Autumn Bernhardt

Ikto’mi and the Duck

Wood Duck by Joseph Hautman

I walk out of the dark of work
with red eyes
like Iktómi’s wood ducks.

I have been researching their questions,
dancing in the firelight
looking for a song
that I lost but
couldn’t bear to listen to anymore.

She sees my wood duck eyes
and asks me if I’m stoned
as if that is the only thing
she knows about me.

So with burnt wings I spin
around someone else’s flame,
fancy dance
more like Iktómi’s ducks
than the painted ladies
that found their home in the asters.

But someday, I will fly with burnt wings
changing from smoke blind duck
to phoenix,
filling my life with my own bundle of songs
and my feathers with each breeze of July.


About the writer:
Autumn Bernhardt teaches indigenous culture and justice courses at Colorado State University. Autumn’s poetry, photography, and short stories have appeared in 4 anthologies so far, including Grazing the Fire, Bawaajigan, Beyond Queer Words, and Blood, Water, Wind, & Stone. The Tulane Journal of Law & Sexuality, Prism International, Yellow Medicine Review, The Moon Magazine, Red Rising Magazine, as well as a host of other notable publications have featured her work. Autumn was recently awarded the distinction of Fort Collins, Colorado Poet Laureate.

Image: Wood Duck by Joseph Hautman. No medium specified. No size specified. 2011. Public domain. This was the winning image in the 2011 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest. This stamp went on sale in June, 2012. The 2011 contest was the fourth win for Minnesota Artist Joseph Hautman. He also won in 1991, 2001 and 2007.