Poet Laureate of Cobourg

Our Canoe: A Poem for Canada Day 2020

So much has changed since our last Canada Day.

Our town has large Canada Day traditions with a parade, festivals, fireworks, live music, delicious food. We invite anyone to join us. Our beach, parks and streets are packed with thousands of people. Last year I read a new poem at Victoria Hall. It is a tradition for the Poet Laureate to share a poem on Canada Day in Cobourg.

This Canada Day 2020 is quiet. Reflective. Today I feel grateful for a town and a country that so far have done everything they could to keep me safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. Thank-you! Watching the virus spread across the planet and witnessing how governments respond, support, or protect their people has helped to shine a light on our own communities. I feel blessed.

Since March I’ve thought about my about my ancestors more, wondering what they would think of our world today. Since we can’t come together as a country or a community in the same way this year, I decided to celebrate with all my grandmothers and grandfathers. This Canada Day I want to acknowledge my Métis and Anishinaabe ancestors alongside other Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit peoples of Canada.

Today I imagine my ancestors and I are all on the water together. We dip our paddles in unison, connected in the ripples that spiral from the surface to the deep. We sing, cry, and laugh. We slice our paddles in the air through time and space to travel together into the future with transcendent wisdom and love that we know is the lifeblood of family.

Our Canoe
see grandfather’s paddle
draw new maps in old waters
fish misunderstand the lines
hear grandmother’s stories
fly like geese around cloud shapes
time builds nests in tall birch trees
wind shouts hot pain next
portage heavier than hate
toes ache with worry
taste spirit, holding our breath
in a swarm of mosquitos
paddling in the dark
finally I touch sun splashes on your face
children laugh for every reason, a new season
alive in these waves with whitecaps


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