Excerpted from the Ceremonies for the Dead, published March 31, 2013 by Kegedonce Press.
“Our bottom feeder, sin eater” – ‘Sturgeon’ by Karen Solie, short haul engine
I want to call you kin,
spit in your salty mouth and bind you
to my flesh.
I hear the rush of the lake,
feel the water rising against my thighs, calling me
Five thousand years you have swam
beneath my ancestor’s feet, our birch
canoes clouds in your murky sky.
Others call you sinful in the dark waters,
shadow on the river before our human hands descended,
churned the damp to bring you blinking into
light and air.
Teach me to carve my ribs
into the shape of you, the thin needles
which compress, contort their way through your spine.
Only my lungs hold me back now,
the wet sacks of membrane and
mucus lacking your folding center,
the way you can collapse yourself
with the river’s pressure.
Skin can easily become scale,
muscles reworked to be narrow bands
of current, purpose changed to carry me
through the winding corridors of water and reed.
My heart has never been dry,
and blood is just another liquid of salt and memory.
A river is a mind, a lake a brain of sunlight and
stony bottom, pieces of a life I already
Brother, if you take underneath
time, past the point of memory
where all sight is blind
and feeling cold, numb by
the weight of a million seasons
I will become yours until I die,
feast your bones in winter
and spread my hands among
the halls of your ancestors,
singing your name with
my human tongue, calling
all the songs of your family together again
in the dark.
all I know
comes from my gookum’s world
of bread, yeast floating in the air
like pollen waiting to be
called into being by her
the first words of my tongue
are her slow speech, the cluttered
way of talking about nothing
and everything at once.
on rainy days
tracing the faded wallpaper of geese
and ribbons, blue and red among
the dust of Michigan back roads, cigarette
ash piling up in corners of the
I listened to her talk, hum
her stories about the land, life
before the world of grocery stores
and the twilight glow of a
she doesn’t tell me
anything I don’t already know
but it isn’t knowing
makes you wise, it’s the
telling, if you know what