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.
Over the break I started playing with acrylic paints to create paintings as though they were poems. I had just finished reading Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch and was inspired to improvise more often. I wanted to show up to the canvas and paint a poem without words. I gave myself permission to paint things I didn’t know how to draw. And then using the paintings, I’ve started writing poems.
Poem Painting Collection #1: In Transition
Even though we knew this project was happening, it caught us by surprise this summer to see the new wind farm at Henvey Inlet First Nation. I’ve spent my summers among these islands my whole life. Our family picnics were in this area. The photo at the top of this post is taken just across the water from the lighthouse where my grandfather lived as a child.
sun lights red maple
summer afternoons gone
crisp breath talks
to fallen leaves
collected as treasures
upon our table
and sun and time
children like sunflowers
winter mornings near
bright appetites linger
savoured as love
captured in our portrait
and food and this.
© Jessica Outram
I wrote this poem for Cobourg’s Take Back the Night event on September 19, 2019. I also read it at Port Hope’s Take Back the Night event on October 9, 2019.
Back to School
On the first day
we put on our new school shoes
travelling back to the future
knowing our desks soar like jets and
pencils swim like dolphins.
The first time we hear the bell
we see our teacher wears a cape,
super smiles and high fives among
line-ups and hooks with our names
beyond this classroom
on the moon.
We sit quietly not on a carpet or in a chair
but on a massive drawbridge
between the forest and the castle
waiting for a glimpse of a dragon or a knight
or to be invited to study with a wizard.
At lunch we eat small bites out of boxes
bouncing to go outside to a jungle
and run with tigers
giggle with hyenas and jump with frogs.
We learn to count the days with robots
(not the boring kind)
our robots code the world
and we will use them to change the world
And: You. Will. Change. The. World.
We ride unicorns in the afternoon
our thinking and creativity and compassion
unrestrained and generous.
We learn outside of walls and boundaries
guided by curious questions and wonder
full of possibility.
Tonight when your parents ask
what did you learn at school today?
You can say:
we saved a life
we created a planet
we sang and danced beside giants
we jumped into the centre of the puzzle
and found algebraic patterns
in the photosynthesis of numbers
converting our spunky energy
into brainy energy that will be released in time
or you will humbly say
© Jessica Outram
Last week I received a memorable, thoughtful gift: a poem. I attended the Cobourg Poetry Workshop’s meeting and one of the poets, Doug Langille, had composed this poem. He recited it for us, gave me a copy, and then told me I could share it here.