‘Original Fire,’
A Poem by Louise Erdrich

From the Latest Issue of Freeman's

May 10, 2019  By Louise Erdrich

for Aza

I watch my daughter build a fire
not from a match or cigarette lighter
but from the original elements,
two sticks, a length of sinew, friction.
She has formed a cup of juniper shreds,
and when she spins out a black ember
and breathes it to life
she transfers the radiant pebble
into the nest and breathes again.
Sparks fly from her lips.
A dove of flame bursts from between her hands.
She speaks to the spark
until the words catch and burn
and I think, here is my daughter
who is innocent of all things
yet from whose lips
the terrible and merciful
flame flies out, the truth, the fire.


The preceding is from the Freeman’s channel at Literary Hub, which features excerpts from the print editions of Freeman’s, along with supplementary writing from contributors past, present and future. The latest issue of Freeman’s, a special edition gathered around the theme of power, featuring work by Margaret Atwood, Elif Shafak, Eula Biss, Aleksandar Hemon and Aminatta Forna, among others, is available now.

Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich is the author of sixteen novels as well as volumes of poetry, childrens books, short stories, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel, LaRose, won the National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction. The Round House won the National Book Award for Fiction. The Plague of Doves won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Erdrich has received the Library of Congress Prize in American Fiction, the prestigious PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. She lives in Minnesota with her daughters and is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore. The Night Watchman will be published in March 2020.

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