Sunday, 13 May 2012

joy + constance: three poems by Connie Fife

 for Russell

 I have learnt that love
 translated by any
 means is worth the
 motion of movement.
 Turned into any words,
 love emerges whole.

 I am certain the simplicity
 of creation becomes a
 fire ignited. That implosion
 leads to the beginnings of
 stars, galaxies.
 Air on tongue.

 New words scattered amongst
 the constellation of one's self
 the birthing of another life.
 The letting go of comet, trail
 blazing behind.
 The blue black of velvet
 crow wing breathing in ear.

Connie Fife
 12 Aug 2008


Song of mine

my song became a seed
      became a sheave of wheat brought over from europe
      became a crop then field upon golden field
      became a prairie companion thumb pointed upward
      an opera set in the 1960's of saskatchewan led by a blizzard diva
      a performance I watched with many others

my song became a note perched on tongue
      a tune whistled by pedestrian and street performer
      a piece of gorilla art bursting through the crowd
      composed by rout of crow
      blue glittering on stage
      became an anthymn sung by many peoples
      history unclothed
      naked under a churning sun
      a song as clear as the cry of northern geese gliding past

      a trail leading uphill across river into mountain
      each divide momentarily interrupted by deep breath
      a song to the cavity where living deities are housed
      walls polished by forest worm and animals burying carcass

my song became a noun, verb, syllable, consonant mixed into a broth
      each finger locking with next word formed, shaped claylike
      no song unsung, no rhythm overlooked
      singing my way through page after page

      a lullaby sung as a mother
      words fused by the dictation of history
      repeated by one generation to the next
      trembling lips soothed, cry of newborn quieted

my song became a poem
      mixed metaphor colliding and entwined by chaotic silences
      a maze of corn straight backed
      soft green peel protecting kernel
      driven by natural growth or my desires
      they step further away for me for whatever their reason

       a poem speaking my name not another’s
       a crafted house
       inhabited by wildflower and coyote
       orchestrated by assembly of crow
       illuminated by cast of star

this my song composed of my many longings 

Connie Fife

Regina Waits

another page flutters open
lies quietly down for me to read

I trace finger across trees

always returning
I have always been returning

carpet out before me

the first flowers of an early spring left
momentarily behind

I smell the dander of Buffalo
close by

always returning
I have always been returning

Connie Fife


Top image: Connie with her grandson Cameron
Second image: Connie Fife author photo
Third image: Turtles, birchbark biting by V.M.N.
For more about birchbark biting: see the video of Rosella Carney

In her work as editor and anthologist, Connie Fife has opened the gates of literature for the voices of indigenous women, through editing the second volume of Theytus' Gatherings series, co-editing the Native Women Special Issue of Fireweed (pictured above), and through The Colour of Resistance: A Contemporary Collection of Writing by Aboriginal Women (also pictured above). 

I read The Colour of Resistance on one of my book tours, found by my bedside at some poets' house somewhere between here and Toronto, and page by page it enchanted, welcomed and energized me. Some time later, I had the opportunity to hear her perform, and I was amazed by the angry energy radiating from her, filling the auditorium and vibrating through me. 

Not so long after that, I found her come to my door, with visual artist Doleen Manning, who was pulling together a show at the Burnaby Art Gallery, Tracing Cultures. She was not seeming angry in this venue-- my subsidized apartment on Pender and Commercial-- but smart, compassionate, shy, kind.  From that time to this, Connie Fife has become one of my closest friends, our famillies interwoven through the powers of love and poetry. My initial impression was not untrue, but it was surely not the whole story of this gifted poet and mother, and now, grandmother too.

Connie and I collaborated on a writing project, to mark the new millenium, and we delved the depths with our words. She told me, the writing was challenging for her, as to date she had given voice to the stories of others, the champion of the oppressed: telling one's own story is another layer deeper and much more tender. Then I understood the powerful anger that I'd felt, at her earlier performance: the transmission of collective indignation and pain.

The first time that Connie and I performed together was at Anskhok Aboriginal Literature Festival, a few years back. Wracked by ill health and rising to the occasion, in another kind of venue and with friends clearly identified and seated in the front row, Connie showed a much gentler, even diffident, side to herself.

In her work as a poet, Connie has been a fierce and an uncompromising voice for love and truth and justice. As her poems above show, this she does continue to be. She has written a number of poems of love for her son, many of them called simply, "for Russell."

She passed these poems to me, along with many others, at the YVR airport during a stop-over visit not long after she relocated to the Yukon Territory. The image she sent much more recently, celebrating the cuddle of her first grandson Cameron, with her son Russell, the proud papa, somewhere nearby. All belong to her, and are shared with her permission.

I am celebrating mother's day this year (while my teens sleep late into the day) by celebrating the life and work of my friend, Connie.

A few pics taken back in the day by another soulmate, family friend and source of love and succour: Sandy Oliver.  This is what my family looked like in 1996: 

This was who we were, around the time that Connie wandered into our lives, and long before I had that eerie sense of bumping into myself in the hallway, as she wandered through the house with her journal clasped to her breast and her eyes focussed on some vivid constellation that would become another poem drawn forth from her compelling inward song.

2012: Mother's Day cards by Jules & Flora: with love and with thanks to, and for, all.


Fauzia Rafiq said...

What a lovely way to celebrate a day, Joanne. Thank you for bringing Connie back to us.

Jeff Bullard said...

I am conducting research on the art of birch bark biting. I noticed a picture of a "biting" on your Blog post from May, 2012. I would be very interested in knowing more about the piece and who the artist is. (I believe the piece is singed V.M. Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Jeff Bullard