Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Return


The Return

Louise Erdrich

The scarred trees twisted and the locked garage
held all my secrets, and my father's hunting bows
unstrung, my mother's empty canning bottles.
Once a mouse slipped in and tipped the glass
straight up so that it starved dead
at the bottom of a clear well.
I found a husk, a smear of grease, and a calm
odor of the ancient.

All winter, I dug tunnels in the snow
that mounted, mounted to the eaves and blew
like dry foam off the ridgepole. In my den
the air was warm and supernatural.
The quiet hung around me like a bell
and I could hear my own heart jump
like a frog in my chest. The crushing weight

of church was up above. I hid and waited
while God crossed over like the Hindenburg
and roared, like my grandfather to his men
and traced the ground with his binocular vision
but never saw me, as I was blue
as the shadow in a chunk of snow,
as a glass horse in a glass stall.

Down here my breath iced the walls.
The snow fell deeper than I could crawl.
I was sealed back into the zero
and then at last the world went dark.
My body hummed itself to sleep
and her heart was my heart,
filling the close air,
slowing in the empty jar.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 63, No. 3 (Fall 1989), pp. 12-13


Author Photo of Louise Erdrich

Paul Emmel

Louise Erdrich grew up in North Dakota and is of German-American and Ojibwe descent. She is the author of fourteen novels as well as volumes of poetry, children’s books, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel The Round House won the National Book Award, and Love Medicine won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Plague of Doves won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Erdrich lives in Minnesota with her daughters and is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore.