A collection of letter and prayer poems in which an Indigenous speaker engages with non-Indigenous famous Canadians.
D.A. Lockhart's stunning and subversive fourth collection gives us the words, thoughts, and experiences of an Anishinaabe guy from Central Ontario and the manner in which he interacts with central aspects and icons of settler Canadian culture. Riffing off Richard Hugo's 31 Letters and 13 Dreams, the work utilizes contemporary Indigenous poetics to carve out space for often ignored voices in dominant Canadian discourse (and in particular for a response to this dominance through the cultural background of an Indigenous person living on land that has been fundamentally changed by settler culture).
The letter poems comprise a large portion of this collection and are each addressed to specific key public figures--from Sarah Polley to Pierre Berton, k.d. lang to Robertson Davies, Don Cherry to Emily Carr. The second portion of the pieces are prayer poems, which tenderly illustrate hybrid notions of faith that have developed in contemporary Indigenous societies in response to modern and historical realities of life in Canada. Together, these poems act as a lyric whole to push back against the dominant view of Canadian political and pop-culture history and offer a view of a decolonized nation.
Because free double-doubles...
tease us like bureaucratic promises
of medical coverage and housing
not given to black mold and torn-
off siding. Oh Lord, let us sing anew,
in this pre-dawn light, a chorus
that shall not repeat Please Play Again. (from "Roll Up the Rim Prayer")
D.A. Lockhart is the author of The Gravel Lot that Was Montana (Mansfield Press, 2018), This City at the Crossroads (Black Moss Press, 2017), and Big Medicine Comes to Erie (Black Moss Press, 2016). His work has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. He is also the publisher at Urban Farmhouse Press. A Turtle Clan member of the Moravian of the Thames First Nation, Lockhart currently resides at Waawiiyaatanong on the south shore of the Detroit River (most often referred to as the border cities of Windsor ON and Detroit MI).
Letter to Cherry from Denis Crowfeather's Garage
Dear Don: it's been some time since last time
we saw eye-to-eye on anything. Maybe it goes
all the way back to big pay checks and Rocky
Mountain highs, maybe it's locked up in that
golden eagle strut of your Pow-Wow-infused
fancy dancing outfits showcased coast-to-coast
Saturday nights. Every eyeball busting thread
makes me understand that most all of us share
the need to strut the goods that Creator gave us
as we turkey-step our lives on the old turtle's back.
Old Denis and I were taking in the battle
of Ontario in his Curve Lake garage when you
came flashing through a bad V-hold and started
hollering about Bobby Orr and knowing your past,
and the importance of face punching a guy
when the right moment comes. Damned if we
didn't talk about the time the Odjick boys
roughed up some of Kahnawe fancy dancers
at Silver Lake couple of years back. Cree boys
reigned down snow like it was the last week
of November and did it because they swore
Edna Puskamoose lost the Grass Dance final
on account of a stick left in the circle by one
their boys the previous round. Grapes, you
gotta know that eastern Ontario Pow Wows
play heavier than an Adam Division final.
Intent in any competition is only an eighth
of any penalty. Old Denis and I laughed
like the Pow Wow spectators we are, both
knowing that Edna had the grace of a blind
heron and that it's easier to think well enough
of taking a shot or twelve to the head
so long as your suit makes you look like lake
showing off to the world and best things
you ever did were thirty years before you
started hollering advice into the night.
Always remember, we are nothing without
linesmen who talk quick enough to keep us
honest and ensure that second late game
hits the air before the V-hold breaks for good,