank Linderman (1932)

All night I am the doe, breathing   
his name in a frozen field,
the small mist of the word
drifting always before me.

And again he has heard it   
and I have gone burning   
to meet him, the jacklight   
fills my eyes with blue fire;   
the heart in my chest
explodes like a hot stone.

Then slung like a sack
in the back of his pickup,
I wipe the death scum
from my mouth, sit up laughing   
and shriek in my speeding grave.

Safely shut in the garage,
when he sharpens his knife
and thinks to have me, like that,
I come toward him,
a lean gray witch
through the bullets that enter and dissolve.

I sit in his house
drinking coffee till dawn
and leave as frost reddens on hubcaps,
crawling back into my shadowy body.
All day, asleep in clean grasses,
I dream of the one who could really wound me.   
Not with weapons, not with a kiss, not with a look.   
Not even with his goodness.

If a man was never to lie to me. Never lie me.
I swear I would never leave him.

Louise Erdrich, “The Strange People” from Original Fire: Selected and New Poems. Copyright © 2003 by Louise Erdrich. Reprinted with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Source: Original Fire: Selected and New Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 2003)
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