Two Poems

by Lee Maracle

Lee Maracle is the author of a number of critically acclaimed literary works including: Sojourner’s and Sundogs, Ravensong, Bent Box, and most recently, Celia’s Song. She is the co-editor of a number of anthologies including the award-winning publication, My Home As I Remember (Natural Heritage Books). Ms. Maracle has been published in anthologies and scholarly journals worldwide. Born in North Vancouver, she is a member of the Sto: Loh nation, mother of four and grandmother of seven. Maracle is currently an instructor at the University of Toronto. She is also the Traditional Teacher for First Nation’s House and instructor with the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, the S.A.G.E. [Support for Aboriginal Graduate Education], as well as the Banff Centre for the Arts. Maracle has received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from St. Thomas University, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her work promoting writing among Aboriginal Youth. She has served as Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, and the University of Western Washington. Currently, she is working on Memory Serves and Other Words [creative non-fiction], and just received the Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

The Call:
Breath is wind,
Voice is wind
Wind is power
            [sto:lo teaching]

My Response:

We enter the world wailing, fighting for breath
first breath assaults the skin, offends the body
Insulted, we weep, unsure we want to be here

The woman who bore us murmurs
Vocables—intended to soothe
Sharpens the surgical light

This first language recedes under soft incantations
family chatter intoning us in urgent nonsense
to bond, to connect, to seek joy

These murmurs lighten the burden of being
in this our grand entry into the world of shadow, of light
at times too bright, in folds too dark

wondering without knowing, looking not seeing.
breath sparks up courage
to listen and sing back

Everything begins with song

the sweet mountain breath of wind whispering through cedar—earth’s symphony, Wind taps out tunes to the valley floors, even the howling storm winds sing agonizingly beautiful songs, arias of painful transformation we come to love.

Songs hooked to the language of wind lessens this burden of being
couples itself to the promise of language;
voice elevates being, renders life manageable;

There is power in the breath we pass over vibrating vocal chords.
The words carry a charge
The spark invites response

The hum of song points receivers in the direction of the good life.
the breath of others takes their own journey through the body,
passes breath through some imagined future

Lee Maracle is a Sto:lo [Coast Salish Nation]. The above is the teaching we adhere to when we speak.

 

Balancing Books

Interest in audited financial statements paid by poets
in increments of time’s slippage
searching truth
can be expensive
sometimes truth slips
slippage has a shelf life of twenty-two seconds
which when divided by the ability to save
debits attention
breaks interest

being broke I am unable to pay attention
attention deficit is a disorder
for which there is no financial cure.

A poet’s financial projections
wiggle between attention to moments
of fanciful flight and numbers dancing
misunderstood overtop monetary vowels
debiting clarity
and threatening loss.

 


Lee Maracle is the author of a number of critically acclaimed literary works including: Sojourner’s and Sundogs, Ravensong, Bent Box, and most recently, Celia’s Song. She is the co-editor of a number of anthologies including the award-winning publication, My Home As I Remember (Natural Heritage Books). Ms. Maracle has been published in anthologies and scholarly journals worldwide. Born in North Vancouver, she is a member of the Sto: Loh nation, mother of four and grandmother of seven. Maracle is currently an instructor at the University of Toronto. She is also the Traditional Teacher for First Nation’s House and instructor with the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, the S.A.G.E. [Support for Aboriginal Graduate Education], as well as the Banff Centre for the Arts. Maracle has received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from St. Thomas University, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her work promoting writing among Aboriginal Youth. She has served as Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, and the University of Western Washington. Currently, she is working on Memory Serves and Other Words [creative non-fiction], and just received the Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

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