November 11, Remembrance Day

 

I have performed my act of remembrance,

as I am required.

I have remembered the fallen soldiers

and those who remain behind to mourn.

I have watched the Governor General,

the Silver Cross mother—younger than I—and the Prime Minister.

I have watched the pipers of my father’s regiment parade where he did.

 

Now in the rain, in Stanley Park,

in the greyness of fifty more November skies,

by the hollow tree, the singer tree,

I perform my own act of remembrance.

 

I remember the songs that Johnny taught me

I remember the weaving designs

I remember the animals he carved for me

I remember the talking stones he gave me

and my parents threw away in anger and hatred.

 

I remember the feel of the wind on my face

I remember the silence of the forest,

the only sound the drip of the rain.

I remember the calls of birds or squirrels.

I remember the occasional crash

of a broken limb from a tree.

I remember my silence, bought

at the price of the scars on my leg and foot.

 

I remember my silence,

imposed by angry parents

with outmoded ideas

and racist thoughts.

I remember my anger,

 

I remember the way my heart soared

when we walked on the trails on the hills

among the trees,

and along the river.

 

I remember the speech I gave in the train station.

“All beings are related.

We must take care of all beings

we must use only those, kill only those

which we need for food.”

I remember the woman who said

it will be a very long time until

you give that speech again.

 

The time has come now.

I am giving that speech.

I am remembering my teachers,

teachers who taught me to love the land.

 

I remember the hours we spent in Jasper

with my silence and my anger,

and my grief,

and my fear.

 

I remember the horrible questions asked by doctors,

pretending to know all,

when they know nothing of the world of spirit.

 

I remember my father telling me these were primitive beliefs,

the beliefs which I was experiencing,

the dreams and visions of the dark time of year.

 

I remember seeing wolf’s spirit running beside the train.

I remember staying silent in her presence.

 

I remember that morning,

when my father woke me in my berth on the train,

and told me I must get up to see the top of Mount Robson,

the conductor saying it was a rare treat.

I remember being suspicious of his reason

for waking me.

I remember being confused that he wanted me to look

at something in nature.

 

The view of that mountain’s peak that morning,

in the rising sun,

was a view of all that’s sacred.

It was a view of holy light,

the blinding yellow-going-to-white light

that we walk in, that we live in,

that brought us here

and to which we must return.

 

I remember the trip,

on the ship, up the coast.

I remember standing near the prow,

the diesel engines vibrating the deck

so the skin of my face shook.

 

I remember forty years later

when I dreamt of the singer on the shore,

the man wearing the crooked-face mask, standing,

watching me sail by on the Queen of the North.

 

I remember all the dreams that brought me here,

brought me home.

 

I remember drumming,

hearing the call, “home”,

and not understanding.

Drumming and being so amazed

that the drumming lead me home,

 

I remember as each strange piece of my puzzle

has fallen into place,

as the leaves fall down to their places

on the forest floor.

 

And the light,

the light remains on the path with the fallen.

Brilliant yellow, golden yellow of fall,

vivid red stems.

Some places they cover the path,

some places just one leaf in five paces.

Some places they hang in the trees and many are reluctant to fall,

keeping me from finishing my life’s puzzle.

 

I remember those who taught me,

who teach me, to see.

 

I remember my teachers,

the teachers who taught me to love the land.