Sunday, May 9, 2010

It's mother's day...

this poem was originally composed for International Women's Day...

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is the sound of an old woman's voice
in a run-down little house on a piece of borrowed land
this side of the reserve
I remember her in dark skin and white hair telling me, warning me –
a story told without love will not be remembered

like indians do,
I took you as my grandmother, never having met either of my own (or my mother)
and I took those words as commandments
or more accurately, I took stewardship of your words,
I protected them
like indians do

my damaged memory of your ghostly form
is framed by crumpled leaves and dense grasses
deadfall and marshy muskeg,
I am not painting a quaint, rustic, idyllic landscape
not singing to the “oneness” of anything
I am beyond remembering
and singing my own song

in a place where I saw bent women, berry-picking
and one with lips, stained red and succulent
I tried but found I could never taste that good to her
and on and on and on…

I carry my grief and gladness and never look back

in these places…I saw
in every village, every town, each weigh station
I have been a pilgrim, a merchant, trading stories, hands and more

at calgary
at brindisi,
at neskonlith
at santorini
at peace hills
at oaxaca
at napean
at musqueam
at white bear
at oslo
at yellowknife
at oppenheimer park

unvarnished episodes, encounters, entanglements
recorded only in an island of lost memories that you may have
of her telling you: it’s alright…you’re okay,
and these things were so only because she said they were

she has pulled us through birth canals and rites of passage…the death of my brothers
because of men she wore outmoded black veils and still
set broken bones, nourished us with compassion
we were astonished, emboldened, fed and far better…soothed
when we felt as motherless children
when we felt at the brink of cavernous dark

from the margins they shape the world
through cultures melding and those long since vanished
there are still glimpses of something permanent, eternal

it is that I long for the comfort of her voice
snatch for it like a thief
guard it like final embers carried
across tundra by dried mud tribes of stone age

there were long strands of hair, shiny and damp
that fell across her shoulders, beneath the sunlight…

these sapphire-tinted recollections (every last one)
are her words and are air and water and reflection

I am nothing, sometimes not even a man
just a word-finder, conjurer of everything you have already said,
without you I would have stayed nothing, dust or the thought of it
but now something is created across time and space
because she was here, existed

the first mother wears these lakes and rivers,
mountains, meadows, towns and cities
and I am given to worship of things I cannot explain –
condemn those foolish enough to live without magic –

she teaches me
to understand that every woman is someone’s daughter on this perilous journey
that life beyond every kind of poverty is better
and though yet hungry for that great wisdom and power
I am still ashamed (though still alive),
still asking the same foolish questions as in ages past

but for you I am contented with love…every kind of love
and now I know where all words come from
it is sacred faith that there is grace among storm
and on certain miracle nights, sometimes, I almost feel…beloved

the great wisdom of her collective ages:
that love cannot conquer
but it can survive…

it has at least that much power

© 2010 Champsteen Publishing

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