Friday, March 16, 2018

I Wish I'd Written This


a native man looks me in the eyes as he refuses to hold my hand during a round dance. i pretend that his pupils are like bullets and i wonder what kind of pain he's been through to not want me in this world anymore. and i wince a little because the earth hasn't held all of me for quite some time now and i am lonely in a way that doesn't hurt anymore.
you see, a round dance is a ceremony for both grief and love and each body joined by the flesh is encircled by the spirits of ancestors who’ve already left this world. i ask myself how many of them never knew what desire tasted like because they loved their kookums more than they loved themselves.
i dance with my arm hanging by my side like an appendage my body doesn’t want anymore. the gap between him and i keeps getting bigger so i fill it with the memories of native boys who couldn’t be warriors because their bodies were too fragile to carry all of that anger. the ones who loved in that reckless kind of way. you know, when you give up your body for him.
and i think about the time an elder told me to be a man and to decolonize in the same breath. there are days when i want to wear nail polish more than i want to protest. but then i remember that i wasn’t meant to live life here and i paint my nails because 1) it looks cute and 2) it is a protest. and even though i know i am too queer to be sacred anymore, i dance that broken circle dance because i am still waiting for hands who want to hold mine too.
Billy-Ray Belcourt, February, 2016

I could not have written this, as I am not First Nations, nor a young man. But we thought you might enjoy meeting one of Canada’s rising young poets, Billy-Ray Belcourt, a member of the Driftpile Cree Nation.

He began writing poetry at nineteen, and was immediately recognized as a big talent. Now in his early twenties, he has already garnered significant attention on the Canadian literary scene.   He graduated from Oxford in 2017, Canada’s first Indigenous Rhodes scholar. His studies focused on the effects of colonialism on indigenous people's health, medical anthropology and women’s studies.

He is now a PhD student at the University of Alberta in the Department of English and Film studies.

His book of poems called “This Wound is a World” was published in 2017 by Frontenac House.

CBC Books has called Billy-Ray “one of 6 Indigenous writers to watch,” and rated his book “the best Canadian poetry of 2017”.

Of his book, Billy-Ray has said, “I think that this book is a call to arms of sorts. It is a manifesto, a prayer and an instruction manual for something like a queer Indigenous future.

“For me to have been able to break into the writing scene at nineteen, as someone who is Indigenous and openly queer, I had to inject my poems with some critical, academic ethos. But I think, in the end, it made my poetry better.” 

Let’s look at another of this young man’s powerful poems.



the cree word for a body like mine is weesageechak
the old ones know of this kind of shape-shifting:
sometimes i sweat and sweat until my bones puddle on the carpet in my living room and i am like the water that comes before new life
i was born during a falling leaves moon. which is to say: i have always been good at sacrifice
it is believed that women are most powerful during their moontime and because of this do not take part in ceremonies in order to let the body cleanse itself
there are weesageechak days when gender is a magic trick i forgot how to perform and my groin floods and floods trying to cleanse itself like the women and i too become toxic to men who have built cages out of broken boys

maybe if i surrendered myself to Grandmother Moon she would know what to do with these pickaxe wounds: there is so much i need to tell her about how my rivers and lakes are crowded and narrowing. how i managed to piece together a sweat lodge out of mud and fish and bacteria
she gives me the cree name weesageechak and translates it to ‘sadness is a carcass his tears leave behind’

and the crows and flies who don’t care about gender will one day make away with my jet-black finger nails and scraggly armpit hairs and lay tobacco at my grave and tell their crow and fly kin that i was once a broad-shouldered trickster who long ago fell from the moon wearing make-up and skinny jeans
Billy-Ray Belcourt, July, 2016
Belcourt writes, “Heartbreak is sonic: it is the sound one makes when one becomes those who refuse to be put to rest. Everywhere we see that there is an aesthetic component to the brutalities of a world where the pace of everyday life vibrates with Native misery.”

When I hear about a young voice this powerful, I have to believe there will be less Native misery in the years ahead, thanks to young people like him shining their light into all the dark corners of Canadian colonialism. (Which is still alive and well, I am sorry to say.)

Billy-Ray’s website can be found here. He is also on facebook here.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Scream

“Everybody has a story…..and a scream.” — Rachel Roberts


“When you’re drowning, you don’t say ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help,’ you just scream. — John Lennon

     Midweek Motif ~ Scream

In his diary in an entry headed "Nice 22 January 1892", Edvard Munch wrote:

“I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.

