iskwew

my kokum used to tell me:

“if you wear your shoes on the wrong feet

a bear will eat you.”

when i moved to the city

my kokum cried

because cities have never been kind to us

and there are threats bigger than

bears chasing a toddler

with her left shoe on her right foot.

 

she calls me to say:

“don’t leave your drink unattended”

“don’t walk alone at night, my girl”

 

she taught me how to knead bannock

and how to say the lords prayer

she showed me where she saw

hungry spirits at the lake

she taught me how to say “i love you” in our way

she taught me how to

be scared of the dark

when you’re a lone woman

walking from the bus stop to

your front door.

my mother taught me

that no man is anything to you

and that you can pick up and survive

but you should never do it alone

and to call her when i get home

even if i’m only grocery shopping

in the middle of the day

because the threat

is more real than the act

when you’re alone

and she watched the news last night

and saw there was an attack in my neighbourhood

and i didn’t tell her that

we knew before the news did

and we have been keeping each other safe

for this long

we lay at the foot of my bed

and laugh about the ways in which

men have come and gone

and why we let them

in our lives

in the first place

and through the gaps in the

laughter

it becomes more real to us

that even though

we fit keys between our fingers

when we walk

that even though we have talked

about keeping

a pocket knife

in our boots

that we have been hurt more

by the ones we thought

were good

than the ones we were told

to watch out for

the ones that

 lurk on dark street corners

and hide in the hydrangea bush

at the end of the block.

 

all we can do

is warn

the next generation that

being safe is different than surviving

and surviving is different than living

and all those things are easier to do

if you have somewhere safe

to let your roots run deep.

we continue

to take chances on strangers

and hoping the next time

will be less disappointing than the last

but in the morning

we have

more coffee

more laughter

i will dry your hair

while we keep

moving forward

with our shoes on the wrong feet.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. rednig says:

    Nana, Granny, used to tell us to behave or a bear would eat us. “You don’t want to poison an innocent, man-eating bear, do you? Have mercy, think of the bellyache you kids would give him.” Nana went from upper-middle class/wealthy daughter of a coal mine owner to dirt poverty. Against her parent’s wishes, she married a full-blood Lenape. They had a nice farm, lots of kids and grandchildren, and a lot of love. She survived Pappy by 20 years but never found a man his equal. We already know Pappy felt that way about her when they eloped. His race was changed to colored, and it was illegal for a Colored to marry a white (Metis, but registered in W. Virginia as white). He would have gotten 2 years in the pen for it, but they ran to Pennsylvania. Niio, walk in God’s beauty.

  2. My mooshum always said that to me as well about putting your shoes on the wrong feet. I always thought it was just a weird thing he said. Do you know if there is a Métis story that goes with the saying? Love your work. Thanks for sharing.

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