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									                         The Minor Odyssey of Lollie Heronfeathers Singer
                                                              By Lenny Everson

                                                                      rev 1

Copyright Lenny Everson 2011

For Dianne, my paddle-partner

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                                                                     ****
For Dianne
****

Introduction
This is an entertainment. Nothing more.
It does not claim to be history, ethnology, or anything else. Any connection to real life is coincidental at
best and sheer accident at worst.
Lollie and all the other people you’ll meet in this book are products of the imagination of myself, a white
male.
Lenny Everson


Biography of Lollie Heronfeathers Singer
Lollie was born south of Weyburn, Saskatchewan, but was raised in Sudbury and Toronto.
Her “Aboriginal” middle name was acquired when she was four. At a river north of Sudbury her father
had gone fishing. She wandered away, and was found sitting by the water, petting a heron (unheard-of
behavior for these birds). The bird flew away when her parents came, but she saved three feathers, and for
years steadfastly refused to give them up.
Her parents called her “feathers” while she was a child, as a family joke.
It was when she turned forty-five, and became a divorced casualty of the modern age that she started to
look into her ancestry. Her mother (who died when Lollie was young) had told her that she was of Métis
background, from the Red River area of Manitoba. She had both French-Canadian and Cree ancestors.
(Her father told her the Singer family had started in Poland, coming to Canada before the turn of the last
century.)
This is a journey she’s started only after much thought; she’s afraid of finding herself torn between two
cultures (as the Métis must have been, or the native Canadians now are). She makes the journey
physically, not always finding what she wants to see, and also in her poetry, which doesn’t always take
her to places she thought she wanted to go.
Her poems are based on her trip and her vision of an imaginary ancestor, Heron Feathers, She knows a bit
of the history of the Cree, their migration to the prairies from the forest of Ontario, the coming of the
French, and the attempt to found a Métis nation.
In her minor odyssey, Lollie visits a northern Ontario town and meets a Cree, Tom Small Wolf, who
practices the ancient rituals. He takes her on an overnight canoe trip to see some ancient petroglyphs. She
is unmoved by the experience.
After that she drives to central Manitoba, where she despairs of her journey. But then takes herself on
another canoe trip. by herself. This time, she finds petroglyphs which do affect her.
Finally, following the trail of her imaginary ancestor, she travels to the prairie lands of southern
Manitoba, where the Métis settled in the Red River Valley. There she spends time with Lucy, a Métis,
who tells her the history of her people.
These are her poems, about both her own journey and that of her mythological ancestor, Heron Feathers, a
Cree woman who joins with a French-Canadian, Jean Dumont, and moves with him to the Red River.
Lollie’s knowledge of the history, ethnology. and religion of the Métis and Cree is pretty minimal, but she
doesn’t care. Dissatisfied with her own life, she is determined to redo it through poems about her mythical
creation.
The whole odyssey takes place in Lollie’s 45th year, in the month of September.

Lollie’s Odyssey
In this journey, Lollie, a middle-aged white woman
- Starts out depressed and backward-looking.
- Decides on a quest.
- Argues with her son about the journey.
- Leaves with optimism.
- Gets to know a Cree medicine man in northern Ontario. He teaches her about native religion.
- Tries a canoe journey on her own out of a village in Manitoba. There she has a profound experience on
finding a petroglyph site.
- Begins a fictional biography of Heron Feathers, a Cree ancestor who takes up with a French trader.
- Visits a Métis woman along the Red River, who tells her about the Métis.
- Returns home.


Heron Feathers, the creation of Lollie Singer
- Grows up on Cree land, in the deep forests of northern Ontario
- Meets a French-Canadian Courier de Bois in 1835
- Goes with him to settle on the Red River Valley of Manitoba, on the edge of the great plains


Other Incidents Described
- the first migration of the Cree into prairie landscape


Other Characters
Lloyd Davies: Former husband
John Davies: Son.
Tom Small Wolf.: Age 50. Lives in Loon Bay. Raised Christian, but is       relearning, and teaching the
old ways.
Lucy Bonneau : Métis woman
George Bonneau: Lucy’s brother
Heron Feathers: Lollie’s fictional Cree ancestor
Jean Dumont: Lollie’s fictional Coureur de Bois ancestor
Loon Bay: Small community in north-west Ontario.
Palmer Falls: Small community in north-central Manitoba.
Notre Dame du Portage: Town in southern Manitoba

Contents
Part 1: The Beginning
Even the Sun Goes West
When the Words Stopped
Don’t Wait Too Long
People of the Wind
Asking for Better Hues
Snakes
Bulletin Board
The Quarry
Woman Winters
Snowdreams
But He’s a Good Boy, Anyway
Not Because
Part 2: Loon Lake
I Think I Might Have Changed My Mind About the Whole Thing
Minnehaha
Landfall
Travel
Jerusalem
The Puzzle
Ten Little Indians
Peter, Water, and Church
The Canoe Becomes the Passage
Solid Rock, Creator’s Touch
Last Time We Came to Ground
Some Ancient Arts Survive
Out by Otter Lake
Three Haikus About Noise
Music by the Lake
The Foolish and the Brave
Ravens I have Met
Part 3: Heron Feathers Poems 1
Under the Infinite Ceiling
More Hills, More Trees
Sister Talk
Only Because
The Touch
Far Lands, Strange Customs
The Parting
Part of Some River
Come and Share the World
Only the Wind Knows a Woman’s True Name
Lesson
The Show
Part 4: North-Central Manitoba
Highway
Superhero
Rain
Youth
Last Butterfly from Eden
Dream
Cages for Women
On Saturday Afternoon
Condensed Service Data for Lollie Heronfeathers Singer
When to run the diagnostic test
How to run the diagnostic test
Adjustments
Tools And Supplies Required for Non-Adjustments
Error Messages
A Day in the Lost and Found
Upon This Rock
These are No Ordinary Waters
The Return
Pajamas
Part 5: Heron Feathers Poems 2
From the Stone Walls of Old Québec
Belief
When You are Not With Me
Out of a Prairie Thunderstorm
Heron Feathers and Rabbit Trails
The Reason Why
The Church
A Remarriage
Part 6: The Red River Valley
Precipice
The Transformation
Not Far Enough
Rivers
Shopworn
I Guess I’m a Métis
Fiddlesticks
Second Sight
To Birches
Taking a Trip to the Past
Let There Be Pencil
If There Were No Death
Words
Reaching for Heaven
She’s determined to believe
When They Hanged Him
The Unpeople
George’s Lament
Lucy’s Reply to George
But the Weeds Come Back
At the Legion on Bleeker Street
Nails on Sale Today
Bridge
Partly
By the Red River
Afternoons
Part 7: Heron Feathers Poems 3
Remembering the Songs
Home is Where the Hugs Were
Voices
Bones
Mud and Stars
Part 8: The Journey Home
Woman of the Wind
Exile
Dawn
Ashes
Where Do the Gods Go
The River
The Clowns
Why We Write Poems

Part 1: The Beginning
This is Lollie before she starts on her journey, up to the point where she’s driving north.
She’s been inspired to write a few poems about the immense changes her ancestors, the Cree, must have
gone through when some bands moved from the deep woods to the open prairie.
It is the thought of their courage, as much as anything, that gets her moving in her own life.


Even the Sun Goes West
(Migration of the Cree from the deep woods of northern Ontario to the open plains)
Late winter in Our Forest, long cold
No rabbits, no fish, no moose;
Wendigos walking the sprucewoods.
It put Loonlaugh, the shaman, into the
Shaking tipi two days, desperate for
Spirit advice.
He came out alive, said we would go
To the land of no trees, then vomited
Under a thin birch. No-one laughed this time.
Brightsun swore at him, saying the
Great North Wind had taken him, and
Filled him with lies. “On the prairie
The North Wind will eat us each winter, and
The Nez Perce will walk on our bones.
And who can catch a buffalo?
I think we should get a new shaman.”
My mother, She-Who-Feeds-Birds, looked
Around at the other women in despair.
But I walked to a rock,
Peeled off some lichens, and
Went to the men. I chewed the lichens
In front of them.
“My daughter is hungry,” mother said.
The men started to protest, but
All the women turned to face the west
Staying there all night
Watching the stars climb down to the land of winds.


