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“NAME (STURGEON)” and “Kitchens”

“NAME (STURGEON)” and “Kitchens”

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

to you.

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

of rain.

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

steady hands.

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

dented table

I listened to her talk, hum

her stories about the land, life

before the world of grocery stores

and the twilight glow of a

murmuring television.

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

she meant.

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About The Author

Giles Benaway

Giles Benaway (Tsagli/Anishinaabe/Metis) is of Odawa/Potawatomi/Eastern Cherokee, and Anglo Metis descent. He is a Masters student at The University of Toronto in the field of sociolinguistics and second language acquisition. His poetry can be found in First Nations House Magazine and scrawled within bathroom stalls at truck stops across Northern Ontario.

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