Creating space for transformative conversations

Truth & Wreck

A poem of reconciliation, written in honour of Chief Robert Joseph,
And ending with the words of four wise elders

By Joanne Arnott

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 have a multiplicity of stories
within me
some are the bones of me
some are the blood
some are the meat of me
some are the stagnant pools of qi
some are the resuscitation of being

rising up

I feel a cool wind blowing through
when I hear the truth
the truth about who is dying from neglect
who is lied about, who is suppressed
who is showcased and honoured and no, wait, listen—
who is allowed a natural life
who is interfered with, who is taken

rising up

a cool wave of truth flowing through
aligning the bones and the meat of my stories
cousins disappearing from the left hand
new cousins arriving on the right hand
who is interfered with
who is paid to raise whose children, how
indigenous families became outlawed
how settler economies feed upon me

the cool truth has a hot heart
the cool truth has a sober word for you
the cool truth is a mind-blowing instrument

blowing through the dead leaves of the fallen

blowing away the grit of snow under which
the stories were buried, frozen

taking up a shovel
for redemption

our land is in a state of productive confusion
the chaos
the liberation of stories

shining the light of the unspoken to re-inflect
all that was said to the children
all that was said and the great unsaid


a mammoth nerve complex evolving
new and old stories together
your stories with my stories

no longer compelled to choose between or to
go mad trying

the dams are weakening,
let them fall

the wreck of the self-deceptive nation
struggling toward transformation, we are
coming into being

writing a new song of wholesome
on the stinking bones of our
undefended regret

heat of transformative anger shed
the colonial project unmasked, interrupted

grace notes

with passion
with innocence

Rita Joe: I lost my talk
Chief Robert Joseph:
Am I a human being?

Jane Kwatleemat Marston: Listen to the trees talk
Chief Dan George
: Like the thunderbird of old, I shall rise again
            out of the sea

Event Resources