a poem about reconciliation by a poet who has both icelandic and metis ancestry

I’m a fan of Pádraig Ó Tuama and his offering through On Being, called Poetry Unbound, in which he reads a poem in his lovely Irish accent, and offers some insight or interpretation. It’s not an easy podcast to make time for – I tried listening to it while my kid was at soccer practice last night, but the wind was whipping about, some puppies were playing nearby and the energy was too …. energetic… for me to concentrate fully. Still. The poem is beautiful. And worth sitting with. And I wanted to share it here… with the invitation or question: where and when might you be able to sweep aside all the busy energy and sit for 15 minutes with a poem? (Literally, I’m curious. How do we carve time out of our days for this kind of sustenance?)

And how does this land for you, this idea that reconciliation doesn’t work as a final event. It is a continual truth telling. Who better to help us navigate this than someone of mixed race? Someone who cannot afford to be fixed to one identity, without obliterating at least part of herself.

In his introduction, Pádraig Ó Tuama says that “poetry and reconciliation have a particular kind of relationship with each other in the experiences that I’ve had. Sometimes I think a poem might seek to bring all kinds of resolve, but reconciliation is an ongoing process, rather than something that’s reached once and then you stay there forever. Reconciliation doesn’t work as a final event—reconciliation is a continual truth telling, and there’s tension in that, rather than easy resolve.”

“Reconciliation” by Jónína Kirton:

how will I reconcile myself?
the Icelander and the métis
the settler and the
Indigenous
an ally to myself
since birth flung across a
chasm
I often wonder am I to
forever be
the way across
weak anchors at each end
my spine a flexible deck
load-bearing
and within my cables too
much tension
as some try to cross
we all swing wildly
in each other’s steps
without safety nets
the waves of emotion
threaten us all
and then there are times
that both sides seek to disown
to cut my cords
let me fall to the rushing
waters below
maybe one day I will just float away
see where the water takes me
but not today

today I will rebuild
this time no quick fixes     no steel cables
or wooden planks
no rust     no rot
no nails necessary
but rather the slow growth of twisted roots
from ancient trees
the way across a path
made of grandfather
grandmother stones
I will become a self-sustaining structure
gain strength over time
a living root bridge that lasts five hundred years”

[music: “First Grief, First Air” by Gautam Srikishan]

Jónína Kirton is a Canadian poet of Métis and Icelandic heritage.

2 thoughts on “a poem about reconciliation by a poet who has both icelandic and metis ancestry

    • Lisa Richardson says:

      i haven’t stopped thinking about this, Lisa… this idea of it being a continual and unfolding process… of moving in and out of comfort and discomfort… and learning and unlearning… so glad it resonated with you. thanks for leaving a little love note.

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