Detroit Zoo Bathroom 1977
From Little Wildheart. Published by University of Alberta Press in 2017. Micheline Maylor is Calgary’s Poet Laureate and a professor at Mount Royal University. She has written for the Literary Review of Canada and Quill & Quire. She lives in Calgary.
“Hey Nigger, Where’d you get that kid?”
Pale as an anaemic and holding hands with a goddess,
I learned the word racist in the grip of my grandmother.
Bronzed Queen of the Huron, mixed-breed, multi-lingual, lady of St. Clair lake, she tanned dark as curses.
Me, bleached to blend in Prairie snow, white as a winter hare, hadn’t yet moulted into my golden summer skin. Photoperiodism not yet complete. Call it too much Anglo-breeding with fair-haired men. Call it what you will, call it nights in my teenage years asking my brown eyes and black hair: why?
Only one Mattel Barbie coloured like me, unglamorously named Skipper. Skip her. Where is my blonde hair, my Sun-in, my glacial eyes?
I check the box on the government forms: Caucasian. No box for colonized, for the 1/16th bred. Just the double helix of my DNA, my ability to sun-brown, and my own green-eyed children of the voyageur, river visions still caught in their irises.
We’re born out of a long ago season.
Everyone is sure of place and race. Blood and semen mixed in dirt and cervix, convex and enchanted by muskrat’s eerie smile, dark truth furred and matted, stroked by a river paddle.
Let that long tooth bite now in the land of the race riots, negro, and redskin, the underground railroad, and the Indian village.
Let the name Pontiac take new form and hit the road, the righteous mile where judgement and boundary blurs, especially on matters of composition blood, bone, and relations.