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"I'm in Iceland, darling" by Jonina Kirton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m in Iceland, darling

 

they have poetry in the bathroom
uncredited text on blocks of wood
cheeky commentaries on life
some chilling reminders
that those who live on shifting ground
take their poetry seriously

it is Christmas in the mall     red everywhere
silver adornments for trees and tabletops
I find a coffee shop     listen to words I do not understand
but feel familiar     and I want to lean in

I do not know if my grandmother spoke these words
I do not know if I have heard this before
all I know is that I am leaning into her
and that everywhere I go I look for her face

I find her at a dinner party
she is pretty     and I am glad
would she have been single too
a photographer     not a farmer with seventeen children
this apartment could have been hers
the old furniture     the artwork passed down
my grandmother had nothing to give me but love
and a cheque for     $200 carefully noted in her will
the cost of diaspora long forgotten     no accounting methods
to track what was lost     language the first to go
the passing down of heirlooms     carvings filled
with the stories once in the hands of the maker
and now living on in the wood     a telling of another sort

my grandmother’s mother came with nothing     not even a mother
her father reluctant to claim her    listed as nanny
not daughter     not     sister her mother lost
went missing in the country where we take a drive
I look for her, but she is not there

I am here to be a witness to the past
I stand where my ancestors once stood
outdoor governing     a gathering place
named Althingi
here the land, the gods
the little people honoured
                                                  a short walk
                                                  waters dark
                                                  and deep
                                                  we share a coin
                                                  make a wish

the land is filled with silence     yet it never stops talking
tells me it knows me     that I belong to its past

the pristine snow and the heat of the earth
bring geyser remembrances
the gushing of watery words made white hot
by those who do not live brown
my skin erupts     steam escapes from my mouth

           I feel the burning

the lava words of my aunties and uncles
the way they slow crawl just below my skin

            I am a volcano    on an island

                I became my own island

I have always been between
the wombs of my grandmothers
offered two worlds    one with circles
where we lay ourselves open
to the warmth of a fire
the other a burning of another sort
both sides made strong by storytelling
by a connection to the land of their ancestors
each a reflection of circumstances
black sand beaches    sharp    salt
cold water    peninsulas pointing to Canada
where voyagers from both sides ventured
both sides made strong by storytelling
by a connection to the land of their ancestors
and a place called Turtle Island

 

nína Kirton, a Red River Métis/Icelandic poet was sixty-one when she received the 2016 Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Award for an Emerging Artist in the Literary Arts category. Her second collection of poetry, An Honest Woman, was a finalist in the 2018 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.

Enjoy Kirton's live reading of I'm in Iceland, darling during our 75th anniversary online celebration on Novemeber 25. After reading, click here for more information on how to register for the free events! 

 

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