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my friends, my sweet barbarians,
there is that hunger which is not for food —
but an eye at the navel turns the appetite
Thin are the night-skirts left behind
By daybreak hours that onward creep,
And thin, alas! the shred of sleep
It takes eight matches, a burnt thumb, and a quick Google search
to light the sweetgrass braid Mom scored for me from an elder
at work. Always use matches, she said. Spirit likes matches.
on the day the chief of kâ-awâsis announces they have confirmed 751
bodies in unmarked graves outside the residential “school” in their
community, i google things like:
when will the sun run out of fuel?
Where did the handsome beloved go?
I wonder, where did that tall, shapely cypress tree go?
He spread his light among us like a candle.
Where did he go? So strange, where did he go without me?
We haven’t travelled to this door
For wealth or mastery,
We come here seeking refuge from
And we have journeyed all this way,
Fleeing the confines of
All the weapons we marshal to confront the day
You ask to be left by the door before entering.
The sword in its sheath must lie on the grass,
the quiver and bow hung off a branch.
My grandmother puts her feet in the sink
of the bathroom at Sears
to wash them in the ritual washing for prayer,
because she has to pray in the store or miss
When I was five I was put on a bus
and sent to Catholic school
not unlike my mother who was five
when she was put on a train
and sent to residential school,
both feeling that gut feeling
We had no paper
then, or we had
no pen, or no words. How
to say it. We had
no voice. No listeners.
Just deaf night
How to describe sea
To someone who’s never seen it?
He lives to ninety-nine, he wants it, to see it
To walk on its glass surface, to blow the seven trumpets.
Draw a line through our scattered bodies. The pattern of fallen calves in this meadow will mirror
the constellation above. Look up. We whip our tails to a silent song:
Bismillah is my first memory.
I became a bird in the Qur’an
at hardly eight years old.
I opened the dark green cover
and revealed the slippery
people arrived from portugal. people arrived from africa. people arrived from
india. people arrived from england. people arrived from china. people
I used to liken a poem to praying. Is that right?
Not the woo and gratitude praying served by queer witches.
Childhood praying. As a girl I genuflected to the tabernacle
There is a mouse under the sink
Little mouse turds around in the kitchen drawers
It is raining, storming
has gone to the dump
He wakes up naked and drunk as a bear
on sun-fermented garbage.
Hungover and queasy and riled up by
Nothing going well today, he moans,
life being short and the craft, ah, long.
In Jerusalem, and I mean within the ancient walls,
I walk from one epoch to another without a memory
to guide me. The prophets over there are sharing
the history of the holy ... ascending to heaven
i can barely speak in my mother tongues stutter
my accent is bad
i hate jalebi
but i like aloo samosa
i'm a bad brown
girl i didn't join the
SAA or the ISA
The 31st day of August 1914
I left Deauville a little before midnight
In Rouveyre’s little car
You wanted to be so hungry, you would break into branches,
and have to choose between the starving month’s
nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-third evenings.
He sat cross-legged, weeping on the steps
when Mom unlocked and opened the front door.
O God, he said. O God.
He wants to kill me, Mom.
Should lanterns shine, the holy face,
Caught in an octagon of unaccustomed light,
Would wither up, an any boy of love
Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,
Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea
Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries
My Black heroes don’t drop names like Fendi Gucchi Prada
My Black sheroes rock afros like Angela Davis and Assata
But my sheroes are more than a trend and they’re bigger than a hairstyle
During two hours on the train
I rerun the film of my life
Two minutes per year on average
Half an hour for childhood
Another half-hour for prison
Love, books, wandering
take up the rest
Praise the rain, the seagull dive
The curl of plant, the raven talk-
Praise the hurt, the house slack
An ars poetica
I remember the death, in Russia,
of postage stamps
Down a long, long corridor
I keep walking…
—A window straight ahead so bright it hurts the eyes,
Your best friend falls in love
and her brain turns to water.
You can watch her lips move,
We have each tried to read to him, with no success, except for James,
who read him all of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Travels with a Donkey in the
Sometimes we are led through the doorway
by a child, sometimes
by a stranger, always a matter of grace changing
oh papa, to have you drift up, some part of you drift up through
fresh water into the teal plate of sky soaking foothills, papa,
you are unaware of your obscure sources
but you are explicitly sure of the vast sea
as your final destination
I have not lingered in European monasteries
and discovered among the tall grasses tombs of knights
who fell as beautifully as their ballads…
In my body flows the blood of Gallic
Bastille stormers and the soft, gentle
ways of Salish/Cree womanhood.
wandering to the other, wandering
the spiritual realities, skilled in all
ways of contending, he did not search
My father bequeathed me no wide estates;
No keys and ledgers were my heritage;
Only some holy books with yahrzeit dates
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into…
Our life is like a forest, where the sun
Glints down upon us through the throbbing leaves;
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
I lift the Lord on high,
Under the murmuring hemlock boughs, and see
The small birds of the forest lingering by
On her Son H.P. at St. Syth’s Church where her body also lies interred
What on Earth deserves our trust?
Youth and Beauty both are dust.
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Methought I saw my late espoused saint
Brought to me, like Alcestis, from the grave,
Whom Jove’s great son to her glad husband gave…
When Love with unconfinèd wings
Hovers within my Gates,
And my divine Althea brings
What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist.
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
There, Robert, you have kill’d that fly — ,
And should you thousand ages try
The life you’ve taken to supply,