Article Category Archives: Poetry

Own My Own / That Word

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Own My Own

For Lucy, mother of us all

Dinknesh: the wonderful, the fabulous, the precious. That’s you.
They named you Lucy after the Beatles’ song playing
on the cassette as they celebrated finding you.

Small, 3 & ½ feet, maybe, 60 pounds.
You walked tall, 3.2 million years ago, in Afar, Ethiopia.
What happened when you walked by that riverbank where they found you?

You, the most complete, 40% of your bones intact. You surely surprised them.
You walked upright and made them give you a new title of your own:
Australopithecus afarensis. How could you know I would be thinking about you?

 

That Word

A boat named No Justice floats in the bay.
Gleams of gentle light peek at the horizon.
I hear the incessant juddering of the grass cutter.
The dull hum, an unruly crowd–a thousand terns
descending. Their outcry fades, that word rises.

Spewed by the Amherst councilman.
Tattooed where the children watch–
at the base of Glace Bay’s skateboard park.
Overheard at the Toronto York School Board.

Like a knife scraped over my old wound
still tender to the touch.

In My Skin

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In my caramel-coloured
Five foot, six inch frame
In my thick thighs
And high round buttocks
Toned arms
Large forehead
Large face
Almond-shaped eyes
Full lips
Laugh lines
Large hands
And high in-stepped feet

Resides a finally grown woman
No more looking outside for guidance
But looking inside and upward for strength
Slowly and intentionally
I have blossomed into a middle-aged
Non-blues wearing or carrying fireball
Who conquers her own demons
And fills her own voids

In my caramel-coloured
Aging face and frame
I have less time
For looking back and ahead
No more letting my empty parts dictate my actions
I live in the now
Deal with the real
Learn how silence can be as powerful as words
And how to sashay out of a space
That no longer fits
And sit comfortably elsewhere
In my skin.

Imagine

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Imagine walking into a space where you automatically feel out of place because nobody’s face is identifiable with your race and

Imagine walking into a store and being watched like a hawk, or getting pulled over by the cops for simply wanting to “talk” and

Can you imagine having the ambition to apply for a job position, only to later find out that your surname is under suspicion?

Now,

Imagine being called a racist name, all because your pigmentation isn’t the same, and when you finally get the courage to go to a teacher to explain, you’re the one who is blamed and

Imagine having a waste dump in your backyard or feeling anxious every time you see a security guard, or how about being suspended for having too much “attitude” on the school yard

To be Black in Nova Scotia means to work twice as hard, because no matter where you are, you’ll be wearing your identity card.

Old Whitney Pier

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Don’t cross those tracks,
Stay on that side of the overpass.

Whitney Pier?
A place some people feared.

A diverse community with lots of culture.
A Canadian heritage site like no other.

Welcome to the Pier Dear,
That was something you’d always hear.

Like many families that settled in Cape Breton,
Parents came to work, and then sent for their children.

They worked at the Steel Plant, Coke Ovens and the Coal Mines.
West Indians in the blast furnace: they could take the heat high.

Steel Plant, Tar Ponds, Canada’s toxic playground.
Now it’s a park with tracks, trails and sporting grounds.

Grandparents sitting back, reminiscing about the good old times.
Church every Sunday, mama baking bread and pies.

Some families didn’t have much.
But they invited you in, shared stories and fed you lunch.

I remember in my day, my mom would always say, for a dollar
You can get a bag of chips, soda and chocolate bar, with change left over.

You can always count on people from the Pier.
You get a smile, hello, how are you, and who’s your mother and father dear?

The Pier had businesses on every corner.
Barber shops, bakeries, grocery stores and plenty more.

We built churches, schools and community halls, so we would have a place to go.
Immigrants built the Pier from the ground up, many years ago.

You could visit Arties & Fred Tommie’s to get your daily cup of tea.
Men and women dancing around, jiving, doing the swing.

The Kabana Club, Clipper, and the Thistle were also places to be.
Putting hard-earned money, ching, ching in the slot machines.

We raised artists, athletes, cops, doctors, and lawyers.
Teachers, musicians, politicians and so much more.

A time when neighbours knew each other.
Welcomed everyone with open arms, and built friendships forever.

When I was young I had so much fun.
There was one-cent candy, and five-cent bubble gum.

Who remembers picking berries on blueberry hill?
Picked all day, ate until we were ill.

Lemonade stands, selling blueberries door to door.
Running errands for the elders, to the local corner store.

Children playing outside until the street lights came on.
You would hear parents yelling, Wanda, Marie, Jack, Noreen:
It’s time to come home.

Street Chase and Nicky Nicky 9 Doors, games kids loved to play.
Everyone enrolled in 587 Air Cadets, they’re still running today.

The Pier Day Care, United Mission and Whitney Pier Youth Club
Were a part of every child’s childhood.

Community Hall field trips, coming back all muddy.
The looks on our parents’ faces were frightening, but funny.

Running to Pier Video so we can throw quarters in the gumball machine.
Praying we would win free popcorn and movies.

Kids from all over Sydney would come to the Pier for the Menelik Hall dances.
Everyone got along, no one focused on our differences.

Christmas parades, Mission picnics, and lots of festivals.
Open loaders, pierogies, chicken and rice, hot sauce, and souse.

Want to learn some history?
Head to the Whitney Pier Historical Museum.

Sydney-Toronto Reunion, Action Week and sports.
Fun-run, baseball games, street dances, and the Tupper Street courts.

You could look out your door or walk down the street.
See adults and children talking and laughing, the sounds were sweet.

Oh the things I would give to live in Old Whitney Pier.

Dear Ugly Duckling…

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I write to you because you are too familiar.
Do you not find it strange that I’d seen you,
read you a hundred times before,
but never felt the pain that I now feel?
I did not recognize you then,
I was blinded by Hans Christian Andersen’s pen
The simple tale that was meant to teach me a lesson.

My lived experience has made me see
I am much like you
You are much like me
And when I look around in my community
My spirit aches for the countless reflections
of you
Who named you so and why?
Your story made my heart cry
And how long did you have to wait
To belong to a crowd that would not negate
Your very existence?

From whence did your endurance come?
Waiting between the covers three decades and some
Patiently, but sometimes in despair
To find your voice and whisper
“There is something wrong here!”
Seize it, retell it, don’t let it go!
You must know, they must know
that Ugly Ducklings exist
inside the covers of countless texts,
between title and credits on movie screens,
inside the walls of schools, colleges, and universities
silenced, illegitimately named and dying inside.
They wander along the margins their true selves to find,
society’s pawns,
because no one has yet told them
…they truly are swans.