THE WOMAN WHO MARRIED A BEAR
Alliances between animals and humans are common in many tribes’ myths.
They appear to be most popular in the North Pacific Coast tribes, where a
whale take a human wife, and among the Plains Indians whose
legends often feature a buffalo or bear.”
--- Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz from
American Indian Myths and Legends
She had a lover whose eyes were black hooks,
luring her heart into the marsh of his body—
then dragging her out like a stained prize,
a captive of his scars, his mother’s blood.
She wintered on berries and thin plums,
drank a broth of maples and spruce,
strung nets to snare the mice and snakes,
while her lover groaned and slept.
She had a lover whose fingers spun sticky webs,
who wove her nerves around his throat like pearls—
a necklace of fat spiders and grubs,
moth wings fluttering against his skin.
Mornings she melted anise and cream
in a skillet over low flames.
She gutted pale fish and split the flesh
dangling from the bones like husks of fruit.
Her lover rubbed against the current of her hips,
howled in gratitude and ate.
She had a lover whose voice pulled at the fragile
cords coiled along her spine like a harp.
Whose dreaming hands arranged the black
veil of her hair until it shimmered with music,
each strand a tiny river of sound
combed between his claws.
She scraped the rinds of green melon,
crushed pine needles and veined leaves,
lit a fire to simmer the reeds and stems of summer grass—
then braided a rug of feathers and straw
for her lover to rest upon while he smoked.
She had a lover who spooned her body at night,
who drank from the full cups of her breasts,
who hungered for her shoulders, her mouth, her belly—
who fed on the pounding in her chest.
Previously published in Poetry Northwest
Tiffany Midge is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. She is the recipient of the Diane Decorah Poetry Award from The Native Writers Circle of the Americas for Outlaws, Renegades and Saints: Diary of a Mixed-Up Halfbreed published by Greenfield Review Press. Animal Legend and Lore: Buffalo is her first children’s book, published by Scholastic. Publication credits include, Growing up Ethnic in America, Viking/Penguin; Identity Lessons: Contemporary Writing About Learning to be American, Viking/Penguin; Reinventing the Enemy’s Language,” W.W. Norton; Blue Dawn, Red Earth; New Native American Storytellers, Anchor Books. More recently her stories have appeared in a middle school textbook, Multicultural Reader, Many Voices Series by Perfection Learning. Her poetry has been commissioned into a choral ensemble by composer Seppo Pohjola of Finland, and has been adapted into the dramatic work, Cedars, produced by Red Eagle Soaring Native American Theater, of which she serves on the advisory board.