Detroit Zoo Bath­room 1977

Geist - - Findings - MICHELINE MAYLOR

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.

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