Blue Marrow

By Louise Bernice Halfe

Blue Marrow
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The voices of Blue Marrow sing out from the past and the present. They are the voices of the Grandmothers, both personal and legendary. They share their wisdom, their lives, their dreams. They proclaim the injustice of colonialism, the violence of proselytism, and the horrors ... Read more


Overview

The voices of Blue Marrow sing out from the past and the present. They are the voices of the Grandmothers, both personal and legendary. They share their wisdom, their lives, their dreams. They proclaim the injustice of colonialism, the violence of proselytism, and the horrors of the residential school system with an honesty that cuts to the marrow. Speaking in both English and Cree, these are voices of hopefulness, strength, and survivance. Blue Marrow is a tribute to the indomitable power of Indigenous women of the past and of the present day.

More than twenty years since its first publication, this critically acclaimed collection is available in a redesigned edition, including an all-new interview with its celebrated author, Louise B. Halfe - Sky Dancer.

Louise Bernice Halfe

Louise Bernice Halfe, whose Cree name is Sky Dancer, was born in Two Hills, Alberta. She was raised on the Saddle Lake Indian Reserve and attended Blue Quills Residential School. Halfe first published her poetry in Writing the Circle: Women of Western Canada. She has since published four poetry collections, with a fifth to be released in 2021. A retrospective of her work, Sôhkêyihta, was published by Wilfrid Laurier Press in 2018. Blue Marrow was first published in 1998 and was a finalist for the Governor General's Award for Poetry, Pat Lowther Award, and Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award.

Halfe, whose works are well known for their inclusion of Cree language and teachings, served as poet laureate of Saskatchewan, only the second person to do so. She has been awarded three Honourary Degrees of Letters, from Wilfrid Laurier University (2018), the University of Saskatchewan (2019) and Mount Royal University (2021). She works as an Elder at the University of Saskatchewan where she is a consultant in several departments. In 2020 she won the Cheryl & Henry Kloppenburg Award for Literary Excellence and was awarded a lifetime membership with the League of Canadian poets. She lives just outside of Saskatoon.

Excerpt

I sit by the window
Thick woodsmoke lets the moon shine in.
I take my finger and walk it,
leave mice-size tracks.
The cabin is warm with the smell of bannock.
This long bone I hold
leaves me calloused and cold.
A few months ago I chewed all the meat
and now I've become clever.
I press these words hard
with charcoal
over and over
so I can write.
The little ones with dirty blond hair
look at me with dawn's eyes. I travel with them
into their backyard
where those men of god docked their ships,
took brown wives,
left them in barns and stalls -
horseflies and mosquitos.
Many years have passed.
The moon our only eye,
it travels the silent roar of the lake,
the grand stillness of the rocks.
These blond children of the fur traders
seep through our women
even though they have long remarried
into the dark bark of our grain.
Their grandmother's chant cuts
the air on a dead drum,
"devil's spawn, devil's spawn. "
Over the hills the bone climbs
slowly past the metal crosses
pounded in the ditches,
nailed hubcaps shine
in the centre of the holy bones.
Every dirt car rattling over this washboard road,
its braided passengers crossing themselves.
The sign of the cross is never holy.
A little red rose and lonesome charlie
spilled through the mud-stained windows
slur jesus' name.
They pass where someone saw
mary's radiance.
I see her myself, radiant, her bloody hands,
her bloody heart, her half-starved face.
She draws
till my head is a massive throb.
I am in this room.
A mosquito buzzes my arm.
I've smudged with sage.
I think repelling thought
for the mosquito and these icons.
My hunt is without a rifle,
without a net,
my bone
filled with the fists of women
of the fur trade.
The orange sunset dies
beneath broken beer bottles,
the birds cackle
in the embers of the dying heat.
I receive a rock in the mail.
Hummingbird sends a wing.
I barricade myself.
My fingers crows,
ravens the computer.
Quebec. Referendum.
I sip okinîwâpoy.
Chew wîhkês
Notes slip under my door.
I can hardly get past my throat.
Large white splattering
at the House.
Feathered people storming.
Columbus wrote:
"My wound has opened again. "
His bones at the cathedral of Santa Domingo
moved four times,
different burial grounds.
In the last move his ashes
spill and are trampled.

Awards

  • Governor General's Award for Poetry 1998, Short-listed

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