Northern Light

Stepping off the plane in Whitehorse

the last thing I expect to feel

is home

not quite alone

but close enough

here in this great black north.

As we drive away from the airport

Chris points out the window

That's Antoinette's, Caribbean food

if you're feeling in need of a pick-me-up.

She's from Tobago.

And I'm not sure if he knows

it’s the same island that bred these bones,

that just the song of its name

is home.


What strange things are we

Creatures of the Diaspora,

treasures of the Caribbean Sea,

knocking our knees together in parkas

teeth chattering

where the thin trees stretch high the heavens

to seek the queerest light?

What strange escapes have we made

to want to call this place home?

And I do.

I do

feel the ghosts

of women not unlike us,

whose resilience and fortitude

pulled more than gold and dust and opportunity

from this blistering cold.


I am told the Alaska Highway

was an engineering feat

constructed under the doubt

and bloody weight of Jim Crow.

What strange things are we

that we see a barrier

but build a road?

I know this to be true:

There is not always a way around,

but I promise you a way through

if we can remember both the haunted

and the Hunters,

if we can be courageous enough to dig

into the depths of humane capabilities,

stretch our capacities for tolerance and love.

How strange and brave are we?


It's winter here

yet it feels like everywhere,

the world is turning cold and stark.

Oh nation,

who will birth this light

work, build, nurture, fight

for a place we can all call home

regardless of difference,

celebrate our place in this shared story,

this fierce resistance?


Some think the dark is full of terrors

because they cannot see what it conceals

or perhaps they do not know

that the dark itself is a precious gift

and we, strange creatures of the shimmering north,

can be the light that it reveals.

Dive in

1. How do the italics for line “What strange things are we” change it from the rest of the poem? (hint: think about voice)

2. The word “strange” is repeated five times in the poem. Why do you think this is?

3. What affect does making the title be singular (“Northern Light”) have on the poem, versus if it were plural (“Northern Lights”)?

4. How does the poem’s setting establish mood and tone?

5. If you were reciting this poem, how would you make the italicized line sound different from the rest?

Writing Activity

In the spirit of this poem, write one of your own that uses a setting and a season. How does your chosen

season influence the mood of your narrator(s)?


 An interview with the author, Jillian Christmas, where she discusses how calling a place “home” impacts one’s perspective of belonging:

Jillian is a spoken word artist as well as a page poet. Here is a video of her reading some of her poetry, showing how a poem can be performed:


Dive In written by
Bibliographical info

Jillian Christmas, "Northern Light," from The Rusty Toque, issue 12. Copyright © 2017 by Jillian Christmas. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Source: The Rusty Toque (issue 12, June 30, 2017)

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