Franco American poets at the JEL – April 29, 2019.



[Applause] [Applause] and a big THANK YOU to Stephen real Stephen wrote to me about six months ago are there about stabbed as a result of attending a conference in New Orleans and he had heard dr. Elizabeth blood speak from there and she was talking about Southbridge and the translation that she had done on Felix national average which is seminal book for us folks and Southbridge but also dr. blooded of a lot of research on just Southbridge Southbridge history and how the French Canadians you know were such a force here in this community in 1319 projects so it was really so far to us and so unfamiliar and I was soldier on this because it meant that we now had somebody who is going to present during our national poetry event and thanks to Steven for reaching out to some other very accomplished boys we now have a group of four franco-american boys who are going to present for us it's evening and I would like to just read a short introduction and there is one of the things and I've tried practicing and I'm in a different one so please excuse me if I do so the this evening's event is called franco-american words that sing on that matter celebration National Poetry Month we are delighted to welcome our four writers who bring diverse experience and approaches to the creative work Cheryl so the goal is a French Abenaki poet and writer who has received fellowships and poetry from the any Aid and the Massachusetts artists foundation and was a finalist for the Patterson poetry prize her most recent pair of points is modern land and the flesh the winner of several national poetry awards including the Ruth stone poetry prize has answered three chat books of poetry including Beatrix in additional poetry in to our project publications Sally Belarus credits Inc included her novels the girls club and she has won an Emmy a fellowship and Steven Reagan the most recent book is Samuel fellow yes the new the new franco-american literary eternal razor rocks right so in towns and cities throughout New England a significant percentage of the population is franco-american is our franco-american heritage if this ethnic group has often survived by avoiding nauseous and blending in these four points break that traditional silence by exploring various facets of franco-american experience so I think that sets the tone very much for our events this evening and I am so jealous that we could do this to be the host and I think Steven again for reaching out and anything has happened and hopefully you will arrange to buy the poetry books that were available this evening so for folks at home we would like to dip in Christmas they uncover it perfectly at a later stage we would have them available in our collection so without further ado I would like our four strategies Thank You Douglas Thank You Margaret Becky scared to play nice together I'm honored today with educational favorite the Stephen felony Cheryl and thank you all for coming I was wondering if I had no material I can read tonight in I was going to my work and I and 90% of what I fight has something to do with it scream french-canadian so I had way too much so I went through it and try to come up with a theme and what I came up with was work and so that's what I'll do my paternal grandmother my member came from Western Massachusetts from Acadia for me and many of where she came from and who she came from we're never cleared at least to me and most of the rest of the family I think because they were never particularly as they're occurring some of her past she was told not to speak about and so so she didn't know those who give you yes it was one of her stocks as a young girl that men they often spoke about was Fall River where she worked in the mill the shirt my shirt was factory so I'm going to read a poem about living in the Shirtwaist Factory and a few words that might need explanation if you have to put a saloon our warp and weft which are the horizontal transverse threads the web writing a way silk which is the scrap left over from in the mills not necessarily silk and shuttle white which is how the shuttle goes but it's also anything that comes at you sideways so that explanation is longer than the memory does time in the Shirtwaist Factory she sings she works she won't be gotten she hides her pennies in her stocking she warps and wefts and steals the way so for the children she would be rocking makes the loom sing lullabies she works she sings she won't be God she has filled nickels in her side she works she won't be gotten she said she won't be God she works she works she works stitches quilts of stolen silk sells to rich men's wives full term money in her pocket girls like her a dime a dozen become not rich but shovel wise so this next poem is about a paper mill in Holyoke Massachusetts where men a my mom and I all worked it's called national it was called Nashville think flight book later is called the Eagle factory and in my time there there were many many french-canadian and Puerto Rican people working the factory national blank book a factory built of brick surrounded by canals national blanco produced paper blank lined and bound by the gross and by the ton spiraled graph embossed paper rock pulp was pressed into dire has date books birth and death books and shades of white and every color every girl wanted to work the line for the color on Thursday when the rain came the girls working the line were glad nice weather on the work day meant trouble bend our minds