When the Words Stopped
(When a relationship is in trouble, the words get fewer. When the words stop, someone’s packing a
suitcase.)
When the words stopped
My world became the empty tarmac
Of a long-abandoned airport
The hangars leaning
A paper coffee cup from yesterday’s traffic
Blowing by
To be left in silence
Is a violence of emptiness
A world without words
For me
Is the sun going down
The gray dusk washing in.
I was born the biological entity
Of companionship
Needing touch occasionally, and
Always
Kind words
When the words stopped
The cold and distant stars
Took vengeance against
This woman


Don’t Wait Too Long
(The Ticking Clock Affects Lollie’s dreams)
I didn’t know what to do when
That indigo train came hurtling
Out of the darkness
Of my dream
Again
I woke to the feel of iron
Pounding granite. I guess
Some days I am white, feet crushing granite
Someday I may be brown, becoming an eagle
The shaking was only my heart
Fran, distant friend
Died last week.
Elizabeth, cousin,
Has arthritis, real bad
I saw a Grosbeak in summer
Wrong place, bird
You should be up north
In the silence of tamarack
Every now and again
I see that train at night
Running down a maverick moose
On a lonely track
Among the poplars
Always poplars
The moonlight on its flanks
The train always dark
As the grave.


People of the Wind
(migration of the Cree from the deep woods of northern Ontario to the open plains)
We became the people
Of the wind
Wind brought us
To the coulees
Blew in the buffalo
Scattered sweetgrass smoke
Howled in the oldgrass moon
And left us silent
Hearing footsteps
Of bad spirits
On nights
When only the children
Dared sleep
We could deal with the spirits
Of the spruce woods
We had a thousand legends
Of bear and loon
But we are all silent
When a crane circles
Eight times in the morning
And the wind dies
Unexpectedly


Asking for Better Hues
(Maybe Outdoor Life would be a better choice.)
We paint the images of photos
Upon our aging faces
Time creeps up, taps our heels
With bland eyes and crooked smile
It holds out a whitewashed hand
Asking for better hues
We hand him the card.
He tests it with mossy teeth
“Not much credit left!” he whispers, and
Laughing at the helpless stars
Scuttles away for a day or two
We turn the pages of Chatelaine
Trying not to notice
Scratching sounds
Behind the chair.


Snakes
(first rumours of the French coming to the plains)
They all gathered rattlesnakes
Except the women who either
Weren’t allowed, or
Maybe knew better
And the young children
Who followed the young men
With long willow sticks
Poking into crevices where the wind
Bared rock to the sun
They all gathered rattlesnakes
For the shaman, Blind Wolf
Who wasn’t a wolf most of the time
And seldom blind
He scowled most of them back
To rolling prairie valleys
They left the rattlesnake on a rock
Tail-less coiled belly to the sun a
Purple-dyed ribbon
Around its head
Its rattle in the old man’s broken hand
Its soul in his throat
He shook three futures out:
The buffalo were many
The winter would be short
But far into the sunrise, even the wolves
Were learning fear


Bulletin Board
(Lollie summarizes her life)
- Climbed that hill in the early October frost
- Would not have changed that day in the long grass, but
- Cried when I saw how frost curled the leaves of the poplars
- Spring and love compel each other
- We women create our men then try to shield them from the winter
- Big mistake
- Like leaves, sliding down my face
- Lloyd, former husband, twenty-three years, four months
- You’re looking for a last line. There isn’t one
-


The Quarry
(From Lollie, for all poets)
Soft and wide in the morning
the nets go out
as fine as
spiderwebs
Hung from limb
tied to tree
staked deep and looped round
solid granite rock
they cover the road
where night meets day
Out of a night
of angel flights
the quarry comes
to seek the daily
sunshine husk
And nights and lights
and Barbie dolls
years and fears
pale pink walls
woven into
finest mesh
It happens quite often like this
After the escape, the net
must be woven again
finer yet
Last night I remembered a birthday party
when I was twelve.
This was added
to tighten the mesh
In the morning light
with nets drawn tight
once again
I wait for me.


Woman Winters
(migration of the Cree from the deep woods of northern Ontario to the open plains)
The year the buffalo did not come
The men grumbled, rode out
Came back with a few rabbits
Some prairie chickens, no dignity
So they got louder
Ignored the children
Later that year
We ate coyote
More bothered by angered spirits
Than tough flesh
The shaman burned mushrooms
But the Grandfather Spirit
Appeared to my father’s sister
Gathering cattail roots
He came as a laughing wolf
Then she knew we women
Would keep the tribe alive
Dried roots, rabbit pemmican
And a long wait in cold snow
Bad winters are women winters


Snowdreams
(Lollie plans)
“Great day for traveling,” you think at me
March snow scudding past the windows
Of my ice-covered home and
The thermometer into a crisis of negativity
But let me tell you I’ve crossed more lands in a Canadian
Winter than I ever got to in the summers.
While the neighbour’s scraping ice from my doorstep
And the mailman’s hiding in the coffee shop
I’m sitting by a campfire
Listening to ancient stories
In my mind
And somewhere, someone
Smiles, just in case
I’m a cousin
Twelve steps removed
Only a handshake from kinship
Only a Trans-Canada highway from truth


But He’s a Good Boy, Anyway
(Lollie meets resistance to her quest)
“Sit with me, mother,”
He said
“Before you go off to gather ghosts
Before you try to hide your pain
In miles
From us.”
“I’ve been still too long,” I said
“Too many night, too many lifetimes
At a kitchen table
Wondering who was wrong
And who had closed
So many old doors in my life”
“How can you not imagine this will not end
In a thirty-dollar motel room
Watching some all-night news
A thousand miles further
From your only son?
Stay here. With us.”
Yes, I thought, and
Too soon I will be
Last summer’s waves
On last summer’s shores
Last week’s sunlight
On a garden wall
Yesterday’s child
Dancing in the rain
“There are too many cobwebs upstairs,” I said, getting up
“There are too many moldy boxes in dusty rooms
I’ll send you a postcard.”
Not Because
(Lollie likes to think she has a wild and impulsive streak)
Not because I promised myself
Last winter, kicking snow off the car
Not because I told myself I would
When summer's heat was gone
Not because of what I almost told
My son’s wife on Tuesday
Or because the verandah needs shingles
And the garden should be turned over soon
Maybe because the prices of apples
Is less than the round of donuts
And the sound of small birds
Is soft, like melted copper drops
Maybe I’m skipping out of this tame town
Only because the road map was free
This September day is warm, the tires a bit worn
And the aspens such a darling shade of yellow.


Part 2: Loon Lake
Here Lollie arrives in Loon Lake, a small northern Ontario community near a Cree reserve. She’s at a
loss as to what to do next, but fortunately, meets Tom Small Wolf. Tom’s returning to his native roots as a
First Nations person. Tom introduces her to his native religion and offers to show her some petroglyphs
during an overnight canoe trip. Lollie accepts. It’s a beginning.)


I Think I Might Have Changed My Mind About the Whole Thing
(Lollie prepares to meet her first natives in Northern Ontario)
I like to think my ancestors were terrified to move
out onto the plains
I was petrified just getting out of my car
In Loon Lake.


Minnehaha
(Lollie approaches her first native person, a woman behind a counter in a reserve crafts store)
“Can I help you?” she asked
Tan skin, dark hair behind the counter
I hesitated, my light brown hair
Out of place, out of place
“One of my ancestors,” I said
Looking at the moose mitts
“Was a Cree.”
“Ah,” she said, unsmiling
In the August heat.
“An Indian princess, of course?”
“Minnehaha,” I said,
“Laughing Water.”
“We remember her well
In our legends. She married
Chief Maxihaha.”
“Why yes! Her son,
Medihaha, my great grandfather
Was a famous warrior.”
“Would you like to buy a dreamcatcher?” she asked
“In honor of your native roots?”
“Got one,” I said. “Real good one.
Made in China.”
“Best kind. Be good Injuns,
Them Chinese, soon as
We get them civilized.
Moose mitts? Scalps? Lucky bookmarks?”
“Moose mitts,” I said
“Good idea. You never know:
It might get cold.”
She wrapped them carefully.
An owl hooted once in broad daylight.
We both paused to listen
For the second call.


