g’zaa’gan

when i was young

a girl with crooked thick braids

i yearned

for the love of my mother

to say those words

i love you

or to hold me close

and enfold me in her wiry arms so that i could smell the cigarette smoke hiding in her hair

but this she could never do

 

she was young herself, once

she was taken away

she was given away

she was told to pray

and told to go away

 

even now she doesn’t know how to say

i love you

to me

or to hold me close without going cold and rigid

like a stiff corpse in decomposing mode

 

but i understand

i don’t push to hear those words

i don’t push for those caresses

those things were taken away from her

when she was young, once

and she never bothered to learn it for herself

 

one thing, she told me when i asked

is how to say i love you

in anishnaabemowin

and she tells me

g’zaa’gan

and i whisper this to myself

and i say it louder

and louder

g’zaa’gan

and i remember now how easy it was for her to say

i love you in anishnaabemowin

g’zaa’gan goes deep inside of me and travels those ancient blood lines

and i remember she whispered this to me on the day of my birth

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