I wrote this poem while picking strawberries, a few days before the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – marked in Victoria since 2017 as Orange Shirt Day – to honour and support residential school survivors, intergenerational survivors, and the families of those who didn’t come home.

Late September Strawberries

maybe it’s climate change
or that we got the soil right
this year, pungent fertilizer applied
at the right intervals
and a commitment to every-two-day-
early-morning watering
no matter the conditions of my life
or that 15 minutes more sleep
would be welcome

maybe it’s the pollinators
the hedgerow at Robyn’s farm
inspiring us to create our own this year
welcome habitat for the bees,
that feed us

we aren’t very good gardeners
by that I mean we don’t
have all the time in the world
to study the soil, the path the sun makes,
reliably, across the yard each day
what should go where and, why
in some beds, things just don’t grow

well

we are good gardeners
earnest on Saturday afternoons
as life allows
planting vegetables
tending tomatoes
and the joy
of that backyard connection

late September strawberries
shorter-day-soak-in sunshine
as we prepare the garden
and ourselves
for what’s next

Songhees knowledge keeper Florence Dick says
that the City can’t have
the name of their Grand Chief
for our street sign
because even though he signed the Douglas Treaty
in 1850 and is long dead
he is also still alive
moves through this land through his descendants
he cannot be pinned down
as a name on a street sign

these strawberries
this land
ours and not ours

what’s next is winter
and the work of decolonization
the learning and unlearning
the shared pain
the deep understanding
that what was done
cannot be undone

those children who never came home
those children who survived

short days and long nights
to tend to the work
the lək̓ʷəŋən are winter ceremony people

I also must do my work
so that as another spring comes
and strawberries bloom
on land that is not ours
I know my role on this healing path
and walk, heart and hand,
with the people
of this land

%d bloggers like this: