Excerpted from Bleuets et abricots (Mémoire d'encrier, 2016)

Natasha Kanapé Fontaine

In the North the stars race by
the northern lights keep watch
give me back the names of those waterways
dried up by dams
so I can drink the water from our mountains
with the kiss of his mouth

We braid our hair again
no one to scalp it now
tear it out

We braid the sweetgrass
hair of our mother earth
we burn it for the skies
we listen to the cantilenas
of dawn and the sea
the seventh generation rises
they count the stars
in the dark shadows
and black holes
they know by heart the names of the galaxies
of the solar systems
the star people

My heart throbs
I slip rings
onto my fingers
I put a golden jewel on my head
tonight, I'll dress
in my lichen clothes
I'll fix my hair
when the drum man comes
I'll whisper in his ear
a thousand secrets
about meteors

I want the warmth
of a solar eclipse
signal on my skin
geometric tattoo
to construct
the coming time

He comes to gather me
in my belly
here grow the blueberries
that we will harvest
on our festive day
we'll have to
take care of them

The blue flowers will open
to name perpetual summer
between the fingers of a child
to tell the time of tasting the ripe berry
that spreads its nectar over the river

I walk to the South
I came into the world
before Montreal

They spoke, humans
animals vegetables
they travelled, humans
animals vegetables

Hochelaga crossroads island
where cultures and languages drink each other

I know how to track down
blueberries and apricots

look up
remember your name

My people is a people of clouds
we don't shovel them in winter
the snow raises us like rebels
snowshoes on our feet, high cheekbones
fir tree honey on our lips

Guided by the snows
the ice ages our space
we are worthy
we are living

I savour the cumulus clouds
concrete buildings wooden fences
I have to stretch my neck

I sip the cirrus clouds
the others speak
another language
another way of living
another way of thinking

The horizon has a name
that I don't know
where have
the broad visions gone
eyes embedded
in the depths?

The horizon
fruit of the orgasm
far off the lover hurtles down
the slopes

The horizon
ripe fruit
twilight blueberry
for the first kiss

Will apricots fallen from the tree
know the feeling of being eaten?
of entering the body
of knowing the tongue
the saliva
the taste

Embrace destiny
the quest
penetrate the arteries
to the bones
to the marrow
of having freed
your fullness

I will open
the gate country of mine
the gate to the South
I will open the gate to Les Abricots
the Eden of Indians

I shout
everything sprouts
and shoots up

look up
remember your name

have come to shut
the gates of the Plan Nord
the gates of death

I say
I say

I am the Space Woman
a red and black hat
covers my hair

Coil my hair
around my ears

I am the Space Woman
thirsty for horizons
I am free
and I am captive
my mother spoke this way
I am the Space Woman
please gather me
before I fall from the tree
and roll too far

A sweet tongue will say to all ears
Mwen fou pou li
Tshetshue nitshishkueikun, tshetshue nishatshiau
my arteries will drain my blood
fever rising
my breasts swell
my vulva swells
excites the fruit the desire
just to see the break of day
with the feeling of being full
he'll come
to me
the beloved
to swell my dreams

Now that I wear the beaded hat
I speak my dreams
my visions
my hopes

I recognize my people here
indigenous woman
cheeky woman
territory woman
black earth woman
pleasure woman

Give birth to the light
the star will embrace the dawns
give birth to the clearings
give birth to the great bears

I am
generation woman
nation amidst nations
stripped bare
breasts skyward
I say I
I am

And you're already drooling
just glimpsing me
there is only your desire
that stands up

You won't have my track
nor my print
asphalt roads
my print
you will carry it in your blood
you will carry it in your marrow

Where did you drop your virtue?
where did you lose your people?

I hear you cough
I climb down from my burning stake
—they called me a witch—
from the cross in the schools
I will give my breast
you will drink my milk
from my left nipple

I no longer remember your name
I hide my face in my hands
spell me the name of my land
spell me the name of my mother
my eyelids have been closed
for too many centuries.

Will you also offer me these gold jewels
to shackle my wrists?

My name was invented by revolt.

translated from the French by Howard Scott