towards sabotage with trip firing homes jam cardboard and punch presses the foreman carrying his clipboard wanted workers for the weekend check names of girls who would ex names of girls who wouldn't my cousin jean-marie afraid of being next always saying yes outside was midday but already early evening dark inside eight-foot links of fluorescent lights come from cable above the assembly line rain Slapton winds backwater on 12-foot windows long sent sealed shut we heard the downpour through hall through holes in the noise of metal punching paper cutting hacking all that product moving conversation was not possible every girl was left to her own thoughts I thought about my cousin John Marine so old 28 with her 10 years seniority it got me this job and stood now at the end of the line sorting guest books throwing the faulty into a bin to be sold at the company store for cut rates generally timid 1540 scared to use the bathroom afraid of being alone with the rats that scurried when stall doors closed or worst stood in a corner beady eyes watching the foreman took me off assembly to stack my cousin's maligned and mingled castoffs a plum job off alone by the big dirty window we're gonna get my own case which was fast well I would have been sure one factory girl allowed to labor alone until a tailless rat appeared and sat on the deep cell nine a piece of bread that clever wrap with no tail had been stealing from court pockets and lunch pails for grease somewhere somewhere far off crack followed boom not the excitement of thunder and lightning just factory noises from the second floor they rapped and I stare at each other down glanced away just long enough to get our separate jobs done the lunch whistle blew paper stopped moving the rack not on the rats teeth were yellow its fur thick and wet desperate to check my fear I collect my hands when the rat did not move I decided it was factory death I was 18 my hearing was intact the rat showed its teeth and I showed mine 10 years seniority and jean-marie still afraid to say no to working Sundays scared me more than yellow teeth and slick wet fur all I wanted was outside that factory I was hungry it was much time trained to be quick I will my life tanned to inch toward the bar I never felt sorrier for any living creature except perhaps myself I heard the middle cold and solid damned if I would leave my cousin while the lunch well that once we land stealing rap room get some papers my mom we sold my mom's house and there's a bunch of papers that came in from from Acadia and had some stuff to do with a Lancet Lancel so so I'm getting some info anyways this is called guns and good little Indians Numair means grandmother the word may sometimes abused to suggest the fat lazy old woman my memory was fat hardworking glad to rest and eat a hearty meal given the chance her husband pip a drink he hunted with a shotgun men loved pip a she bore his tensho and his drinking cooked and served what he shot Lemmy was soft-spoken except when she wasn't she had a few strict rules one rule booze and hunting must never go together one day pip a drink went hunting and came home puffed up because he had bagged two deer he waved around the shotgun scaring the grandkids memy grabbed his gun poured pip a1 stiff drink then another when he was passed out maybe took his shotguns apart buried the pieces all over their small farm pip I often told the story of how ma brought her native ways from Canada through Maine to Massachusetts how he lost his shotguns to his wife how he was head of the family but a woman had a right to home rules that a man was bound to follow when please Mme called her grandkids my good little Indians we grandkids would dig in their yard searching on rare occasions we'd find some piece of metal we thought was part of Papa's shotgun three days before she died let me announce she was ready to go and took to her bed eight of her children were still alive and came to say goodbye grandchildren great-grandchildren neighbors relatives all came to say goodbye my family lived on the second floor of the mem a small farmhouse until I was three when my father built the house next door F bless you after we moved into the new house I kept creeping back to mem a I was 11 when Mimmi died by then my mother had long since stopped caring that I spent so much time with my grandmother as she lay dying I watched the steady procession of mourners in and out of the maze house i sat on the my bike wondering why people who only came at Christmas bothered my mane now it was autumn I squinted in the Sun my mother kept vigil running between the houses she saw me scowling on my bright bike go sit with me me my mother said I wanted to sit with mem a but didn't want to share her so I bolted her outside door behind me I knew better than to lock that door Namir entered her second-floor to a family with two young boys sooner or later there would be a pounding if not my mother or a renter a mourner with a coucil a mem arrested on her back on her feather bed propped up seated just in her best nightgown her chin tweezed her hair washed her eyes closed but she was still Nimmi her chest wide and loose rising and falling I was not scared not one little bit death could not have her she was mine ma i sat on the soft lumpy bed never opened her eyes potala she said using my nickname come closer both Olay because I knew better than to beg I lay next to her on the bed and asked why do they all keep coming all right they come to weep it's expected they may left but