Landfall
(Lollie Meets Tom Small Wolf in a beer parlor in Northern Ontario)
I am the lost child
Of present time
Arrived in a harbour
Of strangers
A million drops of salt water
Have washed me here
I order a coke and fries
Sit at a corner table
Don’t watch a roomful of
Dark-haired men who
Don’t watch me, carefully.
This sense of shore
I knew it would come to this
They told me it would
My retreat
Is sudden but
Blocked by a guy
Offering me a beer
It isn’t wings, but
There’s only the sea behind me
“Of course,” I said.


Travel
(Lollie has a few words with Tom over a Molson’s draft)
I asked him if he’d traveled much
he took out eight smooth rocks
put them in a circle
laid sweetgrass on them
pointed
“to the ends
of the universe.
And you?”
I showed him the sticker
On my camera bag.
“Disney World.”
He nodded, smiled:
“Space Mountain’s pretty good.”


Jerusalem
(Tom Small Wolf tells Lollie about his religion)
So you’re
Returning to the old religions?
Are you leaving
The Good Book
The World Tomorrow
The smiling priest?
Did you know, he said, that
Jesus had tan skin
Dark hair
A big hooked nose
Maybe
When Jesus enters Jerusalem
His black hair in braids
And hooked Semitic nose
Just a little out of place
Among tourists from Toronto
It’ll be time to talk again
For sure
If he’s riding a ’78 Skidoo
We’ll hold a powwow
Just for him.


The Puzzle
(Tom tries to tell Lollie what he thinks the future of First Nations Peoples will be)
“Pretend,” he said
“I’ve got five hundred boxes.
Jigsaw puzzles, from the Goodwill store
I take a handful of pieces
From some boxes
Two hands full from others
None, from some.”
Behind the church hall
Powwow dancers practiced
Laughing
“What will be made,” I whispered
“When it all gets assembled?”
In his old aboriginal voice:
“I don’t know. I don’t know at all
But I think, on that day, even
The manitous will hide.”
“And on that day
Where will I fit in?”
“It’s a big puzzle.
When we need to know where the white margins go
Maybe we’ll look you up.”


Ten Little Indians
(Wasn’t anybody paying attention?)
Ten little Indians north of the ‘Soo
A few white men’s germs and then there were two
Two little Indians, out in the sun
Waited on promises, till there was one
One tough little Indian, somehow alive
A few years passed, and then there were five
Better watch, before it’s too late
As the last powwow I counted eight.


Peter, Water, and Church
(Two media; two religions.)
“Jesus,”I told him
“Walked on water -
At least that’s what the nun told me
And anyone with a steel ruler
Obviously measures truth
Very carefully.”
He nodded. “They told me that, too,
And of course, my elders told me
Just so I’d know, that
Mishipizou, the great lynx serpent
Swims through water. And rock.”
“You’ve seen this monster?”
“Not me. I think he’s waiting
For Jesus to return
So they can talk about
The many uses
Of water and rock.”


The Canoe Becomes the Passage
(Lollie takes up Tom’s offer to see some petroglyphs.)
I was too old to be in that canoe
Generations of friends groaned along the shore
The sky was full of eyes and
Two loons looked like nuns:
Too old; far too old
What the hell, I thought, that’s what a canoe is for
To carry us to the very edge of cold fish and air
To the edge of drown and sing
And, in the long run, cold eyes hunt us all
Life was always meant to be an edge of sorts
A temporary challenge to the grave
An act of bravery performed under a disapproving gaze
I was too old not to be in that canoe


Solid Rock, Creator’s Touch
(Lollie and Tom visit a petroglyph site by canoe)
He touched the red ochre on rock and
When a crow called, he said
"I am that crow, that song
I am power in the water
I am movement in the treetops"
I forgave him; he was born
Of loon cry and the pagan dark
In old deep lakes
I touched the red ochre painting
But the cold rock
Said nothing to me
He forgave me; I was
Chained to normal
By a bearded old man
Who once reached down to give
Nothing but life
To Adam


Last Time We Came to Ground
(Tom and Lollie go camping in the deep woods)
When we came to ground
There was a flat spot big enough
For a tent, but the
Hill loomed with forest and the
Water was dark as a cave
When we lit a fire
I was defiant, but
He laughed at me
And the night came
Anyway,
And something howled its
Soul out under the black water
Soundlessly. I wished
We’d pulled the canoe in;
You should always hold close
To your lifeline
When the dark came
There were no stars, so I
Poked the fire and
Listened to my heart;
It fluttered
In the aspen leaves;
For a moment, I thought
I'd heard a manitou whisper
When I came to midnight
He went down to the lake for water
And noticed, suddenly
That the black hills,
Against the indigo skies
Looked like teeth.


Some Ancient Arts Survive
(Lollie is less than shaken by the rock art she is shown, but is still satisfied with Tom’s efforts on her
behalf.)
She met a man by a far northern lake
Who said, “You have a doctrinal ache
A couple of nods
And I’ll show you our gods
And also my totem, the snake”
Then he offered to “show her an etching”
And she accused him of polytheological leching
But she knew in her heart
There’s more than one type of art
And more than her theology needed stretching
He put his heathen hand on her tush
But she told him, “You don’t have to push
I’ve taken your measure
And I tell you there’s pleasure
Just messing around in the bush”
I won’t say she altered her religion
But her theology changed just a smidgen
And in between talkin’
She saw those paintings on rock’n
Managed some intercultural bridgin’


Out by Otter Lake
(Lollie has social intercourse with Tom Small Wolf)
After the thunder
The heat waning
Resting in long grass
Out by Otter Lake
“So we’re maybe related?” I asked
“Probably,” he said
Passing me a beer
“But you got a lot more
White in you.”
I nodded
“Is that a problem?”
“Nah,” he said
“We were looking for a spy
To go into the Tim Horton’s
Find out what they’re planning.”


Three Haikus About Noise
(Lollie always found few things as dreadful as silence)
Don’t be still, not now
The woods are full of darkness
And very still themselves
Don’t be quiet, not yet
Those old streets are far too hushed
With midnights of lives
Sing, sing crazy songs
Till the last black crow has sprung
Sunward, above life


Music by the Lake
(Lollie and Tom)
Like a hurdy-gurdy organ tune
To the silence by the lake
Close to the grass, you hear
The music lovers take
Give me your hand, this score
Rolls wild against the sky
It holds all the songs we dared to sing
Lovers, you and I
Loons out by the islands
Chickadees scattering seeds
Saw the songs we dared to sing
Lovers’ quiet needs
Oh, we took chances by that water
And laughed beneath that sky
We mocked the cold and tuneless night
Lovers, you and I
The Foolish and the Brave
(Tom explains about terrors)
Yes, he said, here we still fear
monsters
The non-Christian monsters that
thunder under the warm earth
and take away so many
of the unwary, who go in quest of
the visions they get.
The brave are lost first
The young, next
The caring, afterwards
You don’t understand?
Try the corner of Yonge and Dundas
You’ll find the foolish and the brave
In a place that makes the young old
And the old, young.
Of course, of course, you laugh
but the rushing gut
of bus and subway
have swallowed more of my friends
than any forest wendigo
you’ll ever meet.


Ravens I have Met
(Lollie sees merit in First Nations religion)
Ravens I have met
Angels, no
In my very own church
No-one would have to believe anything
That didn’t
At least occasionally, bother
To walk the good brown soil.


Part 3: Heron Feathers Poems 1
These are Lollie’s first poems about her mythical ancestor, Heron Feathers, a Cree woman living in what
is now Northern Ontario, in 1835.
Because Lollie’s mother didn’t know who the original Cree ancestor of the family was, Lollie feels free to
make up both the person and the events.
In this sequence, Heron Feathers meets Jean Dumont, a young French-Canadian coureur de bois, and
leaves with him for the west.


