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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.
scurried around a classroom papered with poems.
Even the ceiling, pink and orange quilts of phrase...
they introduced one another, perched on a tiny stage
to read their work, blessed their teacher who
Do you believe in the ghosts of aunties and uncles that drive old sin-
gle-bench pickup trucks spotted with bullet-hole rust, sweetgrass and
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?
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
For thirty-one years, my mother tried not to miss her. Every week,
a little water or the trickle of a few ice cubes
in black earth. Years back, in the muck of Toronto, April,
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
a girl between two dialects
still a screen and still a searching, learns
the season of breakup
another word for spring
can come before or after
depending on where you grew up
online, back and forth
The sludge-slow flow of the visible current
opens a path we can’t continue, tugs
at what no hand can pull along.
It’s how even water loses memory,
travels a direction it cannot find,
You are light
when the sun is punched out
and darkness reigns.
You are the antidote
to what came before:
black blood, black heart,
hands tied, kneeling before
a ditch of human bones.
we are asking you to trust your hands. put them on your heart. trust
your heart. hear what we are saying. trust what you hear. we are
asking you to build a circle. always a circle. not almost a circle. face
From an original rock painting in Topock, Arizona, now digitized on a
Before this city, the Creator pressed his staff
into the earth, and the earth opened—
Let Us Be Fireflies
All day we
practice morse code signals
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
upon contact / head first / baptismal
the rind of me / peels into ribbons
of foam / and pearls / i re-brown at the water’s
touch / its two-way mudmirror / hands me
its own name / earthliquid / bottomless
i once shoved my foot through glass
getting to know my own anger
its patches of stupid
stress is just a socially acceptable
word for fear
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.
Men prefer an island
With its beginning ended:
Undertones of waves
Men prefer a road
Convex and fossiled
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
My sister is crying and crying
her tears grow to salt stormy showers
to rain and to rapids and rivers
they run to the sea to the sea.
My sister sobs softly she knows
Winter has landed; my boot bucks on a stone
surrounded by snow; I swear, I murmur
Oracabessa. “The rock” is what I call home,
all islanders do, and I’m in blessed Ann Arbour,
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
Hands pressed to glass
I only know rivers
Waters elongated to the unrumpled recitatif
of endless land
The Bow knows
Has tongued and grooved the firmament, baby,
of this Last Best
It has to be loved the way a laundress loves her linens,
the way she moves her hands caressing the fine muslins
knowing their warp and woof,
like a lover coaxing, or a mother praising.
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:
The river is my sister—I am its daughter.
It is my hands when I drink from it,
my own eye when I am weeping,
and my desire when I ache like a yucca bell
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
voyage, oh voyage!
the final fire that ravages the air
unveils the soil on which
we walk aimlessly
the hypocrisy of the strong protects us
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 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
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?
— “mu” twenty-eighth part —
On Antiphon Island they lowered
the bar and we bent back. It
wasn't limbo we were in albeit
for Roger Caillois
Water hollows stone,
wind scatters water,
stone stops the wind.
Water, wind, stone.
Wind carves stone,
The young sun’s greeting
On my bed, your letter’s glow
All the sounds that burst from morning
Blackbirds’ brassy calls, jingle of gonoleks
Your smile on the grass, on the radiant dew.
for auntie nagasaki
it's the same story
told again & again
& the machinations
& the dream
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
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
brash talk on sidewalk
brethren to irreverence
short teeth long stories
rolling tape decks tweeters six
by nine speakers deep
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
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.
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,