Snake River 1986

by Heidi Parton

The Aboriginal Australians say
that a child's soul is of the land,
that the child is a spirit of the land
entering the mother's womb
at the first quickening.

My mother felt me move in(to) her womb
a quarter of a mile from the Snake River—
does that make me a spirit of the Snake?
A drop of water, maybe, a salmon from its belly?
Doesn't that make me a part of Idaho?

And what does it mean to be Idaho
outside of Idaho, away from the Snake?
To be a wandering spirit, always foreign—
to be Idaho in Germany, Italy, France,
Georgia, Massachusetts, South Carolina.

And then in Idaho to be foreign, too,
with skin and hair smelling of strange sunlight,
and yet to remember belonging to it—
its bright, clear air; its dust, sagebrush;
the tiny sun-bleached skull

I found out in the steppe
with my grandpa and uncles;
the pasture between my grandparents'
houses, breast-high with grass, littered with
busted-up cars and crabapple trees.

The soul needs a home
greater than a human body.
Having left that place, it's no wonder
I feel a part of me is missing,
or that I myself am a missing piece.

Musical composition by Victor David Sandiego

Heidi Parton's poetry has been featured in Sugar Mule, Obsession Lit Mag, The Whirlwind Review, and American Athenaeum Magazine. She graduated from Lesley University’s MFA in Creative Writing program in 2011 and also holds a bachelor's degree in English literature. Heidi currently lives in Columbia, South Carolina with her husband, infant son, two cats and dachshund mix.


This is one of the most beautiful poems I've read on displacement - how all spirits feel displaced within the body. Thank you for this.
Lois, Sep 06, 2014