Under the Infinite Ceiling
(Why must the gods come inside?)
Jowls swinging
Crow-on-the-Ground did her four times
Around the Mide tent
Her arthritis slowing the others of
The Ultimate Mystery Society
They disappeared inside
Seven men, one old woman clutching
Clan totems
I know that the drumming
And the songs
Had everything to do with
A small girl playing
With the warm wind
With the first berries
This is the trick
Of all priests
To build a place small enough
For the human mind
To know it all
And keep out of the rains
That fall from
The unknowable sky


More Hills, More Trees
(Heron Feathers in her teens)
Long dreams and short days, dark tipi
Dark, in the winter camp with my mother
Chewing moccasins with my sister
My father, two brothers, gone three days on the hunt
“I want,” I said
“To go beyond the high hill
By the Lake of the Broken Pine.”
“Nothing there,” said my mother
Working the bone needle
“More hills, more trees.”
But she’d never been there
“The men go. Maybe they’re there, now.”
“Maybe cold,” mother said. “Wait.
Someday in your children’s souls
You will find further lands than any man
Could ever know.”
In my life, I thought
I may know the taste of a thousand moccasins
And not the view
From one high stone hill.


Sister Talk
(Heron Feathers and her sister talk)
“He’s a good hunter,” my sister said
We sat on smooth rock by the reeds
Sunlight on the lake
Hurting our eyes
“Strong, but sometimes too quick to anger.”
What could I say
He strode the forest like he owned it
He paddles the water like the lake spirit
Was his grandfather
“You are foolish,” my sister said
“You don’t want him, but
You don’t know why.”
What god ever made a woman
Wise enough to know why?
Maybe
I wanted to go just one step
Past the furthest place
He’d ever go.


Only Because
(Why women leave their homes to go with passing strangers.)
Only because he had a red sash
And looked me in the eye with laughter
Or so I said
Actually he had
Horizons in his eye


The Touch
(Jean tries to convert his new bride)
He touched the cross and
When a crow called, he said
"That is just a crow:
We should be glad
God permits it"
I forgave him; he was born
Where beaver were pelts and
Trees were lumber
I touched the small silver thing
But the cold metal
Said nothing to me
He forgave me; I was
Part of this world and knew nothing about
Some dead fellow
Who told Jean’s people
They could all be born again
I wondered where they’d find the women
Who’d volunteer for the job.


Far Lands, Strange Customs
(Heron Feathers solves a few mysteries)
“I’m going with him,” I told my father.
“No problem,” he said, stretching a beaver pelt
“Just learn their accursed language,
Let us know if there really is
Anything in that book
And find out what they do
With all those pelts.”
Twenty years later, I’d figured out
How to curse like a buffalo hunter in
French, English, and Cheyenne
That the book had only one manitou
And millions of white guys, somewhere
Lived in mortal fear
Of frozen brains.


The Parting
(Heron Feather’s mother says good-bye)
“I will not see you again,” she said
Giving me a stone with the Turtle on it.
“There will be a hollowness in the sunshine
There will be a silence in the night
I was warmed by your first cry
I burn with your last farewell
I am cold with your last farewell
Somewhere outside my uncle laughed
An owl hooted, twice
“Go with him,” she said. “You are young and
There is a big life ahead of you.
I am old, and this
Is only a little death.”


Part of Some River
(Lollie indulges in rhyme and romance in the same poem! Heron Feathers to Jean, when they are old,
looking back on their life.)
Oh, Love, we were bubbles
In the flotsam of time
Part of this river
Part of some rhyme
All promises fulfilled
All projects on hold
We had so many rivers
Before we grew old
The March wind was singing
Some wild hero’s song
The canoe was ready
The evenings grew long
And now we’re a couplet
In the epic of time
We followed our rivers
To the end of our rhyme
All dreams and all rivers
To the end of our rhyme


Come and Share the World
(Heron Feathers on her first night away from home)
Come and share the world with me
My night is full of fears
And on tomorrow’s portages, we’ll place
Our footprints on the years
Come and share the night with me
Warmth on warmth in dark
When the wind shakes the tent
You’ll be fire, I’ll be spark
You be fire, I’ll be spark
Against the tears of night
In reach and touch and sudden flame
Enfold, then hold on tight


Only the Wind Knows a Woman’s True Name
(Heron Feathers settles into a Métis village)
If you think you know me
Tying my dark hair in the thin morning light
Maybe you missed the part where
Wolves howl in the darkness
Of the frozen moon
If you think you understand me
Singing by the fire in the evening
Repairing your shoes
Or preparing our meal
Then you must include the part
Where I camped alone, silent
Waiting for my manitou to speak
If you think you’ve found me
In softness and warmth in our night
Be sure to include the unbending rock
At the base of my forestshadow soul
Man; if you don’t know the chill of flame
The warmth of snow
Stay out of the forest.


Lesson
(Heron Feathers and Jean celebrate their first anniversary)
I am from the woods. You
Are just passing through.
You've bedded me and sang to me
And laughed with me.
We've taught each other words
Me, French, you, Cree
And we've gone a thousand miles
Canoe and horseback.
You think you know me, my man
You will learn to
Be rough with my fears
Tender with my memories
Stay away
From my dreams
Unless I ask.


The Show
(Jean and Heron Feathers reach the open prairie)
The sky above was a circus tent
And we all came to the big valley
For the show
The big canoes, the skeering carts
Buffooning westward on a sea of pemmican
With the strange burlesque of beaver pelts
Flowing east like a pulsing brown river.
Oh, I thought, we have fabricated God
As easily as a buckskin coat
And now that we’ve finally made our way to this stage
We are determined to amuse ourselves before our best of all
Our creations.
Watch the people fight; see the buffalo run and vanish
The grassfires will roll from Batoche to bottomland
The halfbreeds fiddle, while the locals leave tobacco on
The hills and the black robes sing of Galilee.
Welcome to the pemmican palace; may the
Flesh Made Word protect us from the reality
Of that vaudeville sky.


Part 4: North-Central Manitoba
Lollie leaves the woods of northern Ontario for the woods of north-central Manitoba. She wants some
time alone with the forest.
In the first days there, she finds herself, as predicted by her son, in a thirty-dollar motel room, depressed,
sharing the company of a bottle, and angry at time, life, aging, and assorted other things she can’t change.
But she takes a canoe trip by herself, has a spiritual contact with another set of petroglyphs, and ends up
much happier.


Highway
(Lollie’s mood darkens as she heads into Manitoba)
The highway takes me
West and north
All skipping stones
Eventually sink
God built the world round
So middle-aged women
Could never go far enough


Superhero
(A hero, to me, anyway.)
So what did you think you were?
Lollie Singer, Superhero?
Did you imagine you could fly
Ignoring the queen’s highways
And the forever identical Taco Bell
That follows you around?
Lollie Singer!
She bestrides two cultures
Her orange kerchief flapping
In the western wind.
Watch her repeatedly polish
Those very bifocals
That surely give her X-ray vision
And that wonderful cloak of invisibility
That makes waitresses
Strangely ignore her.


Rain
(Lollie suffers a temporary emotional setback in a north Manitoba town)
There were tears in rain
Spruce mocking me.
Oh yes! Great beginnings
A whole world out there
And none of it mine
Not a speck
Not a drop
Of northern water
Not lake not river not the crying sky
This liquid promised me safety
Out past the black hole
Beyond blue horizons
I am an old white woman
Drinking alone in a thirty-dollar cabin
While brown-skinned children outside
Kick at a ball, like they were
Dancing in the rain.


Youth
(“Like sands through the hourglass are the days of our lives.”)
Youth is the laughter of a brutal spring, elbowing
along the land, among the trees, pushing rains
and truth and warm weather ahead
It is the sound of new waters running
in old ditches. It is deceptive, however; the
sky calls the truth, that summer
comes stalking us all
panning us for gold and leaving us
with eyes turned back.
Beware youth, that laughter
in the hills is hostile
and wants no friends.
Certain as clouds is the way we are
tumbled by days
thrown to be pecked over by
the dogs of years and strewn along
these highways when the leaves
come asking forgiveness and snow sits
on every blade of grass.