we know each other eh you don't have to cry unless you want to I'm going away but you and of course then came the pounding at the door and we had to let them in but not before me Mae said with her crooked smile you my good little Indian must stay so so now I'm happy to say I'm am ma and this is this is I'm trying to pass this off as a poem it's really a short prose piece it's called do what you got to do and it's about our granddaughter Kennedy that's a good Connick named Kennedy do what you got to do three-year-old Kennedy is dancing interpreting Nina Simone's I need a little sugar in my bowl she sways side to side and bends at the waist letting her dirty blonde hair and fingernails fingertips sweep the floor Nina sounds like a boy she says Kennedy has been on a first-name basis with the artist since she could talk she's up right now her feet are planted 20 inches apart on the carpet arm swaying over a head keeping slow time her hips sway left because her arms are right she claims to be Ariel The Little Mermaid and she calls me flounder she does look like a sea anemone I need a little Swedish in my bowl she sings in her high thin voice story hour and day care has been featuring children from around the world it occurs to me not for the first time her mom might not approve of her daughter memorizing the words to this particular Nina Simone song I decided it's time to retire Nina before she gets me in trouble the CD ends I checked it and put it in its jewel case at the bottom of the pile how about some Sergeant Pepper I asked Kennedy she used to like the Beatles but now she holds her nose she says Minmei isn't Nina lovely her use of the words MIM a and lovely slay me I am wrapped I am undone she is three years old and she uttered the words MIM a isn't Nina lovely there has never been a more articulate talent er cuted kid I am willing to risk our daughter-in-laws disapproval to nurture this child genius you want more Nina I asked but I am too slow in asking she's got a life sized plastic Blowfish in her hand and is racing around the room with it I'm Tinkerbell you'll be cheese she says I believe I know this cheese character cheese is a mousy little mouse who does whatever Tinkerbell tells him to I don't want to be cheese I want to be Nina or at least I want to dance to Nina I take Nina out of her jewel case and turned the volume low why do you have a fish Tinkerbell I asked it's a flying fish we're flying Kennedy says Nina sings do what you got to do Nina can be Peter Pan she says she and the Blowfish stop racing around the room she drags her steps cool stool in front of the couch stands in it and waves the fish over her head I'm the only one who can't fly I complain you and Peter Pan and Nina can be a boy Mouse Kennedy says with big wings like a dragon she spreads her arms roars and trips off the steps I'm alright she says quickly landing on her knees she stays on her knees squeaks and crawls under the dining room table I peek under the tablecloth come on Nina she says hide from the dragon with me and just like that I Mimmi am Nina Simone taking a breather for a moment under my dining room table before I slay the next dragon thank you thank you for listening I have to lower the microphone so something that we talk a lot about with French Canadians is how we've become or always have been invisible in one of the areas where we're most invisible which drives me crazy as we probably have been the largest and most voracious fanbase of the Boston Red Sox for a hundred years through 86 years without a pennant even we were so loyal so that silence ends tonight we're gonna have some baseball poetry so ten years ago I took my family to see the Pawtucket Red Sox which is the minor league team for the Boston Red Sox and pitaka is a great mill town and I have extended cousins and family there my mom was so excited and then in this amazing french-canadian wonderful thing when it came time to throw out the first pitch these nuns came pouring out of the dugout true story right my family was there true story and it was to thank them for their service to the community as nurses and teachers so I wrote a poem about this Mother Superior eighty years old throwing a split-fingered fastball it was just amazing so I'm going to try to do this without peaking sister Beatrice throws out the first pitch sister ascends the mound quiets the organist with his with her palm the catcher kneels he needs a god darn miracle to rise from this minor-league limbo the stadium lights flicker on they glow in tiered rows like votive candles sister is a sister of mercy but her wind-up is brutal her leg kick wicked her hooded head spits forward the catcher's glove opens like a heart contracts against the fastball swamp and slam his head has stopped hoping for a salvation but his heart holds on organ music booms against the dome the leadoff hitter wait twenty years since his last confession but he crosses himself and steps hopefully to the plate and that's a true story so then I got fascinated thank you so much so I got fascinated with this nun and then I started writing more nun poems and it became my chat boat Beatrice and I was interested not in the religious life but how do you build friendships within the convent how do you interact with the community and how do you have a sensual life and what does that mean so this is a little bit of Nunnelly sensuality this is called pearl the day after scattering her mother's ashes in the ocean sister Beatrice goes kua hogging morning scape clouds arranged