driving down highway 17 that hugged the edge
of the mississaugi river, n’ookimis hands gripped
the wheel of her brown mercury
that car was reliable even though
it sputtered when she
turned the key
pumped the gas
until the car coughed out blue exhaust
the smell of gasoline flooded the interior

in the passenger seat, i’d count the hydro poles
ten of them would equal one mile
one mile was at least two minutes
eight minutes during a blizzard

light me a smoke, n’ookimis said

i’ve seen her a million times pushing in the lighter
and it would startle me each time it popped out
she’d pull out the lighter and bring it towards her face
where she held the rothman’s king size cigarette between her lips
the edges of the smoke would light up with ease

i was eight when i first inhaled a cigarette
on our way up to the reserve to visit granny
i remember coughing then passing the lit cigarette over to n’ookimis
there was nothing strange or wrong about this

it was a different time

she taught me how to count to ten in indian
it took a long time to learn
six hundred hydro poles
six trips back and forth from town to the rez
one hour of learning before my tongue quit fighting with the syllables


gikinawaabi – she learns by observing

bezhig daabaan one car
niizh miikanan two roads
nswi bineshiinhyag three birds
niiwin noodin four winds
naanan waawaashkeshiyag five deer
ngodwaaswi aanakwadwad six clouds
niizhwaaswi nokimisag seven grandmothers
zhaangswi indaangoshenhyag nine cousins
midaaswaabik ten dollars


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s