Last Butterfly from Eden
(Lollie the exile.)
I am the last butterfly
From Eden
Just out, as the great iron doors
Slam closed
In a shower of rust.


Dream
(Lollie would like to know what this one means.)
In the dream
I was on a bus
Vaulting through the night
I knew, in a panic
I had to get off, and soon
But I couldn’t leave
Until I had filled out
A long questionnaire
It was in a language I couldn’t understand
Several passengers
Tried to help me, but they, too
Spoke in strange languages
I looked out the window, and saw
That long dark train
Along the horizon
Racing for the same bloody crossing.


Cages for Women
(Some things are more important than loneliness)
I was frightened of men’s eyes, but
I am tired of cages
This is a great planet, but it’s full
Of women-cages.
Some have bars
Some have a doorbell
Some are as silent as
A bedroom alone
I think
Men and women
Have not had a good history together
Except for the men
I have found more freedom
Alone in a small motel room
Than I ever knew as a
Shape
In men’s eyes


On Saturday Afternoon
(Just Lollie, doing up some Heron Feathers poems in the coffee shop)
Outside the window of Tim Hortons
It’s driving rain
Again, again, again, again
A parade of trucks and clouds, and
One old woman under a brown umbrella
Drift their long wet horizontals.
The streets are slippery and
My mind keeps trying to go home.
If you want to understand
Pour some brown coffee
Watch the skies, the trucks
The rain.
Now close your eyes and
Try to pretend you see, strangely,
One lost woman, writing poems
When you open your eyes
There will be nothing but
An empty cup, and
Words on paper
The rest of Lollie is rolling west
Along a sometime highway sky
Deep in rain.


Condensed Service Data for Lollie Heronfeathers Singer
(No-one should try to work without proper instructions.)
When to run the diagnostic test
Run this test whenever a middle-aged Lollie seems to be malfunctioning.
You can also run this test after carrying out adjustments, to see whether the above Lollie now works
properly.
How to run the diagnostic test
1. Ensure the Lollie unit has sufficient space.
2. With the LHS Diagnostics menu displayed, type the number of her days, then press Doubt.
   The screen shows: WHY?
    and time slows down. The Lollie is now ready for you to connect to the test eschatologies.
     If you do not want to test her past or biological functioning, press the No Tears key to disable them.
(They will be re-enabled automatically when you terminate this Lollie test.)
   The indicator above the Whatthehell key comes on.
3. Answer the following questions before proceeding:
 Is life infinite?
- Is good rewarded?
- Are memories worth a pinch of coonshit?
- Is today the first day of the rest of your life?
- Have you had your morning coffee? You may need it.
4. The Lollie is moved through a fixed space as shown in Figure 3-26 (Note: Figure not available at time
of publication; use road map).
5. Press the Fictional History button and set the Fantasy Level to 8. Historical accuracy is not required in
this test.
Adjustments
Adjustment are not required on the Lollie Unit: the unit is self-adjusting once diagnostics are complete.
(Continued on the following page.)

Tools And Supplies Required for Non-Adjustments
To perform the non-adjustments described in this part of the manual, the following tools and supplies are
required:
- $1,477.28. Use credit card (Visa) where possible. Give Lollie credit.
- Vague notions of First Nations history
- Desperate need to start again.
- Warm heart (45 mm hole in it)
- Lollie reality adjusting tool and test documents (things Lollie should have asked her mother before she
died)
- One heron feather (any condition)
- Twelve Paper Mate Med. Pt. blue ball-point pens
- Notebook with tear-out-crumple-and-throw-away pages (for poems)
Error Messages
There is only one valid error message; it may appear at any time during diagnostics or adjustment. The
Lollie Unit may indicate improper functioning on paper or just by the stiffness of her movements.
- ODYSSEY FAILURE 00h
- Lollie hasn’t found what she was looking for. Check the connections, the cages, assorted petroglyphs,
and the back row of the nearest Catholic church. If that fails, see the section, “Condensed Service Data for
Lollie Heronfeathers Singer.”
Notes:
- The subject may try to create a few strange and unlikely histories at this point; ignore them - they do not
affect the outcome of the test.
- The highway number maintained in doubtware is printed on the map, and the event consecutive number
counter increments by 1.
- The message SIGN FROM GOD NOT FOUND does not indicate an error condition, merely an
operating mode.


A Day in the Lost and Found
(Lollie takes a trip into the woods of Manitoba)
Clouds drove across the sky like
Trucks on the Don Valley Expressway.
There was an emptiness to the rain, so
I rented a canoe, went so far
I could not hear the chain saw
The cars roaring
For somewhere to go
My longing just too great
For this quiet girl
To postpone any more
I was looking for my losses
In the quiet lakes where pasts might
Cling like moss, in a world where secrets
Were locked in somebody else’s basement
Then almost invisible on smooth rock
In increasing rain
Red ochre
I reached out to touch it, it was
A hand a snake a black sky spots on the water heartbeat of eternity the silence in the woods the blood
through the inner ear
“I’ll be damned,” I thought, knowing
Just maybe, now
I wouldn’t be


Upon This Rock
(Lollie ventures out alone on a northern Manitoba lake)
Had Jesus canoed
This northern lake
What strange routes
Would history take
Had he owned
A red canoe
Every pope
Would have one, too
Paddling pilgrims
Would come to gawk
At Michaelangelo's God
Painted on rock
Cathedral walls
Would be green, and sway
With sunlight blessing
All who pray


These are No Ordinary Waters
(Lollie believes she has inherited an affinity for the northern wilderness)
These are no ordinary waters,
They are wild, they all
Shelter fish
These are no ordinary rivers, underneath
Are mysteries of bass, wisdoms of carp
And lots of places to hide
These are no ordinary lakes, inside
Such boundaries are ebbs and flows
Of smell and pulse and cold, cold deeps
These are no ordinary creeks
Every one dances with life and never
Is the same ten feet downstream
These are no ordinary waters, look
Deep into any and when the movement slows
I see
Me


The Return
(Lollie’s view of the planet rotates a bit)
When I returned, I found, the sky cleared, and
The heart of the planet was beating like
An infinite drum
Tides of time lifted
The horizon of old pines
Towards a sun turning red
It was suddenly
Too late
It was suddenly
Too soon
I, a daughter
Of eight to four
Suddenly scared
Of the utter shamelessness
Of the planet
Jesus, why did you never mention
The heartbeat of old earth and
The way the horizon lifts
To the blood-red sun?


Pajamas
(As promised, Lollie sends a postcard to her son)
I carried the postcard
Addressed to my son
Two days
Edgy, puzzled
At the blank space on the back
I remembered him
At six, in pajamas
Getting on the school bus
The day I overslept.
What could I write? I felt
I was, myself
Now getting on some bus
Happy as hell
In Spiderman pajamas


Part 5: Heron Feathers Poems 2
On her way south towards the Red River Valley, Lollie writes further poems about Heron Feathers.
This set is about Heron Feathers and Jean in the Métis settlement of Red River Valley; in the early years
of their marriage.


From the Stone Walls of Old Québec
(Origins of Métis)
Jean Dumont never knew
What happened to his parents
In the stone walls
Of old Québec
He scuffed the deep stoneless
Prairie soil
Watched branches drift by
On the Red River
“I married a sauvage,” he laughed
“I made four Métis.
Beware the sauvages!” he’d say
Wagging his finger at the kids.
I made green onion soup
And told them to beware white men, black tobacco, and
Grain whiskey
“Where are your parents?” they asked their mother
But I laughed, too
Said, “My children will be my parents
You, daughter, will remember me as a sauvage,
As a child of the long grass
And you will be a mother
Of a brave people”
But I wished I could touch
The stone walls
And two old French people
Looking in a mirror
For a long-lost son.

