poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Kimberly Blaeser was born in Billings, Montana, in 1955. Of Anishinaabe ancestry, she grew up on the White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota and is an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. She received a BA from the College of Saint Benedict in 1977 and went on to study at the University of Notre Dame, where she received an MA in 1982 and a PhD in 1990.

Blaeser is the author of Apprenticed to Justice (Salt Publishing, 2007), Absentee Indians and Other Poems (Michigan State University Press, 2002), and Trailing You (Greenfield Review Press, 1994), winner of the Diane Decorah First Book Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas.

Allison Hedge Coke writes, “Kim Blaeser is a knock-out poet, bringing boxers to steal hearts, floured fists to punch dough, and a serious sense of familial White Earth beauty, hunger, and humility that’s impossible to put down.”

In 2015, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters named Blaeser the poet laureate of Wisconsin. Also the recipient of a Wisconsin Arts Board Artist Fellowship, Blaeser is active in several literary and social justice organizations, including the Milwaukee Native American Literary Cooperative. She currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.


Apprenticed to Justice (Salt Publishing, 2007)
Absentee Indians and Other Poems (Michigan State University Press, 2002)
Trailing You (Greenfield Review Press, 1994)

Gerald Vizenor: Writing in the Oral Tradition (University of Oklahoma Press, 2012)

Rituals, Yours—and Mine

living by your words
as if I haven’t enough of my own
to make them stretch
that long distance
from home to here
from then to now.

and all the new words
i’ve ever read learned
or shelved so neatly
can’t explain myself to me
like yours always do.

sometimes that one gesture
of your chin and lips
my memory of
that sideways movement of your eyes
are the only words
from that language
i can manage
put things in their place

walked in on you today
closed the screened door quietly
so you wouldn’t notice
just yet
stood watched you
mumbling shuffling about the kitchen
your long yellow gray braid
hanging heavy down your back 

wanted to see you turn
just that way
hear that familiar exclamation
you snapping the dishtowel
landing it just short of me
shame on me for surprising you

you walk toward me laughing
don’t change anything i chant silently
wiping your hands on your faded print apron
you lay them gently still damp cool
one on each side of my face
for that long long second

When’d you come? Sit down, I’m making breakfast.
i watch the wrinkled loose flesh jiggle on your arms
as you reach to wind and pin your braid
hurry to find your teeth behind the water pail
pull up your peanut butter stockings
pull down your flowered house dress
and wet your fingers
to smooth the hair back behind your ears

smoothing away time with the fluid line
of your memory
i am in place at your table
in the morning damp of your still dark kitchen
i wait for you to come

stepping through the curtained doorway
you enter intent on this day
restart the fire
fill place the kettle
pull open the kitchen door
inviting daylight to come
welcoming it into your house—
bringing it into mine.

From Trailing You (Greenfield Review Press, 1994). Copyright © 1994 by Kimberly Blaeser. Used with the permission of the author.

From Trailing You (Greenfield Review Press, 1994). Copyright © 1994 by Kimberly Blaeser. Used with the permission of the author.

Kimberly Blaeser

Kimberly Blaeser

Kimberly Blaeser is the author of Apprenticed to Justice (Salt Publishing, 2007). She teaches at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.

by this poet


Because the smallness of our being
is our only greatness.

Because one night I was in a room
listening until only one heart beat.

Because in these last years I’ve
worn and worn and nearly worn out
my black funeral shoes.

Because the gesture of after words
means the same


The weight of ashes
from burned-out camps.
Lodges smoulder in fire,
animal hides wither
their mythic images shrinking
pulling in on themselves,
all incinerated
of breath bone and basket 
rest heavy
sink deep
like wintering frogs.
And no dustbowl




A soap-opera rising and sinking of bodies,

melt of glaciers, flamboyant sculpture of waves—

west wind at thirty knots

this serial archipelago the drama of centuries.

Forgotten Steamboat Island