Liz Howard / Of Hereafter Song

This piece originally appeared in Issue 3.16 (Winter 2012): Ecologies


An argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries
and for responsibility in their construction.
—Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto



1                                       [PROLOGUE]

the smoke that waves beckon
mind lapsing choleric forest
pine for coma is air treble
tremulous echo re-enter
attest circular dynamism

no nabokov reed no tidbit
no beatitude found no hyacinth

eternal the ermine and thieve reverie
eternal has ignition feathered ermine
eternal blastula even homeric for reverie
eternal thaw linger roves laced in cinder
eternal gosh angle of watered hormone
eltered birth was slick and rind emergent

hung errant method
hung sky enveloped

no veridical deer no rabid name

no plenitude abound no abhorrence
no abhor


2                                        [CONTACT]

she rested back unto the lakes and marshes
into the light dialysis of heron and arrowy
swallow with all the trees of silver tongue
gently from the melting lakes and streamlets

into the sweet radiation of the earliest flower
in the Northland intolerable toward
the red stone the stem a reed

into the puffed metastatic coal became the water

into the affirmative action embryonic mortality
of the loon summit robin gazed

into the bigger than the big-sea-water

bioaccumulation became us Athabasca
sweet reconciliation spoke in
mercury, arsenic, lead and cadmium erotic
as the archaic physiognomy of a fishhead
we descended

the women of bitumen looked over tailing ponds
like a cloud-rack of a tempest
rushed the pale canoes of wings and thunder
to kill the wilderness in the child
sweeping westward our remnants
sulphur infinite, sorrow extracted tuberculosis
under the jurisdiction of ravens
in the covert of pine-trees

or an education of thieves in the evening.





Longfellow’s epic poem, “The Song of Hiawatha,” was an attempt to assimilate indigenous, specifically Ojibway, oral tradition into Western textual, metric verse. My own government-imposed identity as a non-status aboriginal person and the trauma and silence surrounding this identity (as in the internment of my great-grandfather in a residential school and estrangement from my native family members) became an emergent theme in my writing. As a mixed-race person, not even quite a “half-breed”; as a subject under a continual process of erasure; as the ideal end-product of assimilative programs such as the residential school system; and as a scientist, employing empiricism as the so-called paramount of Western inquiry into the natural or into how we come to utilitarian truth — how could I even write about this? There was something similar, suspicious, neighbourly between Longfellow’s situation and my own. He was a white settler trying to filter indigenous narrative through the framework of the Western epic and I was trying to reconcile a being at odds with itself. I began to read and un-write his work. The result is a long or sequential work in which I intervene upon the text using several procedures — an overarching process of random sampling (which is the norm in scientific research), as well as homolinguistic translation, intertextual recombination, misappropriation, and cyborgian disruption.


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