(this poem is from Neil’s book Mother Nature Eats Her Kind, available from his website at garvie.ca)

For my Metis wife – giving voice
to her Ojibwe Anishinaabe ancestors

The elders tell us
the zhaagnaash are coming
with their pale arms, clumsy boots
and nervous chatter about change

Change is hard to picture in this place of forever
where the wind whispers through the pine tops
causing boughs to wave to the spirits
filtering just the right amount of sunlight
for the mushrooms that rise after each rainfall

Here, streams trickle over round pebbles
until they are worn to speckles of sand,
signaling the great bird to lay more,
reminding us that everything exists in a circle

We are told the zhaagnaash do not value
such talks about forests and pebbles

We are told the Zhaagnaash follow instructions
from books bound in leather, not seeing
in the forest and streambed
that all Life returns to where it started

Our people have always walked among the old one
trusting in the Creator and the spirits
We have never troubled
asking questions about tomorrow

But the elders say the zhaagnaash consider us lost
in shadows of imagination
after being too long in the forest

We are told the zhaagnaash believe the world can be
bought and sold, that treasure can be found
by clawing at roots, damming waters

They won’t find riches under the trees
or in wild mushrooms

We are told the zhaagnaash teach their children
that when anyone dies
they should dig great holes in the ground
allowing the dead to take all they can with them

Useless, all that hoarding
Useless, all that rushing to the future
Useless, all that nervous chatter

What would the great stone bird say?

I pray the zhaagnaash will one day find
contentment with the forest, the wind,
the stream washing over pebbles.