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The Where in My Belly

By Kimberly Blaeser

Scientists say my brain and heart
are 73 percent water—
they underestimate me.

A small island—minis, I emerged
among Minnesota’s northern lakes,
the where of maanomin—wild rice in my belly.

I am from boats and canoes and kayaks,
from tribal ghosts who rise at dawn
dance like wisps of fog on water.

My where is White Earth Nation
and white pine forests,
knees summer stained with blueberries,
pink lady slippers open and wild as my feet.

I grew up where math was Canasta,
where we recited times tables
while ice fishing at twenty below,
spent nights whistling to Northern Lights.

I am from old: medicines barks and teas;
from early—the air damp with cedar
the crack of amik, beaver tails on water.

Their echo now a warning to where—
to where fish become a percentage of mercury,
become a poison statistic;
to where copper mines back against
a million blue acres of sacred.

I am from nibi and ogichidaakweg
women warriors and water protectors, from seed
gatherers and song makers.

The wet where pulse in my belly whispers and repeats
like the endless chant of waves on ledgerock
waves on ledgerock on ledgerock on waves
                                                             on water. . .nibi



Listen as Kimberly Blaeser reads "The Where in My Belly".

Added: Friday, March 26, 2021  /  Used with permission. An earlier version of this poem was published by the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University in the online project “Vote the Earth" (
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