Two Poems from Undoing Hours

Selina Boan’s debut poetry collection Undoing Hours (Nightwood Editions) explores growing up as a white settler-nehiyaw woman and the process of unlearning, (re) learning and imagining new, decolonialized ways to exist and understand the world now and for the future. Below, we share two poems from Selina’s collection.


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on wanting
when i message you, my phone autocorrects the beginning—hey, I 
hope, hope—and i imagine your brief bubbling ellipsis, like water
suspended on the awning of a tent, becomes the reply—yeah, we could
all use more hope, on any given day
in nêhiyawêwin, the grammar of telling time includes the word
mîyâskam to describe something that happens in the first half of an
hour. it’s how we say after
mitâtaht cipahikanis mîyâskam nîso tipahikan / ten minutes after two
o’clock and the day is aluminum / non-magnetic / silvered with touch
/ i close my blinds / open my bedside drawer / turn my vibrator on
i practise time in my dress / kekâc is almost / kekâc nisto tipahikan /
it’s almost three o’clock / it’s kekâc a bad day / taped up like the hem
of my skirt / to hold for the afternoon / till it falls to its original length
/ below my knees / above my ankles / this day slips through the clock
/ kekâc wâpam / kekâc niyânan tipahikan / time translates / i was a
mistake / into lake glimmer / thigh-high socks and fur buttons
last night at the party, molly asks me—who do you perform for?—and
the question rotates
through my whole life, girls swiping girls swiping boys, bobby pins in
their hair, the internet knows i’m single, i laugh and we smoke, talk crows,
exes, car rides that filter into the next day, this day a denim jacket with
corduroy lining, sleeves rolled to show the green underneath
after is mîyâskam / an orgasm / crotch sweat / a towel slung over the
chair / mîyâskam âpihtâpîskâw / my want is a mood ring / it glows
lavender close to the body / mîyâskam âpihtâpîskâw / i vaseline my lips
/ i watch a red lily take root in my sternum
when i message you my phone autocorrects the beginning and nostalgia
crawls through a window to rearrange the room, curtains opening in
or through to someplace else, like the spot where beads hang from an
earlobe you want to kiss, a field prickled with goldenrod, the sound of
buttons shaking loose
campaign for my body’s mess
tonight, mcdonald’s
is my saviour    i drink
water    like i’m in gridlock
burning in the sun without a/c
an accident slowing everyone
on the highway    radios turned
on to flashes of grief
memory    blasts itself
through me    a pillow
in a window display
that says leave
your shit somewhere
else it crowds the river
near where mom set fire
to sap as a girl
dime-sized leaks
from the tree just enough
to make light run
toward the ground
i    drink till    memory
stops forming nohtâwiy
stops messaging    prays
every night to jesus
in gratitude
too easy some days
becoming the things
i fear    i’m too soft
for the internet
have the urge to put
my head on the shoulders
of bus strangers    daddy
issues a collection of key chains
i’ve been accumulating
rabbit-fur puffs
beaded strawberries
on a metal ring    i wear
headphones to watch porn
sound maxed    i pick my nose
in elevators scratch
time off the walls
in the form of glossed
paint    faux wood
inside this grief
forest    guts are a deer
hung sliced
in my grandpa’s shed
a pool of blood on the concrete
of this day    i find
a piece of grass
maskosiy    inside the x-ray
of nisit like a fleck
of green glitter    shining
i press a button
and a hamburger
* * *
Selina Boan
is a white settler–nehiyaw poet living on the traditional, unceded territories of thexwməθkwəy̓ əm (Musqueam), səl̓ ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-waututh) and skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) peoples. Her work has been published widely, including in The Best Canadian Poetry 2018 and 2020. She has received several honours for her work, including Room’s 2018 Emerging Writer Award and the 2017 National Magazine Award for Poetry. She is currently a poetry editor for Rahila’s Ghost Press and is a member of the Growing Room Collective.Photo Credit: Kayla MacInnis