Belief
(Conflict of beliefs in Métis country)
“I would appreciate,”
Said the Jesuit
“If you would not cross yourself
When talking of the Wind Spirit
As if you believed. You cannot
Have God and this pagan spirit
Both in your mind.”
“I would appreciate,”
Said my husband, watching the wall,
That those castrés in Montreal
Spend a few days on the grasslands
Hunting buffalo. Or maybe
A very big hour in a very small canoe
On the Big Sea Water.”
He puffed at his pipe. The wind
Blew smoke down the chimney
Tapped on the one glass pane
Jean had spent his best on.
“I think God knows the Wind Spirit
A lot better than you, my friend.”
Dark Clothes began again, but
The wind snatched the door open,
Took the hat off the young priest
And slammed the door again.
Outside, thunderclouds ranted.
Inside, Jean poured wine
For both of them.
“I think,” said the man in black afterwards,
“That I’ll check The Book again.
I probably missed a passage somewhere.”
I surely missed a passage somewhere.”


When You are Not With Me
(Jean’s poem for his Heron Feathers the first summer he goes to the buffalo hunt without her)
When you are not with me, he said, I am become old
Like a forgotten ring of stones
And yellow weeds
Far out on the prairies
When you are not with me I am become silent
As a coulee
Where the fingers of the wind
Cannot reach, and the creek
Is become dust.


Out of a Prairie Thunderstorm
(Every badly treated group can use a savior)
In the Holy Mide huts in our village
Mostly men
Singing songs
To the Grandfather winds
That berries might ripen
And the world might be kind
In the church
Men, all men
Chanting to the Old Guy
That the skies might open, and
The world disappear
Someday, out on the prairie
Where the sky holds seven eagles
In the hour of that terrible silence
Before the thunderstorm
The whirlwind will make the one
Who’ll set us free
Her pure right hand
Reaching out to
Caress the forehead
Of the world.


Heron Feathers and Rabbit Trails
(Jean has learned to love Heron Feathers.)
Across the landscape of my mind you
Plodded steadily, and though
Your feet hurt, you watched the horizon, for
What storm the purple hills beyond
Might lurk.
But no, in the bright sunlight you only found the
Grass longer than you had thought
And this was in the first year of our marriage.
Though you followed rabbit trails
There were bushes, there were brambles
Growing hanging over, where warm creatures
Laughed and spied
Not so simple, you thought, but you must know
The horizon, the hills, the maybe storm
And that was at the end of
The second year of our marriage
And then your eyes grew watchful, wake
And the underbrush, the trees that hid
What you should know, after, just after
The time you sat on the open hill
O, but you could not find, you could not
Your way, and while you tried, you knew, you did
Of eyes that watched
And then you turned
And then you stopped
From in the dark of forest
  Were eyes
    My eyes
      A wink
        Ah!
          I had you!


The Reason Why
(Love sometimes waits )
He always wondered why. Looking into obsidian
Eyes did not answer, though he certainly
Remained grateful for the
Oblivion I granted when the grandfather
North wind shook his Catholic soul some nights.
Ferociously we followed purple horizons
Every buffalo run taking us further west
And those days I loved more than him
The first years. Yet the
Heart of woman has no real way to
End and finally along the
Red River Valley I took his
Smile into my woodland woman soul.


The Church
(The first church comes to the Red River Community)
I told the kids that surely
They built the new church because
They could not find their God
And
That they built it on a hill
So they could be the first to see God coming
Striding, I suppose, proudly
Between the cart tracks
And out of the poplar bushes
I said they built it solidly
To keep out the manitous
And to say this small patch of
Endless steppe will have no spirits
Till God comes.
The young priest, half his fingers lost to frostbite
Prays in the easy morning
But when the kids put the prairies at their backs
- That monstrous sky, the endless wind -
And opened the door
There was only a bent man
Mumbling, trying not to tell God
To hurry up just a bit.


A Remarriage
(Heron Feathers signs on to Jean’s faith.)
Jean insisted we get married in the new church
Fine, I thought, better that his God be on our side
Just in case.
How can one have too many Gods?
I told the priest he had a face like
A moose’s afterbirth
But it was in Cree, and quiet so he thought
I was saying “I do.”
Jean nearly choked, but
I figured if Jesus was any good He’d have seen us
Married by the lake two years before.
I’ve often wondered since if Jesus
Is a lonesome spirit that wanders around
The insides of churches hoping
Someone will come visit
Occasionally
And just how much Cree He knows.


Part 6: The Red River Valley
Lollie drives south to Notre Dame du Portage, a community along the Red River Valley in Manitoba. She
likes what she sees of the prairies. Looking for Métis, Lollie meets Lucy Bonneau and Lucy’s brother
George, and learns of the bitterness of the Métis. Nonetheless, she finds the beginnings of a sense of
community there.
Precipice
(The vast and tumbling prairie sky awes Lollie)
In the stockyards of heart
In a night prairie rain
Are all the good-byes of a lifetime
Are all the mornings of years
The drops on my glasses
Make a carnival of the streetlights
I become the wind in the wheatfields
Rider of the western stars
In the glass vaults of possibility
In the fragile winds of memory
My brain links vertical rock to horizon
In the rhythm of animate breathing
I stand transfixed by falling water
Don’t blame me for seeing
Further than I’ve ever seen
In the tumult of prairie sky
I find the precipice of my being


The Transformation
(Just an observation in a highway diner)
There's a warm wind through the poplars
The cashier exists only in her own mind
18-wheelers grind into the parking lot
In a flatulence of tired hissing.
This truck stop's
On the border of the prairie
Somebody's heart is singing
Outside this cafeteria
In the morning light
A child leads two adults in
They're tired
Probably drove all night
From Thunder Bay
Faces expressionless as
Cheyenne at breakfast
Howdy Toronto people
Just out of the woods
And you're starting to look
Like the natives.


Not Far Enough
(Lollie stops in at a small town along the Red River)
“Long way from Toronto,” I said
Watching the two drunks
In the doorway
“Not far enough,” he said
Handing me a plate of fries
“Not nearly far enough.”
“Long time since the buffalo,” I said
Watching the man parking a pickup
“Not long enough,” he said
Snaffling the vinegar from the next table for me
“Not nearly long enough.”


Rivers
(Looking at the Red River in the moonlight)
Red River flows like gold
Under a midnight moon
From Indian lands
Through Métis lands
To white man’s land
This is not geography
It is history
All the years the drums of woman hearts
Impelled a more living red river
In Indian tipis
In Métis shacks
Among white men’s cruel cities
This is not biology
This is the warmth of woman’s body.


Shopworn
(Lollie’s wonderful quest continues)
It rained at dawn, the day
Edging in slowly like a bag lady
Dragging shopworn clothes.
I hunched over an arborite table
At Whiteman’s Motel
Listening to tractor-trailers rampage
Along the highway, spitting water like
Mad robotic hippopotami.
Forty gazillion trees
And I’m stuck with imitation wood.
The waitress looked like me
A thousand years old
Give or take a week
So I asked her,
“Where do I find some Métis?”
Startled. “Not me. Not here.”
A long pause. Two old people put off
Their Winnebego world for another
Bowl of cornflakes.
“Down the highway a mile.
Turn left. Ask for Lucy
At the Quick Stop.”
Then embarrassed, she left to check
The cornflakes couple
Leaving me watching puddles
On the pavement, and
Playing with a small white feather.


I Guess I’m a Métis
(Lollie meets Lucy)
“I guess I’m a Métis ,” I said
Trying to dance around the subject a bit.
“My grandmother...”
She silenced me with a raised hand
Put her fingers on my forehead
“Yup,” she said, “you sure are. I can feel it.
It’s strong, like the movement of Mother Earth.
Hang loose, babe, we’ll find you
A plug of bannock and sell you a sash
But you’ll have to leave tobacco
At the foot of a cross, then
Baptize a moose.”
“Been there,” I said, “Done it.
Didn’t get the T-shirt, though. Say
Any more Métis around, or are we
The only two left in this province?”
“You’re a bear for punishment,” she sighed
“There’s a Métis band playing tonight at the Legion.
You can buy me a beer.”
Then she hugged me.


Fiddlesticks
(Lollie at the Legion hall by the Red River)
I was a clarinet
At the corner of Bay and Dundas
Playing for charity coins
Now I believe I’m a violin
In an old prairie hall
I am happy to be sitting in a corner
Local women watching me
Cautiously
My ancestor, I wanted to say
Lived on this land
Watched the sunsets
Heard the fiddles
Now you’re stuck with me
In this hall, in the rain
Late in September.


