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Poem on Disappearance

By Kimberly Blaeser


Poem on Disappearance

Beginning with our continent, draw 1491:
each mountain, compass point Indigenous;
trace trade routes, languages, seasonal migrations—
don’t become attached.
Yes, reshape by discovery,          displacement
move your pencil point quickly now as if pursued—
a cavalry of possession that erases
homelands: we shrink shrink—in time-lapse
of colonial barter. . . disappear             .

Now draw a brown face painted for ceremony,
half a face, nothing

Draw nothing around a crumbled bird body—
no wings.

Draw emptiness inside desecrated burial mounds,
a stretch of absence where fallopian tubes once curved in hope
sketch void across buffalo prairie, draw the empty
of elk, of passenger pigeons, of silver trout.

Conjure with your hand the shape of girl
blooming, curves of face, her laughing eyes;
you’ve seen them postered and amber-alerted—
missing, missing, evening newsed, and gone.

Draw a woman wrapped in a blanket
a child’s body weighted—draw stones
sinking into every river on the map.

Draw carrion blackening skies, carrion
plucking vision from round brown faces
draw missing, draw murdered.

Work carefully now
turn your hand to the new continent. 
Again picture it—

                                          nothing               .

Added: Friday, September 11, 2020  /  Used with permission. Kimberly Blaeser performs "Poem on Disappearance" on May 29, 2020 as part of Split This Rock's 2020 Virtual Poetry Reading Series.
Kimberly Blaeser
Photo by John Fisher.

Kimberly Blaeser, past Wisconsin Poet Laureate, is the author of five poetry collections including Copper Yearning, Apprenticed to Justice, and, in 2020, the bi-lingual Résister en dansant/Ikwe-niimi: Dancing Resistance. An Indigenous activist and environmentalist from White Earth Reservation, she edited Traces in Blood, Bone, and Stone: Contemporary Ojibwe Poetry. Blaeser is a Professor at University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and MFA faculty for the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Her photographs, picto-poems, and ekphrastic pieces have been included in exhibits such as “Ancient Light” and “Visualizing Sovereignty.” She lives in rural Wisconsin; and, for portions of each year, in a water-access cabin near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota. Blaeser is founder of the literary organization In-Na-Po—Indigenous Nations Poets.

Kimberly Blaeser was a Featured Poet for Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness (March 26-28, 2020) in Washington, DC which was cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Split This Rock began a virtual poetry reading series in May 2020 which included a reading by Kimberly Blaeser, Mahogany L. Browne, Marilyn Chin, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha on May 29, 2020.

Other poems by this author