Three Poems by Erika Wurth

GOD in the West

In Tucson, in the bar where a man who calls himself GOD will brand his name on you for five dollars, from the entrance you can see the steam rising, and the newly religious yelling for GOD in the West, the poets at the bar waiting for something to transform them, their hands on their glasses, on the wood, in their own Indian hair, religion in the girl running back and forth across the room yelling for GOD and for Pabst blue ribbon, in the shot that one of the poets bought the other, in the woman watching the girl getting branded for life, telling her to brand her own name and the girl rolling her eyes and saying I like GOD and I like Pabst blue ribbon, in the clouds moving quietly in the dark outside above the heads of the unknowing poets, in the iron that presses to the flesh, the flash of enlightenment after as the camera’s pulled up, and in the girl who simply sits down from where she had been standing above and like a tiny new god, admires her newest wound, consecrating all of the others, and then looks up, asking for her free shot and takes it, her blue eyes glowing with the kind of knowledge only the very strange and very beautiful ever fully understand.


That Small Wooden Box

Why does it always end up in grass, dirt, stars, where we all go
for release. We will come again and again and again. Your eyes, I hold you,
I fuck you, fuck you, fuck me come in (me) boy and shut the rusty screen door tight,
don’t let the cat out, let me hold your mixed blood head in my mixed blood arms. Look how dirty we’ve gotten, we’re covered in grass, blood, mine, hers, yours.

Perhaps this too will fade, the memories a closet full of old glass, sky clouding over
for days, the way my heart wavers with the wind, something strange and musical
in the air. But no one better open the door, or we will all get cut, bleed into the night,
the grass, the dirt.

Tell me, where is that small wooden box that someone buried long ago,
somewhere in the grass, in the night, lost lost they buried it
and died with the secret; we are the thing it hunts and we will never be found.


How Big and Cruel the Ocean

It’s like the man said; it’s a doorway that opens straight into the ocean, a nothingness, a knife, the blade that you took to yourself to cut the parts of your grief away, the big black curls sitting at your feet. I imagine you staring into the mirror of his eyes, the black of them behind those bars all of those miles and miles across the desert away, the wind blowing like the sound of a train at midnight. Lonely and tidal. Fall, fall in, sink into this ocean, think of his prayers of forgiveness and hate me for my big, red blood instead. Close, close your eyes boy let the cold seep in, the knife in your heart twisting and twisting in the kind of pain that nothing can spirit away. Your lips against my hair in the dark, how you said you wanted to bundle it up in your hands… how small your voice was, how large his, how strong my hands, how big and cruel this ocean.

Bio Note: Erika T. Wurth’s published works include a novel, Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend and a collection of poetry, Indian Trains. Her collection of short stories, Buckskin Cocaine and her collection of poetry, A Thousand Horses Out to Sea are both forthcoming. A writer of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, she teaches creative writing at Western Illinois University and was a guest writer at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including Boulevard, Drunken Boat, The Writer’s Chronicle and South Dakota Review. She is represented by Peter Steinberg. She is Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee and was raised outside of Denver.


Thanks to poet Tony Hoagland for sending this wonderful manifesto.


The recipe for a work of art – its ingredients – how to make it – the formula

1. There must be a clear preoccupation with death – intimations of mortality.  Tragic art, romantic art, etc., deals with the knowledge of death.
2. Sensuality.  Our basis of being concrete about the world.  It is a lustful relationship to things that exist.
3. Tension.  Either conflict or curbed desire.

4. Irony.  This is a modern ingredient – the self-effacement and examination by which a man for an instant can go on to something else.
5. Wit and play… for the human element.
6. The ephemeral and chance… for the human element.
7. Hope.  10% to make the tragic concept more endurable.

I measure these ingredients very carefully when I paint a picture.  It is always the form that follows these elements and the picture results from the proportions of these elements.

-Mark Rothko

The Magic of Jewelry

Sheila Ortego kindly asked me to muse of jewelry for her blog that emphasizes beads and the handmade.

I was once sitting around with a group of friends, feeling alienated as they talked about femininity and beauty. I wasn’t raised with much emphasis on this, and although I’m proud to be from a line of intellectual women, I sometimes feel insecure. I told my friend Ana this, and she said, “But Mir, you express your beauty in your poetry and in your jewelry.”

To read the piece:

I still feel the protective influence of my friend Elizabeth Lamb, the haiku poet, in some of her jewelry.

Amulets are never amiss!

Bad Neighborhood

I’ve been in a bad neighborhood on the internet. Let’s just say that googling “habeas corpus” gets you there quickly. I shouldn’t have lingered to read that chat board. But I did. And I must report.

Among my fellow citizens there are those who believe the NEA funds Broadway musicals. To a New Yorker, this is like hearing that the earth is flat. But it appears that “art” is suspect, and “political art” should not be funded by the government—so we should cut all government funding to “Hamilton.” I had to pinch myself. (It is estimated that Broadway theaters pay a total of $500 million in taxes annually).

There is also the critique of Alexander Hamilton himself—that he was an elite New Yorker. (He was). But thank goodness for Andrew Jackson, who took him on. I enjoyed this ahistorical superhero battle existing on…what planet? Did Jackson perhaps teleport back in time?

It’s easy to mock out bad grammar and spelling—and I’m a terrible speller myself. But I have to say one remark really cracked me up. Someone posted to the satiric effect: if you were raised too poor to afford apostrophes, I’m glad to lend you some for free. I don’t know if this is original, but I found it very funny.

I’ve been in some nervous making situations in my life. A convenience store in survivalist country where everyone was heavily armed and in fatigues. A cafe with a motorcycle gang parked outside—with a hungry toddler and no place else to eat. The edge of the East Village at dusk 1969—a place I had been forbidden but was in anyway, in a mini skirt and of course no cell phone.

I know to get in and out fast. And try and not do it again.

An Innovative Project To Write About Grief: Postcards Tell The Stories

Rachael Chadwick explains-“There’s nothing we can do”, they said. In January 2012, my mother (aged 59) was diagnosed with a very aggressive case of bowel cancer. Just sixteen days after diagnosis, she died in our family home.I spent that year trying my best to cope with what was happening and put on a brave face to the world, as my own world, behind closed doors, felt like it was crashing in around me.
There is very little that can prepare you for the loss of a loved one. You strap yourself in for the rollercoaster of emotions, attempt to shelter from the uncontrollable storms of grief and you try to get on with life as best you can. But life is not as you know it anymore.

The milestones – the ‘firsts’, Mother’s day, Birthdays – felt so brutal. It was almost the build up of anxiety leading up to those days that hit me the hardest. Death, sadly, felt like a taboo subject and I was desperate to shout out to the world about the wonderful woman I had lost. And so, to celebrate what would have been Mum’s 60th birthday later that year, I decided to create a tribute.

To read more and see the project–
60 Postcards: Using Storytelling to Tackle Grief