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KEPMITE'TMNEJ (HONOUR SONG) 

click to enlarge BRYANNA CHAPESKIE
  • BRYANNA CHAPESKIE

on the coldest day of winter
at the clearing,
where Long Pond froze over

seashell in one hand,
a fist-full of cedar and sage
in the other,
you pierce the snow bank with
a seabird's feather

you light sage
smudge
under boot soles
over your pants
onto winter jacket
and across your chest
down one arm, then the other
and above your cap

Keptmite'tmnej ta'n teli-l'nuulti'kw
Nikma'jtut mawita'nej

then you smudge
cedar under my boots
up my leggings
across my womb
and breasts, linger
over my heart
we lock eyes until
smoke dissolves

Kepmite'tmnej ta'n wetapeksulti'kw
Nikma'jtut apoqnmatultinej

you sing Kepmite'tmnej,
a Mi'kmaq honour song,
clouds of hot breath
hover around winter-bare trees
the song drifts across the lake

Apoqnmatultinej ta'n Kisu'lkw
Tel-ika'luski'kw ula wskitqamu'k

we walk back to the car
close to the road, you point
at healing plants, dark greens
poke out of paper-white snow


SHANNON WEBB-CAMPBELL is an award-winning poet, writer and journalist of mixed Aboriginal ancestry. She is the inaugural winner of Egale Canada’s Out in Print Award and was the Canadian Women in Literary Arts 2014 critic-in-residence. Still No Word (Breakwater Books), her first collection, is out March 1. She lives in Halifax.

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