Second Sight
(Lollie thinks about her lost marriage)
If he could see me, now
Dancing in this native hall
I don’t think he saw me
For years before he left.
Actually, I like to think
He never did.
I know he’d wonder who this woman is
And what tiger created her
Burning bright.


To Birches
(Lollie sort of takes to being part of a group for a change.)
Next life
I would be a tree.
Not the open-field oak
Not the solitary pine:
I would be a birch
One among many
Birches grow after fires
I would grow
After this fire
Beside the black stumps
When the woods are gold
And alive
With the rustling of squirrels
My one white line
Leaning down the slope a bit
Tracing the edge
Of happiness


Taking a Trip to the Past
(Lucy disapproves of Lollie’s mucking with the past)
“Bad disease,” she told me
“You walk around
With your head facing back
Do that, you’ll trip
Over the future.


Let There Be Pencil
(Perhaps she’s not as naive as I thought she was.)
Lucy read my poems, twice.
She nodded and we walked
To a graveyard
The stones were warm in the late summer sun
The river far away, the big steeple
Very near
It’s okay;
I was Catholic, once
“Cree,” she said, showing me
An ivy branch carved into an old stone.
I sat on it and watched the river.
“This one died at thirty-three,” Lucy noted
With four of her kids next to her.
How does your Heron Feathers do so well?”
I kept my back to the Church.
“Because I made her better.
Oh, I was going to give her a bit of tragedy
But
I guess I lost my pencil about then.
The sunshine felt good and I could see that
The river would roll on, one way or another
Till God finishes Her book
Or, if we’re lucky
Loses Her pencil.


If There Were No Death
(Dream on, but dream quickly)
If there were no death
I would fill the churches
With homeless people
And teach them bawdy songs
If there were no death
I would grow cabbages
In old churchyards
Anoint them as they grow
Put crowns on their heads
If there were no death
I would spit in God’s eye.
I would live long enough
To dream a good universe


Words
(Lollie, at Lucy’s urging, visits the local church. Once inside, our heroine discovers she’s losing faith in
words. A bad sign for a would-be poet.)
Across the skies of doom and dawn
The angels vend their wares
Across the skies of doom and dawn
The people buy
And all the angels sell are words
Same as I
Same as I
Across the lands of seas and sands
The prophets dance and sing
Across the lands of seas and sands
The people listen, carefully
And all the prophets sell are words
Same as I
Same as I
When God comes at last
You will know
You will know this sign
There will be
(Thankfully)
There will be
(Gratefully)
No words.


Reaching for Heaven
(You can take the girl out of the church, but it’s a bit tricky getting the church out of the girl.)
How far into the darkness can you go
And still come running
Towards a candle
Reaching for heaven,
The long arm of Jesus
Or at least
One warm hand in a church
Empty but for bats
And you are inspired to applaud
The shadows?
People should not have a childhood
Until they are old enough
To protect themselves
And to tell
Fact from God’s
Mafioso protection racket.
Jesus forgive me, I have sunned.


She’s determined to believe
(Lollie notices that most of the people in the church are women.)
Mop and broom were all that God
Ever gave to Eve
But she left that garden trapped in life
Still wanting to believe
Running through the hills, she
Tried for bone on bone
But reaching for His turning eye
She found herself alone
From the bucket that she bore
The serpent tried to say
That tears and duty were all she'd have
Throughout her mortal stay
Later in the day, she
Tried for heart and heart, but
"You are woman," the serpent said
You'll always be apart"
Mop and broom were all that God
Ever gave to Eve
But in some prairie parish church
She’s determined to believe.


When They Hanged Him
(Sometimes an outsider has a different view)
“When they hanged him,” he told me
“They constipated our history
Now it’s stuck.”
“Welcome to the turd world,” he said
“It’s the shits.”
I was there to learn, so
I nodded, but I saw only
A people milling around a corral
Trampling each other
Waiting for a door


The Unpeople
(The people at the margins)
There is no place to go
So we have become the unpeople
A pair of brown eyes in a kindergarten class
A trace of blonde hair on the trapline
We have built a fortress
In our golden hearts
And we mock the ladders
Loving priests throw against our walls
And the dollar coins the pure whites
Pile against our doors
To make sure they don’t open.


George’s Lament
(George has a few things he want to get said )
Casually spawned by
Frankenwhite and Igor Indian
We shamble through the
Damp halls of time.
We were the created people
Not the numbered red people,
Boiling on the reserves, nor
The carefully measured white
Displaying their lawns.
We were rulers of the plains
Now we measure the meters of our lives
In the resonance
Of an old guitar
We are the loaders of trucks the
Diggers of ditches the
Collectors of beer bottles
From roadsides. from
Cars going by
Without stopping to know us
We were golden, once, but
Have drifted down like
Fallen leaves beneath the oak
Pray for us
Some days we find it hard
To pray for ourselves


Lucy’s Reply to George
(For those who bear children, the future is always ahead)
Remember this:
Always
Roots heave pavement
Now we are the people at the edges, the shadows
In the April sunshine, the image at the corner of your eye, the weeds
At the edges of the cornfield, the underbrush they never cleared out
Behind the old barn
You’ll find us where you least expect us
Where the red river meets the unfeeling white ice
Where the forest meets the pavement
Find us walking along the edges of all this
Weeds beside the railway
Someday, while others are
Dreaming of Saturday
We will again gather stars to us
Someday, old, you’ll be moving
Slowly down the stairs
Only to meet our Young Ones
Eyes wide, coming up
Remember this:
In this long, hard, winter;
This woman winter:
Incrementally, patiently
Roots heave pavement.


But the Weeds Come Back
(Tenacious things, they are)
The statue of General Middleton
Grows no weeds around it
Thistle and dandelion
Poisoned in the spring
By the parks’ man
I suspect
The General would have liked that
Around the gray statue
Grass is neat
Every week, the green blades
Reach up
And the parks’ man comes by
And lops their heads off
I imagine
The General would have approved
I’ve often thought
If the statue of the General
Were lopped off
The process
Would not have to be repeated.


At the Legion on Bleeker Street
(Lollie finds some odd places to inspire her writings.)
Once and soon
These will not be ordinary men, but
Old eagles
Whispering down to feed
High among the mountains
Far above the streets
But for now
They come to cages
Only half here
Their inner eyes
Knowing what it was
To call out thunder
And put mountains
Under gold wings


Nails on Sale Today
(Lollie’s getting a little too carried away with the plight of the Métis.)
Formerly
We were eagles
Formerly
We had horizons
Without end
Formerly
You might have
Come to the hills
To ask advice
Of the eagles
But now, even when
The sun shines
Are all you’ll find are
A web of streets and
A people still struggling
To pull nails from their hands.


Bridge
(A bit of Métis history, according to George.)
We were the bridge
Between the east and the west
The dark forest and the big skies
We were the bridge between
Red and white
Using the Métis bridge
Canada carried itself
Onto the plains
And up to the highest mountains
So what happened?
We were the bridge to the prairies
The road to the mountains
And they walked
All
Over
Us


Partly
(Lollie wonders about being of mixed lineage)
Part-moon in the sky
Part nature in my blood
Partway home
I hope
Sometimes there’s a train riding me
And I am pounding granite
With my feet
Sometimes I am my great grandmother
Smelling smoke on the forest wind
Sometimes I am only part of me
A mouse afraid behind
A fallen leaf


By the Red River
(Just a thought)
A small red dragonfly
Sunning its wings
On a willow trunk
By the river
Dozens of new shoots
From the deftly-sawed stump
Some of us need roots in a storm
Some need wings in the sunlight
If you try to have both
You must lift the world


Afternoons
(A good visitor knows when it’s time to leave.)
These are the several ways of Sunday afternoons:
That the increase in time is less than you feared;
The weather outside less frightful;
That the many modes of
Hunger
Become evident
(please continue)
That men and women roll forward on the train
Of today, scattering tomorrows like chickens
On rusty old tracks
And all the bears of yesterday
Fall behind, their tongues so long
They trip on them
(so finally)
Afternoons should be spent
Elsewhere.
Lucy is knitting guillotines:
It’s time to go back into the jungle
And find my lost son, who has been abducted
By the Cookie Monster.


