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Immaculate Conception : for Eileen Cowin

December 24, 1989|LOUISE ERDRICH | From "Baptism of Desire: Poems" (Harper & Row: $16.95; 80 pp. ; 0-06-016213-9). Erdrich is the author of three novels, of which the first, "Love Medicine," won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction. This, her second collection of poems, contains a long prose sequence featuring the Chippewa trickster, Potchikoo, and resuming a narrative begun in her first collection, "Jacklight." Erdrich is of Chippewa descent. 1989, Louise Erdrich. Reprinted by permission of Harper & Row

It was not love. No flowers or ripened figs

were in his hands, no words

in his mouth. There was no body

to obstruct us from each other.

The sun was white-hot, a brand

that sank through me and left no mark.

Yet I knew. And Joseph,

poor Joseph with his thick palms,

wearing antlers.

What could he do but wash

the scorched smell from the linen?

What could he do but fit the blades

of wood together into a cradle?

The rain fell and the leaves closed

over us like a shield.

A small light formed and the taper

that held it aloft

was dipped many times into my blood.

Now the being rests in the bowl of my hips.

There is no turning. Already

the nails are forged.

The tree thickens.

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