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Sunday, 11 May 2014

Debts Unpaid (Norma West Linder)

Debts Unpaid

The breath of settlers’ children

warmed our one-room schools

scent of wet wool

frost-flowered window-panes

blank faces waiting

to be mapped with knowledge

We, their descendants, learned

to fashion maps

of water, salt and flour

moulded Laurentian Shield

painted it pink

learned about war

learned how to think

The music of Niagara

falls rhythmic from our tongues

We feel the Native Spirit of the Past

Muskoka, Mississauga, Manitoulin,

Nipissing . . .

Too numerous to list

these gifts that last

Though cadence of First Nation names

is something we hold dear

their land claims go unsettled

year after trying year

by Norma West Linder

   Norma grew up on Manitoulin Island. From what I can see, Natives outnumber white people on the island, so all islanders know members of the various tribes.
         Norma will be most happy to see her “Debts Unpaid” appear in Umbrella. It initially appeared in her book Morning Child, and was later re-printed in Adder’s-tongues: A Choice of Norma West Linder’s Poems.

1 comment:

Dennis Robillard said...

Hi there folks. I wanted to share a poem I wrote for Al Purdy. Perhaps I'll be able to red it this summer at the next Riffs and Ripples. All the best, Denis Robillard, Windsor.

Marysburg Vortex

“Past deeds are dust, and we are children of the dust, not judges.”

Alfred Purdy

Somewhere in the Marysburg Vortex
a colony of wet shipworm teredos
eat away vestiges of fir boards
the copper insides of the good ship Speedy
gnaws at the memory of petrified ancient wheel gears.

Theodolite, Gunter chains
hadometers and the cercle Hollandais
come full circle
fade asleep in your broken bones

Fish dart about dead machinery
labyrinthine grottos like playthings
inhabit the eyes of these now forgotten men--
Cochrane, Stegmann, Ogotonicut.

Somewhere below green murk and water
washed over tangled weeds
crabs amble slowly towards new food
fish glide through fresh currents
as luminescent flesh swells,
and tissue which is seamless and dark
is gnawed and tattered
by water history.