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To Fill the Sky

A poem in honour of Chief Joseph

By Daniel Zomparelli

This poem was commissioned by Simon Fraser University's Centre for Dialogue in honour of Chief Robert Joseph, recipient of the 2014 Jack P Blaney Award for Dialogue, and was originally presented at Vancouver Public Library as part of the City of Vancouver's Year of Reconciliation.

                                        I stand before you today in order to meet its obligation.
White linen folded over wood, folded
over dirt, over earth. Dry grass press
skin leave marks on body.
The sun, not yet visible, lights the clouds
that surface the earth, that dips around
the spaces between us and them. In the distance,
there is a building, heavy with stone bricks
that weighs the earth, press against
the same dirt that pushes against your skin,
that presses grass, or
how do we reconcile with the land?
                                         Before today, I order you to stand in its obligation, meet.
Start from the land, press against the sky
and make
shapes.
You fill the sky with words
to constellate each night
asking where to start again
or how do we reconcile with memory?
                                        Stand in order today, to meet in its obligation, you before I.
A poet goes inward, asking what it is to reconcile
and all he can think of is him,
or more dangerously, her.
We meet again,
and you say goodbye, and goodbye.
He thinks of her now and the way
the body is pressed between earth
she takes a space within the question mark
do you remember, mother, that we
never finished that conversation,
or
how do we reconcile with the dead?
                                         I stand before obligation, in order to meet in its, you today.
The comments are closed, and I watch as you
make shapes with words, build homes
with a story.
I would be
nothing without you. Rewritten,
poetry would be nothing without you. Descending
from mountains, the sky
doesn’t ask the question, it does
fill in the blanks, you and I.
or how do we reconcile the space between

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