SEE ALL TAGS & MOODS
I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I never thought Michiko would come back
after she died. But if she did, I knew
it would be as a lady in a long white dress.
It is strange that she has returned
as somebody's dalmatian. I meet
Dad reads aloud. I follow his finger across the page.
Sometimes his finger moves past words, tracing white space.
He makes the Moon say something new every night
to his deaf son who slurs his speech.
I was a kid other kids’
parents gossiped about.
They told their children
what I was: too negative.
I get it. Fair to fear
contagion of bad attitudes,
My mother never forgave my father
for killing himself,
especially at such an awkward time
and in a public park,
when I was waiting to be born.
She locked his name
When the doctor suggested surgery
and a brace for all my youngest years,
my parents scrambled to take me
to massage therapy, deep tissue work,
osteopathy, and soon my crooked spine
When the horse picked Mama up by the hair
that time, was she scared?
There is a photograph of her with this horse
in the brown family album. She stands
beside him, thin in the chilly wind
my mother found herself one late summer
afternoon lying in grass under the wild
yellow plum tree jewelled with sunlight
she was forgotten there in spring picking
rhubarb for pie & the children home from
You wouldn’t fit in your coffin
but to me it was no surprise.
All your life you had never fit in
anywhere; you saw no reason to
begin fitting in now.
When I was little I remember
Was so imaginary he ceased to exist
he wasn’t sleeping in a treehouse or stalking the woods
in fatigues cheeks smeared green with camouflage grease
My niece calls me from my brother-in-law’s phone
While I’m getting ready to wash dishes. I pick up.
She says she needs to talk to her grandfather.
I tell her that her grandfather just went to sleep,
Weekends too my father roofed poor neighborhoods,
at prices only his back could carry
into profit. In the name of labor’s
virtue—or was it another bill collector’s callous
My first job was when I was about 15. I had met a girl named Hope who became my best
friend. Hope and I were flunking math class so we became speed freaks. This honed our
When my mother died,
one of her honey cakes remained in the freezer.
I couldn’t bear to see it vanish,
so it waited, pardoned,
in its ice cave behind the metal trays
for two more years.
My father threw his language overboard,
a bag of kittens, waterlogged mewling:
small hard bodies.
My mother hung on to hers —
Wove the words like lace, an open web
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
Each day, I am apprenticed to the boy
I want to be.
He rifles the ball
and I catch it
or I fumble.
His red head ducks and weaves,
I remember my birth
like it was tomorrow, the unholy sensation
“I saw my land in the morning
and O but she was fair”
- M.G. Smith, “Jamaica” (1938)
Come see my land
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
Always that spectral fragment. Filament of line cast back there.
Where open-mouthed fish rise to gulp down shiny lures.
I sang once in an auditorium to almost empty rows.
My poem without me in it—would it be like
my room when I had returned to it
after my mother was done with me.
Under my bed, only the outer
space balls, of dust, only
I wear a peineta & pin a mantilla to my hair
I want to be Conchita Piquer warning women
about becoming lemons. The goal: tener alguien
quien me quiera. I want to be my mother singing me
my mother used to make little rice balls
for me. she steamed and clattered about the
cramped mustard kitchen, filling a pot with
water, swelling and salting and songing
Only the beginning is true.
There was an island
and an orphanage
and a boy.
There was a train and a country
A view from two sides of Polaris, it is said:
the living awaits destined relatives to retort.
These people go around waking the sleeping ones
I've dreamt of you so often that you become unreal.
Is there still time to reach this living body and to kiss on its mouth the birth of
the voice so dear to me?
We’re all aware that human hair is dead
Yet we spend thousands taking care of it.
It’s like an endless funeral.
The moment your hair hits air, it’s toast.
It only lives inside the follicle.
When Daniel Harris stepped out of his car
the policeman was waiting. Gun raised.
I use the past tense though this is irrelevant
in Daniel's language, which is sign.
No one else rescued me. Not my father
or my brother or, years later, the gentle man
who became my husband. Not my mother
or my best friend or any of the women
who listened to me tell my story
You can't be an NDN person in today's world
and write a nature poem. I swore to myself I would never write a nature
poem. Let's be clear, I hate nature — hate its guts
My fist holds as many coins
as I can carry. All are stamped with the Queen's effigy;
Elizabeth, D.G. Regina, the resident of pockets,
a woman I've never met though I always know
Here's how you make pemmican
Slim, slight. Sinew and bird bones.
Cords of her hands like spruce roots.
Came from Ship Cove to Crow Gulch
with little more than the child inside her,
landed in a small shack flanked by
After learning “me” and “I”
but well before my father learns
a restraining order's
between him and our home,
we share some good times.
Remember the back of his bicycle.
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.
Out of their torments men carved a flower
which they perched on the high plateaus of their faces
hunger makes a canopy for them
an image dissolves in their last tear
Ocean, don’t be afraid.
The end of the road is so far ahead
it is already behind us.
Don’t worry. Your father is only your father
until one of you forgets. Like how the spine
I was nine and I stood at the top of the street for no reason except to make the descent of the gentle incline toward my house where I lived with everyone and everything in the world, my sisters and my cousins were with me, we had our bookbags…
A black and white picture
The sun is shining through a window behind you
Your hair black short Your small brown hands folded neatly on a tiny wooden desk
power lines held by birds
of prey the hostile expanse above
ditches teeming floral invasive
late summer the shoulder sang
holds breeze by
the spirit of
your flowers is
my favourite shelter
we were in love is
The 31st day of August 1914
I left Deauville a little before midnight
In Rouveyre’s little car
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.
i ask mama
about residential school
she says no
i ask her again
the third time
i stop listen
to her silence
ask about her diabetes
for M. Maylor
Dear Anne Carson:
My friend read me the poem where your mom
said that the dead walk backwards.
You thought this myth arose from poor translation.
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
I recited to him,
Now as I was young and easy,
and in the cough-afflicted wheeze that was left of my father’s voice,