in blurred bands of coral and pink like lipstick samples on the back of the Avon lady's hand twenty years inside that tuned shape nun boot but sister Beatrice's foot remembers its childhood skill how to stalk the Quogue big toe trawling the tide like a predators snout cool wind whirling off the waves in salt loaded squalls sisters veil flaps so hard around her skull it muffles the crackle of foam the slap of kelp and jetsam the clam she captures is still alive breathy and warm in its hinged Brown casket the clam flesh dampens under her fingers its belly slack as love in its puddle of juice elegant neck recoiling from sisters tender pinch she knows the danger of eating it raw but beatrice swallows her head tilted gulp a remembered pleasure in her throat no pearl to roll down the esophageal slide just a title rush of sand and delicious clam water splashing under her tongue pretty sensuous huh that's how I imagined her this is called Mirror Mirror the nuns are not allowed to look at their own image I mean imagine that that you're not supposed to look in a mirror because of the vanity still sister Beatrice craves reflection alone in her cell she probes her face with the slow sculptural skill of a woman born without vision her fingers trace the bladed cheekbones the small brown moles expressive as punctuation marks at the end of her one in the morning Beatriz sneaks into the convent kitchen there's no chrome toaster to tempt the sisters not a sliver of silver glass no stainless soup spoons with their inverted gazing bowls but there's a ceiling fan metal bladed sister looks upward as if seeking sweet heaven the metal blades slowly slicing air shows slimming flickers of Beatrice she sees her nose it's humped topography the sudden twist just below the bridge the strands of hair pushing out of out of her veil like the night seeking roots of the moon flower plant Beatrice's mouth is too lush for a nun's mouth but there it is quick pink kisses on the whoring fan blades Beatrice tears into faint blue eyes the pupils widening like ecstatic cervixes so this this is what sister Veronica sees when she looks at Beatrice and there was a fascinating story on my birth certificate my dad's occupation is listed as color boy and the color boy was the person who would lift up pails of dye in the textile mill and put them into the press as the press was going and he would come home splattered with this foul-smelling dye it smelled like burnt plastic and I often wondered about that because my dad suffered from a lot of strange immuno illnesses and he got bladder cancer which was a strong risk factor for working with synthetic dyes and that just drove me crazy and so color boy my father's occupation as listed on my birth certificate blind in one eye daddy could name the blue-green shades in a workers blood cyan cerulean celadon Jade could list the shades of violet in a Thunderhead lavender lilac hyacinth move he could see a cultured pearl flush from anemic white to series as it warmed in the hollow of a rich woman's throat daddy's sighted I was trained to die d ye at home he refused to talk about the job but nights when he called the Union steward I heard steam kettles double shift on New Year's Eve the hell heat of it how even though the men stripped down to Bermuda shorts and sleeveless bibs their eyes stung with sweat they had to keep blinking if they wanted to see and just the other night the Russian guy fainted dead away indigo steam rising from his limbs and bull head Blanchard had to lift him off the floor and ride him on his broad French shoulders to the nurse on days when the pattern was Hart's daddy came home splattered with red stains thick as blisters under his nails when daddy had to work a double shift on his 40th birthday I brought a chocolate cake to the mill no candles allowed no flames the dust encrusted air was an easy inferno daddy had to wait a couple of hours for his break I roamed the seven floors watched bobbins spin out thread thread thread looms spit out cloth cloth cloth sewing machines hung out shirts shirts shirts then there was a break part to the ocean unfurls its bolts of crisp white organza I study the sunset how a June day bleeds out slow a seeping chest wound I squint to find the greenish sheen in the blood a pale sage I sense rather than see daddy would have loved these celestial hues skeins of hyacinth mist on the horizon a swatch of science guy clouds of slugged silk floating through Twilight's died off the Sun succumbs to dusk I wait for the last drop of color to drain from the sky in darkness deep as polished onyx I pour my daddy's ashes into the cerulean sea and thank you for coming Thank You Ellen so powerful Wow it's a privilege to read with Sally and Ellen and Cheryl and I want to thank Southbridge for welcoming us the first poem I'm going to read is called a field trip home and there's some French in it which I'll translate we have the cure a who's the priest the feast the son the field the daughter petit feast never grandson nephew Oh Lea de france' instead of French Judea davos entendre comprende vu I want to hear you do you understand lieutenant ECTA the authenticity and Lacoste man a notary don't eat a the highway to our identity there's an epigraph to this poem it's by Adrienne Rich this is the oppressors language yet I need it to talk to you there are only backroads to my past going back I think I know the way from bonds Ville to Thorndike Sturbridge to South Bridge I disregard the map bank the van into curves like a bobsled