Original Fire is a collection of poems by Louise Erdrich. Louise Erdrich is not only a widely admired and accomplished poet but a novelist as well. I greatly enjoyed her book, The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse, when I read it a while back (and mentioned in my July 16, 2008 post!). Her poetry and stories interweave characters, plots, symbols, and landscapes from her native heritage as a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, which includes distinct Catholic influences. The result is language that incarnates lyrical beauty and births ideas as strong as stone.
Four lines struck me from the final poem in the collection:
“When we break ourselves open–
that is when the healing starts.
When you break yourselves open–
that is how the healing continues.”
from “Asiniig” (Part III “The Sweat Lodge”)
Another poem, “Morning Fire,” called my name, too. It particularly struck me since I am currently creating a childbirth education class for expectant parents in my role as a childbirth doula and educator. It made me remember times when I have watched a little baby waking up to sunlight streaming through a window to her crib.
My baby, eating rainbows of sun
focused through a prism in my bedroom window,
puts her mouth to the transparent fire,
and licks up the candy colors
that tremble on the white sheets.
The stain spreads across her face.
She has only one tooth,
a grain of white rice
that keeps flashing.
She keeps eating as the day begins
until the rainbows are all inside of her.
And then she smiles
and such a light pours over me.
It is not that white blaze
that strikes the earth all around you
when you learn of the death
of one you love. Or the next light
that strips away your skin.
Not the radiance
that unwraps you to the bone.
Soft and original fire,
allow me to curl arund you in the white sheets
and keep feeding you the light
from my own body
until we drift into the deep
of our being.
Air, fire, golden earth.
Original Fire (2003)
To learn more about Louise Erdrich, check out her author’s homepage housed at the website for her independent bookstore in Minneapolis, MN: Birchbark Books. Enjoy!