“Now I wear the woods”


Thinking of the woods, I think of so many things. From Sleater-Kinney‘s album, The Woods, which carried me aimlessly on foot through all of Reykjavik in the sad spring of 2008, to the present surroundings, wooden entanglements in wooded environs I’ve been rooted in and uprooted from, the things that I’ve shaken off like so many pine needles but which still stick like sap…

It took me a really long time to read Louise Erdrich. Apart from the handful of poems I’d read just after high school, I’d had an aversion to Erdrich, seemingly only because a girl with whom I’d almost silently feuded/had a misplaced dislike toward, was a huge fan. The girl cited Erdrich constantly as a source of inspiration (the girl referred to herself with replete and self-satisfied airy tones as a “writer”). As I read somewhere the other day, you either are or are not a writer. Talking about it doesn’t do anything. (I, too, am a writer, but it’s a bit like Catherine Keener‘s abrasive character in the now-20-year-old (!) Your Friends and Neighbors, when asked if she had written anything another character would have read, “Not unless you read the instructions on your tampon box.”)

I got over the Erdrich thing, and my misdirected dislike for the girl, but still never got around to reading Erdrich’s wealth of fiction. Now I’ve read most of her body of work (recommend some, like The Master Butchers Singing Club, and not so much others)…

The Woods
Louise Erdrich

At one time your touches were clothing enough.
Within these trees now I am different.
Now I wear the woods.

I lower a headdress of bent sticks and secure it.
I strap to myself a breastplate of clawed, roped bark.
I fit the broad leaves of sugar maples
to my hands, like mittens of blood.

Now when I say ‘come,’
and you enter the woods,
hunting some creature like the woman I was,
I surround you.

Light bleeds from the clearing. Roots rise.
Fluted molds burn blue in the falling light,
and you also know
the loneliness that you taught me with your body.

When you lie down in the grave of a slashed tree,
I cover you, as I always did.
Only this time you do not leave.


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