the great moon
long nights she waxes and wanes, is new, crescent, quarter,
gibbous, full. To some, a mirror of emotion, to others,
Queen of Life and Death. Hecate,
Grandmother, Luna, Eternal One.
Works tides, holds a lantern to the dark, promises renewal
and perseverance. Without her, we are not. Learn
under her watch: strength, courage, respect, how
to scrabble for truth, be guided by
honesty, walk with humility.
Grandmothers Ke-Che-Cho-Wick, Wash-e-Soo-E’Squew,
Kitty (Catherine), Sally and Catherine—
under the same moons as cousins, strangers,
the unnamed, notorious, ordinary, extraordinary,
your stations in life
both promise and threat;
The Bible, solace
and weapon; blood, the source
of strength and shame. Few of you knew old age. I sift
for detail in the words of those who whittle lives with a pen,
a rare instrument for a woman. A shred, debris, a tendril—
a past you lived we cannot fully know. Not the rustle
of your coats, footsteps in the night air, the touch of silken
or calloused hands. The tangy scent of ashes cooled
in the hearth. Wisdom—
in the stirring of life under sugar moon,
storms of thunder moon, in falling-leaves moon when
loss is all around. You have watched the river rise
and fall, known it packed with ice, muddy
in spring rain, swift in summer. A red stream.
Many granddaughters later, countless first cries
and graves, and here I am, time waning.
The moon glints on the river,
water rises like blood.
Excerpt from Following the River: Traces of Red River Women by Lorri Neilsen Glenn (Wolsak and Wynn, 2017) Note: Grandmothers mentioned are Neilsen Glenn’s Indigenous ancestors from Northern Manitoba and the Red River colony. Reprinted with permission.