2004: Breach of Manners

it’s 2004

the year i forget

when i am due at a studio

to judge a poetry contest, ’til the dear friend

who set this up phones me, afraid

something might have happened

apart from what did, my thoughts

gone indwelling as my belly swells.

 

this is the great mystery

of woman become galaxy

spinning stardust into a new life.

 

on the way to the studio

i argue with the cabbie

i’m ninety degrees askew

sure he is detouring; on

arrival, he ushers me gracefully.

 

inside, it is a contest

for poetry about racism

i have missed the first round

and the rest of the panel is leaning

heavily toward a piece about black and white

set in toronto.

my gracious friend, who arranged this gig

suggests i, a fresh voice, give fresh perspective.

 

i heave my opinion onto the table

like a whale breaching: in edmonton

i say, the biggest racial issue

is not black and white, it is us

indigenous people.

 

with all due respect, where

are the poems about us? why

are the teachers not teaching

that this is what racism looks like?

 

why are we erased, in our own land?

 

i demand this without irony, my indignation

tidal, epochal, whirling like lights.

 

they do not have any poetry

written to include us. this imagining

of what it might be like to be black

is all there is on offer. i will count

in my head, the years until

i could feasibly go back to school

get my teaching after-degree

and rectify this. i lose count

of the rest of the contest. i am

probably breathing steam

blowing great gusts of remembrance

 

my grandmother, father, siblings, me

plowing through waves of erasure

beset and lumbering.

 

 

with thanks to JVC, whale soother, grandmother,friend.

 

 

 

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