James Welch


James Welch (1940-2003) was a Native American poet and novelist of the Native American Renaissance. He grew up in the Blackfeet and A’aninin cultures in Browning, Montana. Welch’s debut novel Winter in the Blood was adapted into a film and he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas in 1997. Source

Dreaming Winter

Don’t ask me if these knives are real.

I could paint a king or show a map

the way home– to go like this:

wobble me back to a tiger’s dream,

a dream of knives and bones too common

to be exposed. My secrets are ignored.


Here comes the man I love. His coat is wet

and his face is falling like the leaves,

tobacco stains on his Polish teeth.

I could tell jokes about him– one up

for the man who brags a lot, laughs

a little and hangs his name on the nearest knob.

Don’t ask me. I know it’s only hunger.


I saw that king– the one my sister knew

but was allergic to. Her face ran until

his eyes became the white of several winters.

Snow on his bed told him that the silky tears

were uniformly mad and all the money in the world

couldn’t bring him to a tragic end. Shame

or fortune tricked me to his table, shattered

my one standing lie with new kinds of fame.


Have mercy on me, Lord. Really. If I should die

before I wake, take me to that place I just heard

banging in my ears. Don’t ask me. Let me join

the other kings, the ones who trade their knives

for a sack of keys. Let me open any door,

stand winter still and drown in a common dream.





Literary Movements:

Native American Renaissance

Anthology Years:



LGBTQ+ Experience

Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


a line break interrupting the middle of a phrase which continues on to the next line


an instruction or a command


the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing