Brigitte Lavallée. Imperfect Stories. A Poetic Suite

français / Mi’kmaq

– Translated by Jo-Anne Elder

Jessie Babin. La chute. Fusain sur papier, 76cmx111cm, 2011

In the eyes of a stranger
finding ourselves in a familiar place

with the wolves
of urban myths
with the mist of Oregon
Moncton or Chicago

enter into these imperfect stories
these endless films
in which the animal

behind our backs

No doubt, we give in too often

carted around out of nowhere
a mound of questions

The sum of all our beings :
what is it,
a thousand pieces scattered around ?

Do we not carry the imprint
of all those whose place we have taken ?

through our everyday struggles
wounded butterflies      flyaway hair      lotus flowers
the core of our origins endures

a nickname
slightly old-fashioned
somewhere between city and country

a bike ride
in black and white

a few pennies
for an old school
without a name      without an address

a feeling you have at the end of a path

a jazz singer
with her I love youz

the giggling ripples of fresh water
their sand stories      breezes      underbrush

where the dead bury themselves

The house shifts
as soon as we drift off to sleep
it scrapes the bottom of dreams
it stands guard
against forgetting

the house dances
as soon as the hens wake up
it invites shadows to draw closer
lurk in the trenches

the house has a first name
when we leave it
a fiction      a story      a novel

a day or a night
a bomb      a tsunami      a crane

children’s rhymes
are ripped away from it
and it continues singing
in the ruins
of underground rivers

My veils fall down
and my hair
to the bottom of the sewers

the pores of my skin no longer hold
the itches of the lowlands
the ruse of the bamboos
the venom of wasps
the dust of laughter      the dust of my enemies

bruised promises

heels too soft
wandering around the present
while my childhood memories
burnt apples      porridge      brown sugar
slide inside the lining of my coat

What is on the other side of these stories ?

What becomes of beauty
that is hidden in a body
and has a name copied a thousand times ?

What becomes of these minutes
crushed by gravity
gazes extinguished plastic souls
under the beams of projectors
meticulous and finely tuned

What becomes of watercolours
if they refuse to do my bidding
lie on muddy ground
under opaque skies ?

the sound of fog
the same story
repeats itself

always the same alleyways
that walk over me

I do not belong to myself

I taste the emptiness
I fear the dance
I do not hope

the birds don’t care

inflating my compass

waiting room
the pupils of my eyes are lost
inside a window well

trees like puzzle pieces

my face like a savannah
I open my skin
to the weight of the air
I wear myself out
when you say learn you mean love
I patch my language together

I get cold
when I try to find clarity

to avoid crumbling into powder
I bathe
in the sides of snowbanks      the crisp twigs of sky

the fossils finally awaken

I wonder
if I could become a garden once again

The vice grip
clenches the poems
curled up in every cell

Why kill us ?

phantoms of dust
under the lanterns
of brutality

I have lost my bones
in one of this country’s nowheres
it was too narrow for me

isolated inside my symbols
insulated inside my reserve

Leslie Joanne Michelle Donna Lynn Melissa Jolene
is my name

leaving the weight
of this eroding world behind


The man is eating
the bruises of the world

under the neon lights
there is never any rest

compacted in the concrete
voices rise up

corridors grandstanding
with their billboard lies
everything you can never see
in the shadows of industry

they tell us about
the language of conflict and tension
about storms      hurricanes
injustice      intimidation
the dialogues between generations

about the Chiassons the Landrys the Comeaus
the Millers the Turcottes the Roys the Nameless
the wharves the cities the schools the scrap yards
the bakers the carpenters the inn-keepers
the cooks the caretakers the translators
the singers the painters the undocumented
the fathers the mothers the insane the old people the orphans

we help each other out we invent we grow up we dance
we hope

once more

sometimes we sleep too long
or not long enough
we agree we protest
we repeat the words that haunt our legends
we unchain ourselves from violence
we offer complete silence to others

displaced in time
we defend ourselves against nonsense

sometimes we just look at each other and do nothing

Your language
is not the same as mine

my language
is still imprisoned
in a glass bubble

you force me
to unlearn to resolve to reduce myself

How will I find myself ?

you take hold my territory
from underneath

and you don’t even
speak to me

or look at me

Will we ever be able
to come together ?

even though you can barely understand me
you give me
so many reasons to write

Should we not
stand strong together
like trees ?

Memory woman
horizon woman
torrent woman

your North
reaches up to my land

we are all the same
just a few plant names apart

urban harvests dictated by our exile

you tell me
come die in my rivers      do not be afraid

I come to you
my words under a light veil      you listen to me
in your dream catcher
you trap them all
you take everything from me

you ask me again
Haven’t you learned my language yet ?

I think of our ancestors
blended together
still inhabiting this country

like poets
I want to think
that we are all
the Earth      humans      wind      riverbanks      roses      water      salt dunes      light      forests
this place

your eyes rest on my body

you track me
as if it were
hunting season

only then
do I know you respect me

I braid my lichen dreams back into my hair
I kindle the rocks of the world once again


Brigitte Lavallée
Published in No 17. Creating Community

Brigitte Lavallée. Photo : Annie France Noël
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