- The Evolution of a PoemAn Interview with Tiffany Midge
The following interview is taken from a series of e-mails I exchanged with award-winning poet Tiff any Midge (Standing Rock Sioux) in early 2018. I was intrigued by diff erent versions of her poem "The Woman Who Married a Bear," and I wanted to learn more about her process of revising it. I thought other readers and poets would be interested as well, especially since she has two books coming out in 2019: a collection of cultural criticism and humor titled Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese's (University of Nebraska Press) and a chapbook of poetry titled Horns (Scabland Books). I first encountered "The Woman Who Married a Bear" in her 2005 book from Gazoobi Tales; a revised version appeared in her 2016 award-winning poetry collection from the University of New Mexico Press. I have included both versions here, with permission from and gratitude to the publishers.
From Guiding the Stars to Their Campfires, Driving the Salmon to Their Beds (Gazoobi Tales, 2005)
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 takes a human wife, and among the Plains Indians whose legends often feature a buffalo or bear.—Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz, American Indian Myths and Legends [End Page 208]
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 creamin an iron skillet over low flames.She gutted pale fish and split the fleshdangling 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 fragilecords coiled along her spine like a harp.Whose dreaming hands arranged the blackveil of her hair until it shimmered with music,each strand a tiny river of soundcombed between his claws.
She scraped the rings of green melons,crushed pine needles and thick leaves,simmered the reeds and stems in summer grass—then braided a rug of feathers and strawfor 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.
From The Woman Who Married a Bear (Mary Burritt Christiansen Poetry Series, University of New Mexico Press, 2016) [End Page 209]
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 takes a human wife, and among the Plains Indians whose legends often feature a buffalo or bear.—Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz, American Indian Myths and Legends
She had a lover whose eyes were black hooks that pierced her heart into the darkling of his body—then winched it out, a spent, stained prize, a captive of his scars, his mother's blood.
She wintered on berries and thin plums, relied on the mercy of trees, their crafts—knitted traps to snare wood rats and grouse, while her husband groaned and slept.
She had a lover whose fingers spun viscid webs, who wove his nerves around her throat—a necklace of swarm and teem, sorrow's breath, moth wings fluttering against her skin.
Evenings, his voice edged the cords coiled along her spine like a harp. His dreaming handsarranged the dark veil of her...