and forget everything but half-remembered dips in the road then I skid across the bridge there is always a bridge and I'm on Main the duplexes and three Decker's perched on the sides of fierce little Hills still want paint and repair crooked rotting balusters fall out like teeth bicycles sprawl wear grass never stood a chance rain gutters sag still that peculiar defiance houses here imply pale green clabber Dre's Don the edge of a riverbed choked with granite smokestacks and steeples jut up against the hills hushed we mount the stairs in this industrial light worn sandstone steps muffle our school shoes as we spiral up the brick turret our thoughts and voices are taken away to be sorted and died by click whir and clack we become all eyes in this din we watch rags soaked in vats then see scummy pulp dried and pressed into egg cartons by men with corrugated brows women with skin gray as the canal below but their eyes and hands danced a quadrille the machines call but can't catch their wrist spin patterns in and out of stainless steel as they weave in and out of the deal at lunch hour whist sometimes they lose bets sometimes they lose fingers docile they make good hands never strike vote Republican mind their cure a supply the shift with another feasts grandma another field Renee docile students we've been herded here another field trip to study what we'll never know yet I know more than I understand about this place the curves in this road and staircase I'm not a Feeny Norah Smith these are my people were gawking at I'm their PT fees never their lips taught me English click whirr and clack hola de francais a tune I often still can't catch I wanted to blurt out Shedaisy ado Vu's entendre comprenez-vous but slunk home to check my grammar in books I once memorized under the tutelage of teachers who said goth e'er like us instead of Gautier who studiously failed to point out note in t seat a of half the classes last names the paved road Lacroix Shima another identity I was up at st. George's Cemetery this afternoon trying to find my great-grandmother great grandfather's grave those of you who know where that is here will recognize what I'm describing the next poem is called vein addicts and I'm in terms of the word vein I'm I'm referring to it in two different senses both vanity but also being in vain useless or ineffective vain addicts trying at night to hold it all together in my head ragged scraps of lace whirl above me as if peace instead of grief could come through remembering where the hairline held before it retreated leaving behind no tied mark or recalling how my neck felt my voice sword before atoms tree dumped it's Apple insistent whiskers sprang up repetitive as pop songs on the radio lyrics that once felt so accurate they embarrassed me for fear that as someone guests the one I clung to they'd know why I'd never fit in today an oldies station found me out though I couldn't recall the group's name til I hunted down scratched 45s in my psychedelic orange fake fur carrying case under the stairs trying to retrace what I presumed indelible Catherine of Aragon and Bolin Jane Seymour Anne of Cleves Katherine Howard Catherine Parr too sweet to add new sums whozit else all the symmetry of the seventh grade trying to refurbish childhood willow wear stands in for aunt Pearl's blue onion i smooth rectangular wrinkles from the save soft tablecloth as my mother's and store as yellowed keepsakes of my younger self parochial school history books in a trunk among titles that haunt me return to Ghana way lake the clue and the crumbling wall and the dishwasher takes up as rhythmic womb-like sloshing a lullaby to my middle-class psyche as I still do homework at the kitchen table sometimes it's as if I were moved away of course some old people sell their homes to escape unmanageable memories they either hide in the present or find themselves unraveled by the past but after we've moved on who will remember what we've forgotten decipher our checkbooks see to our new year's resolutions attend our reunions who will make sense of our random musings those vain addicts who will grope along the rasp of our lives feeling for webs among the splinters I am my own archivist trying to reassemble more than I can remember I go back long before I was born to a priest who enrolls a cloth scroll points out the family plot I pace along the crest of a ridge the cemetery looks out over nothing but trees the mill town below obscured there's French on every stone we could be in Brittany or Lachine but five rows down and six across the one word one surname that would have left out at me is missing even spider webs are mostly gaps sometimes we come up against silence so total it echoes unmarked graves whole lives forgotten perhaps more hole because forgotten but more in vain so the last one I this is a little bit of a risk in a public library but I think I can pull this off it's a little bit lighter it's very lighter this called Robert Goulet is dead so I didn't deliberately set out to write a poem that included both franco-american and gay themes I started this because I really truly really and truly was attracted to Robert Goulet's deep voice when I was a little boy okay but and Robert as it turns out Robert Goulet West franco-american he grew up in Lawrence okay there's in this poem there's a you know his nickname the nickname I use for him is T gar little boy little guy okay and I think that all of us maybe except for one person in the second row is sophisticated enough to know that