(An early poem by Louise Erdrich. . . By the time this one came out in the Carolina Quarterly in '79, she was editing a small newspaper for the Boston Indian Council and had published poetry in three other journals.)
All autumn, black plums
split and dropped from the boughs.
We gathered the sweetness
and sealed it in jars,
loading the cupboards and cellar.
At night we went down in the bedclothes, laden
beyond wht the arms were meant to carry aone,
and we dreamed that with our shirts off
in the quarry, the cool water
came under to bear us away.
That season our sleep grew around us
as if from the walls
a dense snow fell and formed
other bodies, and the voices
of men who melted into us, burning, and children
who drifted, lost, looking for home.
After the long rains, the land gone bare,
we walked out again to the wind breaks. White crown
of the plum trees
had filled the purple throats of the iris.
We lay in the grass,
the bees drinking in tongues,
and already the brittle hum of the locust
in the red wheat, growing.
Again, the year come full circle, the men
came knocking in the fields,
headfuls of blackened seeds,
and the husking, scorched mountains of sunflowers.
We went closed, still golden, among the harvesters.
Shifting the load from arm to arm,
they drove us into town.
We shook out our dresses and hair, oh then
there was abundance come down
in the face of the coming year.
We held ourselves into
the wind, our bodies
broke open, and the snow began falling.
It fell until the world was filled up, and filled again,
until it rose past all the limits we could have known.