Part 7: Heron Feathers Poems 3
Lollie wrote these poems about Heron Feathers in her later years.


Remembering the Songs
(Heron Feathers & Jean share memories)
Many years later, I told Jean
“You were the first white men
Around the village campfire.
They sang a song designed
To frighten very ugly wendigos.
It was a calculated insult.
“I remember,” Jean said.
“The priest sang a Latin hymn
And, not knowing what to do
We sang ‘Aupres de ma Blonde’”
We laughed, but in all our decades together
I never hated a wendigo
As much as
That imaginary blonde.


Home is Where the Hugs Were
(Heron Feather’s brother comes to visit the Red River settlement)
My brother, High-Backed Wolf came by
When my oldest daughter was eight
And Jean was west on the hunt.
We talked of the family, birth and death, and
Not at all of deep woods nor distances
Between sister and brother
He came to trade in beaver skins
There was a growing demand
Better payments, and not many left back home
Home. I looked at the village on the edge of the plains
A woman always has one home in her heart
Where her father told her stories
Were it not for stories told by fathers
Girls might become women without seeing in men
A funny story, a deep laugh, a warm hug
On a cold night.


Voices
(Heron Feathers at 35)
When our child left
One spring
As the wild raspberries ripened
I whispered her name in the
Shortening of days
I killed the grasshoppers, only because
They couldn’t live long enough
To miss their children
At midnight I wake up
Thinking I hear my own mother’s voice
In the wind through the wild raspberries


Bones
(Jean does some trading with the Cheyenne.)
“Leave those bones alone!”
Jean would yell
But the kids never listened.
While he hunted buffalo
They played make-the-man on the floor
With the earthly remains of Old Dog Howling
Till Belle (the hound) stole the bundled right hand.
She cried when we caught her, but
We never found those bones.
In the spring, Two Buffaloes came again
To trade beaver pelts
(From mountains far to the west)
And to see his kin.
I placed the bones on the prairie
On the red velvet blanket,
Two Buffaloes silent at the sight
Of his white remaindered uncle.
Jean put sweetgrass in each eye socket
And a rosary on his chest.
He said the old man would go to both heavens.
When Two Buffaloes pointed at the missing hand
Jean explained that the White God
Had finally taken part of Old Dog Howling.
Two Buffaloes traded only with us.
Coming back each year to watch
The bones disappear
One by one


Mud and Stars
(Heron Feathers in old age)
Silent as moonbeams pelicans fly past the old woman although you should know that they are white with
black wingtips keeping them up and she is brown and so old even her great grandchildren stay away,
perhaps aware that she knows too much or nothing at all, even about the pelicans circling back to the
prairie slough and landing by the bulrushes, their wings folding lifetimes and crytimes and even lost
husbands against their warm chests as they paddle straight towards her muddy feet under a turning sky
stretching up past the blue and out to the infinite stars.


Part 8: The Journey Home
Lollie leaves the bright lights of Notre dame du Portage for the streetlights of Etobicoke.


Woman of the Wind
(Migration of the Lollie to the deep woods of Etobicoke from the open plains of infinite questioning)
I, finally, became a woman
Of the quest
A Plymouth brought me
To the floodplain of my life
Following some river
Of sweetgrass smoke
And frankincense.
Now I am silent
Listening for footsteps
On the wind
Or meaning in the brown earth
Finding only
My own breathing
My own footprints.
God! I would sell my soul
Just to know
I actually had one
And that
The wrinkled old men
Who dreamed gods
Could also dream
A free woman
Holding even one small angel
To her breasts.


Exile
(If they made jack handles eight inches longer, the additional leverage would allow a woman to change a
tire)
My feet sore from jumping on the goddam jack handle
Trying to sunder two nuts from the right rear tire
Trans-Canada highway west of Terrace Bay
Tractor-trailer rigs dissolving my proximity barrier before
A severance of distance and fading sound
A distant view of Lake Superiority
Leaves leaving forever their one summer
Running around my knees like lost cats.
I think the ice-gutted winds from Creeplaces have
Pried my cold fingers from six things more than I really knew
I just wish a severance of cold metal was as neatly done.
I appeared like a tramp at a church door
Offering the poor-box my golden opinions
But after the borrowed, the hand-me-downs
The seashell-gathered oddities were politely refused
I found myself holding out an empty purse
To which they added some curious coins.
Disassociated at that birth, I am separated in the fall
Haunted by leaves, annoyed by nuts,
Just a bit divorced from whatever place someone told me
Was my home.


Dawn
(Lollie puts a positive spin on her odyssey)
When they ask, “Did she truly live?”
Say she found some footprints, however faint
To follow
Say she learned then how the morning shone
When there were good things to do
Say she learned that days
Could be too short
And the nights
No longer
Infinite
Tell the world she laughed at the shadow of her car
Stretching before her
At dawn
Say that maybe a wound or two
Got left behind.


Ashes
(It’s not as bad as she feared)
I always fled flames
Till they caught me, now I know
I really feared ashes


Where Do the Gods Go
(More questions.)
Where do the gods go
When they die?
Does no-one chant for
Mizoupishou of the rocks
Is there no drum for
Grandfather Northwind
In our kitchens
We believe in Jesus
But the church needs repairs
And the organ is off-key
We believe in God but
It was too cold last winter
We are prodigal children
Wondering how to get home
Or if the stove is still lit


The River
(Three haikus)
I have gone downstream
On the rivers of old time
In a leaking boat
I have come upstream
On a fresh wind over pines
On gold-feathered wings
I have turned in circles
The world spinning giddy by
Learning the river


The Clowns
(You can tell she’s back in Toronto)
This world, she said
is a madhouse
where a group of clowns
have been mistakenly
incarcerated
and even when they stand on their heads
and juggle with their feet
no-one will let them go
Prove you’re crazy
and we’ll let you in
I’ve been looking for God, I said
You know the rest.


Why We Write Poems
(My explanation. Lollie says it’s close enough.)
When we were born, there were ten of us
Nine were me
The other, last born, was not
When we die, there will be ten of us
Nine will be me
The last to die will not
All our life we've sat at the table
Waiting for the tenth to start
And nine of us are hungry


                                          ***END OF POEMS***
Note on This Book
The Minor Odyssey of Lollie Heronfeathers Singer was published in 2000 by Penumbra Press as a
128-page book. You can order a handsome copy from http://www.penumbrapress.com/, or order it from
your bookstore; ISBN 1-894131-12-6.




Questions about Lollie
Who's the Chick on the Cover of the Penumbra Edition?
Not Lollie, but Heron Feathers, Lollie's mythical ancestor. Lollie invented her and she's a genuine kitsch
white-person's idea of an Indian. Lollie knows Heron Feathers is too good to be real, and says so to Lucy,
in "Let There be Pencil".
The ceramic Indian Maid with the discount sticker seemed like a good symbol for the story.

When Does Lollie's Search for Community Begin and End?
It begins with "When the Words Stopped". When a relationship starts to die, a man's most feared weapon
is silence. The silences start small, and grow like a cancer, and there's so little a woman can do.
It ends with "I Guess I’m a Métis", in which Lollie gets what may be the first sincere and warm hug she's
had in a decade or so. Hugs are highly underrated in this life.

When Does Lollie's Search for Whatever Gods Might Be Begin and End?
Ah, the heart of the book! Starts before the book opens, and continues well past the last poem.

Is This a Real Odyssey?
The opposite, really. Odysseus wanted to go home, and get away from the gods that hounded him. Lollie
leaves her home in the hope of finding some gods.

Is This an Accurate Depiction of First Nations or Métis Culture?
There's a line in the movie, Sixth Sense, that goes, "they only see what they want to see". Lollie's like that;
she tends to pick and remember those views that she finds colourful or those that match her expectations.
And it's been a while since her Odyssey; things have changed a lot for both groups, mostly for the better. I
told Lollie about all these things, but she told me what I could do with myself, adding that she's "a poet,
not a freakin' sociologist".
lennypoet@hotmail.ca
                                                 ***END***

								
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