Poetry: Sharon Berg (Author of the Month)


          from the Spanish: abandon; surrender oneself; yield to something

We are equations of the sun.
Without touching, our hands play a global chakra
the resonance between us like harmonic chords
of a galactic guitar. Dreaming an astral music
we travel hills and valleys,
the rhythm of our bodies spontaneous
and sonorous as the water drum.
Breath, water and dust,
we braid a unity, generating tones unheard
even as they manifest.

Standing beside a polluted river we watch
the muskrat fish, reminding us of
Muskrat's ultimate sacrifice in the Midewiwin
legend of The Flood, for the sake of community
and Earth's Second Creation.

Later, in a small café, we talk of the power
to rebuild: self-supporting orphanages
in Mexico, co-operative farming in Africa
or India, sovereignty returned to the colonized
in Australia, the West Indies, the Americas.

Suddenly we emanate light,
its pink bubble surrounds us, drawing
smiles from the waitress, telling friends
there is hope for the world in the love between
two people, in the joining of our cultures.

We know that culture is humanity's love song
for the homelands, each song unowned,
made for giving and forgiving.
Listen, the Earth
resonates like a mother crooning.
She is calling home her prodigals.

In loving, the song of the universe fills us
to overflowing. We become the third sphere
and axis between the physical
and spiritual worlds. Love is both
our anchor and our progression, a pure light
launched on the bow of our bodies
to pry the narrow door to another soul.

We are both the intention and the witness,
the conscious participants in Creation’s dance.
The body is a site of worship in all religions
of the physical world. Together, we generate
a resonant choir of praise and wonder. Together,
we emerge from darkness
in a glowing flame of love
for the world
and all its people.

I am saying Yes,
giving myself to what Is
entregarse, the integer,
the whole
that is holy.

Anthems for The Homeland

in memory of Oka, Quebec, 1990

the bus travels northeast through rolling hills
a thin ribbon of highway curling over low drumlins
or cutting through the centre of steep knolls
raw pink granite flanks bring me to shudder
as they pass the windows, this cruel road
stretched between two homes

doubling back on my path
I have boarded a bus to flee the attention
of a man who echoed my father’s desires
going home for the opening of an old lover’s play


under a gun-metal sky with clouds gilded at the edge
nature’s purse spills nickels and dimes over dark forested hills
while rain patterns the windows from here to there
even trees and boulders beside this wet road distorted
like a sodden papier-mâché with smudged borders
each silhouette threatening to invade its neighbour


my old lover meets the bus, his kiss on both cheeks
a gesture between comrades
over lunch I share news not relayed by media
of a Toronto caravan rallying for Kahnewake
5,000 strong at Oka, Quebec
denied access to shade trees in the park
the spot we had intended to meet
the Sûreté du Quebec force us to offload
in an open field on the hottest day of summer
we learn later they followed the bus
to its motel pit stop, holding our drivers
at gunpoint by the road, refusing to speak English
in a search lasting five hours
cocking their rifles when a driver gestured
he was thirsty, pointing
to pop machines across the road

back at the rally, more Sûreté hide in trees
dark shadows surrounding the sweltering field
tension rising within the crowd
a sound system broadcasting
promises from politicians and First Nations leaders
I heard Elijah Harper’s voice,
impossible to see him over the milling crowd,
frustrated by heat and community politics,
traditional women held private ceremonies
behind the podium controlled by men
gave a basket to women arriving by secret paths
said, These four medicines will nourish your families,
the baskets their version of seven fishes
and seven loaves


Lunch with my ex-lover is on a patio
by the mirror of a lake ringed in mauve mists
over blue hills, my older socialist lover unable
to understand the organizers’ anger
as activists for other causes distribute leaflets
for unity against the rape and pillage of the system —
the politics of rock and soil unobserved,
every deep northern lake home to Mudjekeewis,
the land itself defining both language and tradition,
each greeting drawing upon generations of residence
in the homelands to acknowledge the presence
of Waynaboozhoo who named all things


the cosmos expresses rhyme and purpose
that mortals cannot avoid, my old lover is Lear
raping his daughter in the theatre —
even as her sister stands to the side, reciting definitions
of infibulation and clitorectomy — the play
intends to contrast Lear’s story with the political
rape of peasants in South America
at the back of the theatre women giggle
as Lear writhes on the floor with his daughter,
safe to disagree under cloak of darkness
I applaud their ability to distance without argument
or tears, though the actors say afterward they
cannot understand the insensitivity
of some women in the audience


I intend to hold my tongue but he asks,
this old lover, old enough to be my father
suddenly I understand what he knows of women
is discovered through their bodies,
unable to fathom their anger or humour —
in that dark theatre part of me retreated, safety
in distance when no one is trusted,
he cannot understand appropriation, the artful
reflections of self in the script obliterate the other
this is the same thing that happens
on the road through every reserve
where the people have weathered centuries of denial
before erecting barricades


a bullet claims the life of a Sûreté officer in Quebec
it remains unowned, or disowned,
an accidental shooting bringing The Pines
(the graves of Mohawk ancestors) to centre stage,
it makes Canadian history as the army arrives
to replace the Sûreté holding an entire village hostage,
a battalion sent into the woods to secure a putters’ green
as soldier squares off with warrior, unblinking
First Nations remember the baby born at Wounded Knee
protesters surrounded for 71 days in 1973,
in 1990 an ambulance is stopped on the bridge at Oka
and regular citizens force a Mohawk woman to spread her legs
to prove she is having a difficult birth


78 days of protest at Oka, Quebec, in 1990
disagreements untended since New France
awarded that land to a Sulpician Seminary in 1717
a land grant protested by Mohawk time and again,
no respect shown for the graveyard
beside a city-built golf course, the Mohawk
taking up arms only when expansion
threatened the bones of their ancestors


Oh, Canada! Vast stolen Native lands
Ours by decree of a foreign king’s command
Their nationhood, England’s crown denied
Though we postured with treaties
and the people were, oh, Canada
denied their own ancestry!
The crown holds the land, the Natives dependent
on Canada by denial of their sovereignty!

Oh, Canada, at Oka they resisted our army!

Bio note: Sharon Berg writes poetry and stories as well as nonfiction that focuses on First Nations history and education. She has published several poetry collections, including To a Young Horse (Borealis Press, 1979) and The Body Labyrinth (Coach House Press, 1984) and a number of chapbooks from Big Pond Rumours Press (2006, 2016, 2017). Her periodical publications include poems and/or stories in Canada, the USA, Mexico, the UK, the Netherlands, and Australia. She has two new manuscripts of poetry and Naming the Shadows, her first collection of short fiction, will be published by Porcupine’s Quill in September 2019. Sharon is the founder and editor for Big Pond Rumours, an international literary magazine and chapbook press. She lives in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. http://www.sharonberg.com or http://www.big-pond-rumours.com

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