Saturday, February 6, 2016

ni wapataenan (we see)

from february 7 until march 5, a 30' by 30' installation will open on the green space at 92nd street and 118th Ave. a bare tipi frame will be encircled by a a double spiral of bare tree trunks. upon those trunks, 40 red dresses will be hung, each representing dozens of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

i am honoured to be participating in this project, which involves the collaborative efforts of more than a dozen writers, artists and community members. this is the poem i contributed.

you can find out more here.

we see

i am a ghost
i walk the circle of ghosts

i want to take your hand
and walk with you

i want to sit and hear the stories
suspend my doubt

so much stolen
so much lost

this one was carefree
this one was determined

this one was a dancer
this one was a full of hope

this one was strong
this one was

this one was brave
and so we must all be brave

so we must all find a way
to connect presence

and ghosts
and ghosts

this is a witness
a great cloud of witnesses

who will sing the songs now?
who will speak the words?

someone is always asking about you
my answers are always thin

i do not know how to miss you

i remember my father working for the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. i remember moving north. leaving my home. entering another’s. i remember Yellowknife. Grouard. High Prairie. Meadow Lake. Dorintosh. i remember the reserves. Kapawe'no. Sucker Creek. Driftpile. Makwa Sahgaiehcan. Flying Dust. Waterhen. Green Lake. i remember the names.

i remember being at the arcade and a small gang threatening my brother. i remember racing on my bike while rocks and bicycle chains were thrown at me. i remember kissing a girl in a back room while my father preached. i remember who was at the parties and who wasn’t. i remember who was an angry drunk. i remember who was everyone’s friend. I remember not knowing. i remember learning the bad words.

was i innocent then? merely naïve? i knew nothing about the land and how we might or might not belong to it. i knew nothing about the wounds of the past and how they become chains or anchors. i knew nothing about loss. i knew nothing about ghosts and what haunts us generation after generation. i knew nothing of nations within nations.

do i know any better now? what debt do i owe my ancestors and yours? how do i walk with you in this pain, and in all our healing? how do we share the stories? what words can i say, and do words say anything? what can this moniyaw do? will you believe me if i tell you this breaks my heart? will you believe me? how does the healing start? is this small gesture enough of a beginning?

i’m learning, and have still so much to learn.

teach me how to miss you
teach me which words to speak

teach me about stories
and circles and ghosts

the ghosts have faces
they remain our witnesses

teach me how to remember the names
i’m trying to listen

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

our fathers by joyce sutphen

Our fathers, who lived all their lives on earth—
are going now. They have given us all
we need, and when we asked, they gave us more.

Their names are beautiful to us, holy
as the names of stars, as familiar
as the roads we traveled, falling asleep

on the way from one farm to another.
Their kingdoms were small; they were never
interested in more than one homestead,

and as for evil: although they could not
keep it from, us, they tried to keep us from
temptation, though we were like all children

and wanted our own power and glory,
world without end, forever and amen.

Listen Online

Saturday, December 12, 2015

poem about reading a poem

i’m trying to understand
what you do with language,
why you make those turns -
how you move from this poetic
shifting gears, this hard
speech & how the voice changes.
it is a mystery. this is a mystery.
the way the phrase echoes
as if i’ve heard it before -
somewhen else, maybe
even beyond words & imbedded
in the body, a way of knowing,
the word bearing weight;
the glory of language & how
it shapes the world,
the way it shapes
my memory of the experience:
the reasons i thought that
i could even begin to understand
what lies beneath my reason,
the ebb & flow of speech –
promises, perhaps, possibilities & pauses
- holding it all in the palm of my mind,
grasping at each measured image
to connect each to a moment
we can share so we can discover
where the world divides,
where light divides from dark,
night from day, light
shining on or from the words
& yes, they are promises
but hold them lightly
don’t hold them too tightly
for they are too easily strangled.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


talk turned to piercings
over the lunch hour we shared 
surface comparisons
ears, tongue, nose

i spoke of the modern primitives
the desire to adorn -
to be altered, or altar -
what kinds of objects can be placed under the skin
or through it, how 
the body fights, encases, pushes

how I had toyed with the idea of a prince albert piercing -
i did not tell them why.
i told them of my friend
- let’s call her "T" -
who took turns piercing her nipples
letting one heal before piercing the other

for the rush, she said

i did not speak of st.teresa
how her ecstasy was double-edged
how sometimes pleasure and pain
are entwined, how 
passion is enfleshed
and spirited, how 
i too imagine myself
satisfied with nothing 
less than god.

we did not speak of how 
our hearts are too often pierced
by the words we say and don’t say
the longing to hear your voice

we did not speak of the fragility of skin
how much it is like paper,
how much gets written on it,
what stories we then tell

we did not speak of the human heart, our need
our fear