Dreams Of The Past: An Explication of Louise Erdrich's Poem "Indian Boarding School: The Runaways"

Essay by karlrA+, April 2004

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1.Home's the place we head for in our sleep.

2. Boxcars stumbling north in dreams

3. don't wait for us. We catch them on the run.

4. The rails, old lacerations that we love,

5. shoot parallel across the face and break

6. just under Turtle Mountains. Riding scars

7. you can't get lost. Home is the place they cross.

8. The lame guard strikes a match and makes the dark

9. less tolerant. We watch through cracks in boards

10. as the land starts rolling, rolling till it hurts

11. to be here, cold in regulation clothes.

12. We know the sheriff's waiting at midrun

13. to take us back. His car is dumb and warm.

14. The highway doesn't rock, it only hums

15. like a wing of long insults. The worn-down welts

16. of ancient punishments lead back and forth.

17. All runaways wear dresses, long green ones,

18. the color you would think shame was. We scrub

19. the sidewalks down because it's shameful work.

20. Our brushes cut the stone in watered arcs

21. and in the soak frail outlines shiver clear

22. a moment, things us kids pressed on the dark

23. face before it hardened, pale, remembering

24. delicate old injuries, the spines of names and leaves.

Louise Erdrich's poem "Indian Boarding School: The Runaways" reads like a short story of Native American children dreaming of past experiences in their quest to return home and their failure to do so. This particular poem is made up of three short poems that could stand on their own; however, they are joined together as one. The first stanza describes the path to freedom the children must take. The second stanza shows the reader where the children are caught and their return trip...