missing posters

I was leaving Walmart one day,

yes, I admit I buy cheap shampoo at Walmart

sometimes budget restrictions

force one to be thrifty

and crafty

as I was leaving

I noticed a poster

more like a grid

10 by 10 faces

smiling

brown

women

 

one looks like my mom

my auntie

my sister

my grandmother

and one looks like me

 

the big black letters scream out to me

M  i  s   i  n  g

my hands clasp over my mouth

a word I cannot say and give spirit to

a word that makes me cringe

every

single

time

I see it

 

my feet speed up

and as I pass I look at the corner of my eye

I see photos of women

10 by 10

that’s 100 faces

that’s 200 eyes that follow me

and watch me

leave through those automatic doors

 

I cycle along a path that winds beside the Ottawa river

smiling faces are imprinted into my memory

as the wind carries sweetgrass I lift my face

the breeze brushes over me like feathers

those posters don’t really register

because I don’t won’t to acknowledge what it means

until I see my daughters

and I see those young women who look just like them

 

when my girls leave for school or to a friend’s place

I tell them to have fun

and when they walk out that door

I take in what they wear

what colour shirt?

are they wearing jeans or shorts?

sandals or sneakers?

I tell them that I love them

I reach for them and hold them close

I breathe in their hair

encode it to my memory

and I catch myself

 

I. will. not. do. this.

I will not imagine them leaving

and not coming back

or that this could be the last time I see them

I will not do this

because I think

it might just happen

I can’t wish this

I can’t give power to these thoughts

because since I’ve seen these posters in walmart

every time I see a sister walking down the street

I memorize everything about her

 

hair reminds me of sweetgrass blowing in the wind

smile reminds me of a crescent moon

eyes are laughing even when she’s not laughing

lips are the colour of raspberries

hips sway and bend easy like red willow

belly kicks with the potential of bringing life

and that this particular shade of green-blue

enhances her golden brown skin

and as she passes me

I smell wild rice, fried bread, and smoked salmon

miigwech gzhemindo gii miizhyaan mino bemaadziwin

thank you gzhemindo for giving us the good life

 

this is walking in beauty

I imagine sisters laughing

flowing everywhere, touching every flower

and pedals opens up

just for her

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3 thoughts on “missing posters

  1. This is such a beautiful poem about a heart-breaking issue. I feel like you really honored all the women in those missing posters in this poem! Love you and your writing!

    Like

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