the poet and the speaker are not the same person okay so the speaker in this poem took over big time and I had to get out of the way and just let him do his thing and just want to say all right here we go Robert Goulet is dead with your demise one surefire aphrodisiac flickers but never goes out five years old hips jammed against the fabric front of our cabinet sighs stereo I slithered to where hidden speakers buzz beneath bolster me holster me tingle of your baritone coxswain and oarsmen deep and firm and strong if ever I should leave you even down the hall I'd tent hard wild hardwired ear drum to hardwire taint if I place the disk just so we'll move together again Morocco me embargo me beverage and gargle me roll me up and cabbage me stallion as I lather you have me on a platter please if you fancy food just thrust all through a low note I wait and marinade you growl the deep down way you sound the shore vibrato you growl the deep down way there your dying father made you vow to use the gift jug gave mercy pair for handing Teague are the key that turns the bolt in me wire me high note fire me conduit of dream I'm a socket waiting to be plugged a glance waiting to be met weak need obvious a dizzy cheap drunk shish kebab meatballs laid out on a buffet ladle me cradle me if ever you should leave her reflect and connect me me me look up my number on any heavenly wall thank you people have read so this is not a franco-american pool it is called I'm in love with Rita Moreno we go to see West Side Story my best friend and I we are 12 this is our first grown-up movie it opens with a shot of New York City and a sharp whistle this is real this is the neighborhood I am swept away by the music that jazzy beat the dancing down streets under the highway and parking garages I will tell my parents the soundtrack is all I want for Christmas for years my sister and I will sing the songs dance in the kitchen while watching dishes on the way home my friend tells me she is in love with Bernardo who do I love I don't know I'm still dancing with the women on the roof our hands beat over our heads and now my arm is around her waist we lock eyes and walk in a circle around each other now we are swishing her skirts high stamping our feet do doop down at the dock done at the thought of the thought oh I will be her skirt I will be her shoes I will be the flowers she wears in her hair the shawls she wraps around her shoulders I'm in love so I think I'm gonna start with a couple of I read this poem in Michigan and so so my family is friend shitty French pay attention and there's some of some things about that here I read this when I was in Michigan and people came down from the reservation in the Upper Peninsula and they said when you start to read this I thought you were gonna sleep you were going to say the poem the first poem I ever heard and he said what's that they said Frenchie Frenchie we learn a lot 14 kids and no Papa huh and I thought well nice to see that the stereotype is like so there's one piece of sort of sharp language and there's that I'm going to like tone down so you'll know I think what I do French girls are fast French girls are fast I find this out before I know what it means two days in the Irish Catholic school my mother thought would keep me safe from sin and the name is following me around Frenchie hey Frenchie Allah Allah the Irish boys staring at the roundness I am not ashamed of the Irish girls still properly flat beneath the uniform jackets I learned quickly to sneer like my cigarette of the wooden match flicked against the brick school wall taste the smoke roll it over my tongue and exhale upward in a gesture of exquisite boredom I tightened my face turn to look them up and down instead of the prayer of this place eat it budgets years later it is a grandmother who accuses me and I hear it again French girls are fast Who am I to say otherwise my belly pushing outward with her grandson's child she admonishes me not to rest my hands on my belly you'll ruin the baby touching yourself like that my hands fly away for a moment like frightened birds living for another place to perch then settle back down she shrugs and turns away later she takes out a blanket she bought at Niagara Falls from those Indians you know she tells me shaking her head clicking her tongue but the blanket is nice she says you can use it I will not tell her now my father's family is Indian that the blood was mixed in me generations ago my hands except the white will finger the stripes of red yellow black green I charted over me the child my unruly hands feel my body slowing getting ready for the long push so in Havana Katie and Abenaki there are no ours and when I was growing up one of the things in my family was sort of like you know we grow up you just think this is you are what people say you are so we were french-canadian I always agree my father was Indian but I thought that the what that what we did everything that we did was french-canadian and then I met people who weren't family who were French and they ate this thing at Christmas time called tortilla but we did it we ate something called choake so when I found out you know there are no ours I thought that was interesting so to K this is the pie that defines our Frenchness in the winter season the Christmas Eve pie of twice ground pork cooked slowly seasoned lightly with salt and pepper we make dozens to give away but uncle Raymond won't eat our pie missing the spices his tongue demands he calls it tortilla says there's