Two Poems

by Janet Marie Rogers

Janet Marie Rogers is a Mohawk/Tuscarora writer from the Six Nations band in southern Ontario. Recently, she was Victoria, BC’s 3rd Poet Laureate, and has been living on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people since 1994. Janet works in the genres of poetry, spoken word performance poetry, video poetry, and recorded poetry with music and script writing. Janet has four published poetry collections to date, and her poetry CDs all received nominations for Best Spoken Word Recording at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards, and the Native American Music Awards. You can hear Janet on the radio as she hosts Native Waves Radio on CFUV 101.9 FM and Tribal Clefs on CBC Radio One in Victoria BC. Her radio documentaries “Bring Your Drum” (50 years of Indigenous protest music) and Resonating Reconciliation won Best Radio at the ImagiNATIVE Film and Media festival 2011 and 2013.

The Whole Truth

I was but ten
And remembered then
How we marched
With Morgentaler along
College Street in a very different Toronto
As a young woman
Living on my own
Our march became tradition
I knew then a woman’s voice
Has power and presence
Our words shape policies
And futures

My mother told me
The story of her own grandmother
My Great-Grandmother
A strong matriarchal light
Within our lineage
A vibrant life cut short
Poison in the blood
A home abortion gone bad
Emergency and urgency going in
Never to be seen alive again
We march and rally
And she is right here
Pushing her story to the fore
Ensuring her ghostly voice
Never dies, not on paper
Not in paintings

A story told in half-truths
Suffocates under censorship
It is no story at all, but a lie
Valuable meanings and lessons
Are lost to fear in half-truth junkyards
Where half-truth tales go to die.
Why walk on spongy foundations
When we can choose to fly
Lift our heads to the light
Knowing we are leaving
Our best legacies behind
And starting new traditions
One truth at a time

 

This Is a Poem for Nina Simone

 

gifted Queen
we’ve seen
your divine
complexity
your journey
our journey
a woman craving
freedom at all cost
she has to be
what she be
quality
disqualified
by societal
limited ability
musical magic
emitting from
strong black fingers
a force set on course
mysterious source
born into broad nose
and thick lips
proclaiming her beauty
despite the civil sixties
Miss America, North Carolina
didn’t see you coming
didn’t want you
to leave
all the classical notes
toted and trotted off
making a new place
landing strips for alien ships
prospecting, constantly negotiating
her talent would not
be denied, fallen from the sky
into her young white dress-
clad body
and play
was all she wanted to do

Eunice now Nina
meaning little one
little nothing
none
of what she done
could possibly be ignored
all the pedestals are yours
the house—yours
the floor—yours
behind doors
unnatural acts
the queen is beaten
bloody, bleeding
from the face
her husband her man
perpetrating the unforgivable
and THIS
THIS
is the shift
the minor’s rock hammer
chipping away
a woman’s dignity
until it flips
and leaves for good
right and wrong
no longer hold hands
a strange reality moves in
sanity moves on
her songs become
empty urns
soulless offerings
demons are listening
lightening from the mouth
striking, dissolving
soft places of solace
a daughter
inheriting hardness
“Don’t cry. I won’t cry.”
lessons learned
from the back of the hand
love, love, what is love
if not pain
confusion and control
no, Miss Simone
you forgot about freedom
like a balloon slipped from the hand
your songs are desperate
keeping you separate
remember what you said
“I am black, and I am beautiful.”

 


Janet Marie Rogers is a Mohawk/Tuscarora writer from the Six Nations band in southern Ontario. Recently, she was Victoria, BC’s 3rd Poet Laureate, and has been living on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people since 1994. Janet works in the genres of poetry, spoken word performance poetry, video poetry, and recorded poetry with music and script writing. Janet has four published poetry collections to date, and her poetry CDs all received nominations for Best Spoken Word Recording at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards, and the Native American Music Awards. You can hear Janet on the radio as she hosts Native Waves Radio on CFUV 101.9 FM and Tribal Clefs on CBC Radio One in Victoria BC. Her radio documentaries “Bring Your Drum” (50 years of Indigenous protest music) and Resonating Reconciliation won Best Radio at the ImagiNATIVE Film and Media festival 2011 and 2013.

☝ BACK TO TOP