Words From the Chief (poem)

(for Soroya Erian & Chief Thomas)

I quit school in Grade 4.
I didn’t want to learn
about Little Boy Blue and Napoleon.
If the seed goes into the ground in the fall,
we can’t call it back in the spring.
We have no power;
we borrow it.
I borrow English.
If the maple sap stops running,
we have no way of restarting it.
When I cut the tree for the life-mask,
I say thank you.
The tree heals itself;
I ask the tree for its power.
If nature stops being bountiful,
we have no way of starting her again.
We have no way of starting her again
if nature stops being bountiful.
I ask the tree for its power;
the tree heals itself.
I say thank you
when I cut the tree for the life-mask.
We have no way of restarting it
if the maple sap stops running.
I borrow English.
We borrow it;
we have no power.
We can’t call it back in the spring
if the seed goes into the ground in the fall.
About Little Boy Blue and Napoleon
I didn’t want to learn.
I quit school in Grade 4.


  • First Prize Winner, in The Top 40: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by Hamilton Poets, 1993.

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