no such thing as tokay there it is then members book the Indian cave we are as foreign to Algonquin tongues as the spices many leaves out so when I left high school apparently before I left high school I left the Catholic Church I was in comfort school actually let me read the Connor expose befall first quick quick one convent school because I hate the crowded hollows I duck into the quiet Chapel where there's only a few of us genuflecting Neal and the filtered sunlight I think I'm getting away with something I am NOT saying words I am just breathing in the silence I don't know yet that this is prayer so this is a poem called rosary and it takes a shape on the page not roses but beads the color of a summer sky not round but oval each be leading to the next a river prayer Jerusalem ugly she was five when she saw them on display in the back of Saint Anne's Church which she would make her first communion she thought them the clerk of the urge of herself guessed when her mother took money from the food allowance to put the beads into her hands Ave Maria gratia plena Dominus taken for 68 years the river of beads flowed through her hands each night of her marriage she and my father together prayed to the Blessed Mother hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb now I am saying it with my brother our hands across our mother's body struggling to die or live for three days we pray to the mother words I have not said for decades when the time comes and my brother's the sinners who cannot say I sing to her in Latin I thought I'd forgotten Ave Maria gratia plena Maria gratia plena Maria gratia plena are they becoming Dominus miss check them Benedicta tu in mulieribus et Benedictus fructus fructus Ventris Ventris tui now I pray Ave Cecilia gratia plena Benedict up to you are blessed and blessed is the fruit of your womb we are all blessed my mother my mother's family comes from Acadia originally then they were indentured servitude and west from Massachusetts and finally got up to Quebec and then came back down to message in Massachusetts my mother knew very little of this history but somehow in all of that she remembered that the English are enemies and this was certainly true in our town this is a story I remembered my mother and my grandmother talking about at the kitchen table when I was just barely old enough to understand aunt Delia until you worked up town bust the kitchen floor shining the silver washed the crystal wrapped the garbage and newspaper hung out the bleep sheets when the Uptown lady had no milk Delia offered hers as easy to feed to as one over the silver tea service the china cups over the cake she baked in between nursing and she heard them from the hallway saying all of those French women have big breasts saying they're like animals those French women I'd like to read it seems like we have to bring my pieces to pass I have a new book coming out next spring it's a memoir and it's about bipolar disorder and I have a number of men make pieces and I call them islands of sanity so I'd like to read one or two of those mimicks stories singham ma my husband comes home and finds me on my knees sorting blocks and tiny cars into their business I enjoy putting the toys away creating a tableau for tomorrow morning the way my mother did on Christmas all the toys and books displayed and full of possibilities when I'm done I sit on the sofa I'm tired but it's a good tired and my card is full I say to him surprising myself today is a day of perfect happiness and so it is these days come often during this time of caring for my grandsons not only moments of joy but of knowing and appreciating my own happiness everything they do fills me with gladness my daughter-in-law exasperated puts the crying baby into my arms he is just 2 months old she is exhausted from the pregnancy and birth and I think a little depressed I wrap the blanket tight around him put him to my shoulder my cheek against his head singham MA I couldn t have seen him in me uh-huh that's right my daughter-in-law looks at me surprised Singham in me uh-huh then her whole body relaxes as she sits in the armchair and poses and one uses her armchairs closest our yep no make stories paddling well you've just finished dinner and we're sitting around the table my grandsons and I we are talking about the Wolves disguised as coyotes we've heard Holly over the hill Joe who was five howls to demonstrate what they sound like Adam just to follows his leave and then I join in and there are three of us howling together filling the evening kitchen with some my daughter-in-law comes in from another room looking worried she stopped when she sees all of us together howling our heads thrown back our voices overlapping rising and falling wolves around the dinner table the boys see her and grin between their howls their eyes some books so if anybody's interested in buying some as I mentioned earlier we will definitely would like to buy some critical action so that if anybody at home would like to or them at any stage we will have them anyway here but I just would like to again thank the four poets for coming here this evening for really enchanting us with their wonderful words and just making a National Poetry Month so special for all of us it's such a thrill to hear so many different voices and to partake in something that's so special thank you very much and thank [Applause] females that come out of nowhere are always the best ones thank you [Applause]

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