He later described his inspiration for the image:

One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream.”

Have you ever come to that point when you wanted to scream at you or at the world or have you ever come across anyone, anything, screaming?

So let us see, write, read and hear some screaming today J

by Matsuo Basho

The heron’s cry
Stabs the darkness

To A Daughter Leaving Home
by Linda Pastan

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
with distance,
pumping, pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter,
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving

 Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community—
                (Next week Susan’s Midweek Motif will be ~ Colour / Color)

Monday, March 12, 2018


We have three poems by three very fine poets for you today, my friends. Rajani, of thotpurge, Magaly, of Magaly Guerrero, and Kerry, the fabulous admin at Real Toads, who blogs at  Skywriting and Skylover, have graciously allowed me to feature their remarkable and beautiful poems. I think they will lift your hearts as much as they did mine. Let's dive in.

Two Moons

Maybe it was the night we saw two moons
in the sky. Was it the sky holding a mirror to
itself, was it the sea surging back to where it
all began, was it the distance between us that
split the horizon in two? I have sun seeds in
my pocket to grow new light, to undraw the
silhouettes on either side of the silence, to dot
infinity with golden possibilities, but tonight
there can be nothing, my hands are cold in yours,
the earth bears this paradox of churning stillness,
the wind that was to fetch the dawn lies at our feet,
what do we do love, when love is not enough?

Magaly recently wrote the following poem, which really speaks to our shared humanity. A timely reminder in these days of division.

My pen won’t be sated by blood pumped by the heart of another. The best tales are filled by laughter, wails, pleasure and agonies birthed out of flesh and spirits that lived them. You can’t suffer my hurts for me, I won’t weep your tears for you. But we can carve our feels into each other’s bones, and share with the world until all see how different our hates and loves are not.

I write crimson words
full of dark moons and tamed screams,
you should write your own.
I want you to art with me…
in colors that soothe your soul.

art by Magaly

Sherry: Your words speak truth, Magaly. And your art adds beauty. I love that whole idea: how different we are not! When will humanity understand this?

Magaly: "How Different We Are Not" was inspired by my belief that art brings thinking minds closer together. And in these days of divisiveness and turmoil, we need to stay close, we need to think our fighting hearts out. With this poem, I wanted to show that although our personal interests and preoccupations might be different, at the core, the needs and wants of people who care wear the same worried (hope-filled) faces - we want to be healthy, we want to love and be loved, we want to keep the Earth Mother from dying, we want a world in which everyone feels that they are not alone in wanting to be who they are and expressing that want in their own way.

Sherry: So perfectly stated, Magaly. "Worried and hope-filled faces" is very apt. We are all worried. And we cannot relinquish hope of better days than these. Thank you for this poem of truth. 

Kerry's poem is so incredibly lovely, I caught my breath when I read it.  It offers us a very human moment, that I am sure everyone can relate to.  Let's take a peek.

My tongue was not made for silence
but my words cannot reach you now.

I leave them unsaid, lying awake
through dark hours of morning

listening to the rain whisper her words
of love to the leaves and grass

knowing how this will make things
grow right, even the little birds

huddle closer together on the bough
and the stars are still there

behind the storm clouds, never too distant
for their light to be lost.

My words cannot heal you, but I am here
never further than the star, a small bird in the rain.

Sherry: Your closing lines leave me breathless, Kerry. I can so feel that woman, a small bird in the rain. Sigh.

Kerry:  The idea behind "Made For Silence" came to me at 4 a.m. on a rainy morning, so that part is quite literal. It is the curse of the insomniac to lie awake while most of the world sleeps, so this reinforced the theme of silence.

I am always interested in exploring the idea of communication as an aspect of the human condition, especially in close relationships, the words spoken and also what is left unsaid.

The poem acknowledges that sometimes the best one can do for another person is to be nearby without intruding. I have had to wrestle with a reluctant muse of late, and a lack of inspiration, so perhaps this could be read as a kind of internal monologue, in which I address the silent part of myself. 

Sherry: As I read, I felt the silent observer in myself, as well. Just so beautiful, Kerry. Thank you. And thank you for your enormous contribution to the poetry community, in keeping the Imaginary Garden open all these years. 

We hope these words gifted you with a few moments of peace, comfort and beauty in your busy day, my friends. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!