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