POETRY: MONI BRAR
she takes me deep
into her people’s land
this stranger turned neighbour turned friend
points out antelope brush and grey sage
unwavering in summer heat
spear grass clings to our skin
as we wade through Lamb’s Quarter
pulsing the want of seeds
through Tufted Vetch and Shepherd’s Purse
capped with rounded clusters
while red-tailed hawks scratch the clouds above
into the valley marked by bloodlines
where dreams were swallowed whole
we skirt ponds that give life
to horned grebes, wigeons, and buffleheads
spot a lone merganser and a common loon
too early for blue heron to break
the glazed surface
we revel in the silent miracle of Water
si'ulq, her mother would say
pāṇī, my mother would say
up the notched hills
to watch wild horses roam free
careless and cared for from a distance
I learn palomino, bay, pinto, appaloosa
they twitch not for us, but for the Sun
xai'ałax, her mother would pray
sūraj, my mother would cry
and for the Moon
sokemm, her mother would ebb
chand, my mother would flow
she takes me deep
onto forest floors I’ve not known
a cathedral of soft light
we count the birds
naks, usil, kałis, her mother would sing
ik, dō, theen, my mother would recite
walk beneath the watchful gaze
of red-winged blackbirds and evening grosbeak
there are no willows weeping nearby
just the sound of a black-capped chickadee
making its way home.
Originally published in Prairie Fire Literary Magazine, vol. 42, no. 1, April 2021.
UNDER THE BANYAN
Nani-ji told us stories,
long stories and made up stories,
and maybe true stories
of everything she knew
of everything she’s gathered and named
squatting under the banyan tree
great-grandfather planted by the pond
where the water buffalo bathed.
She was shrivelled as an overripe mango,
but once smooth as a clay pot.
Her hands were caked with stories,
her body brimming with stories upon stories
seeded from the women
and women-shaped absences before her.
She told stories of a mouse who was mocked
for hoarding rice in a hole,
a wise mouse who knew the floods were coming,
the rupture and decay looming.
I wonder if she was that mouse.
Nani-ji: maternal grandmother in the Punjabi family
Originally published in Marias at Sampaguita Magazine, May 2021.
Born in rural India, Moni Brar now divides her time between the unsurrendered territories of the Treaty 7 Region and the Syilx Okanagan Nation. Her writing explores the immigrant experience, diasporic guilt, and the legacy of trauma resulting from colonization. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and she is the winner of the 2021 SAAG Art’s Writing Prize, runner-up in PRISM international’s 2021 Grouse Grind Prize, shortlisted for Arc’s 2021 Poem of the Year, and a finalist in the 2021 Alberta Magazine Awards. Her writing can be found in The Literary Review of Canada, Prairie Fire, Passages North, and Hobart, among others.
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