Bertrand Bickersteth | Poetry

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I Didn’t Even Know About Them

Sometimes I say I’m from
“Here”

Sometimes I say
“Here, I guess”

Sometimes I say
“Edmonton, I guess”

Sometimes I say
“My family” is from Sierra Leone

Sometimes I say
“Edmonton and Calgary”

Sometimes I say
“Africa”

Sometimes I say
“Calgary”

Sometimes I say
I was born in Sierra Leone
but “I grew up here”

Sometimes I say
“Why do you want to know?”

I never say
“Why do you want to know?”

Sometimes I say
Most of “my family is here”

Sometimes I say
“That’s a long story”

Sometimes I say
I’ve lived all over
but “my family is here”

Sometimes I say
“Where are you from?”
(But you never get it)

Sometimes I say
“Sierra Leone”

Sometimes I say
“Different places”

Sometimes I say
I grew up “here”

Sometimes I say
“I was born in Africa
Raised in Alberta
Schooled in the U.K.
Lived in the U.S.
for many years”

Sometimes

Once

(when I was thirteen),
my mother launched
“Here”
too persistently
at some inevitably
persistent inquisitor
and then, later, to me
“Why not?
They have black people
born and raised here
for generations and
they don’t even know about them!”

Yeah, why not, I thought
even later
locking looks, defiant in the bathroom
mirror, but
my brain was
hot and prickled

I didn’t even know about them.

.

.

The Negro Speaks of Alberta

Once, he stood on the banks of the Bow
near the confluence of the Oldman
watching for the common effluence of
the South Saskatchewan, the Red Deer,
the Saskatchewan, and so on
and on and on.

I know these rivers that flow past me
I’ve peered over their banks and know you do not see me

Once, he stood on the banks of this twisted river,
released a gleaming arc of relief into its heart.
For an untroubled while
their waters flowed together
and emptied together
out of a distant, unsuspecting mouth.

I know these rivers that flow through me
I’ve gazed out from their hearts and still you do not see me

.

.


Bertrand Bickersteth writes and researches on Alberta’s black history. His poetry has appeared in KolaFreefallAscent Aspirations, and the anthology, The Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry. He was born in Sierra Leone, educated in the UK, resident in the US, but raised all over Alberta. He currently teaches Communications at Olds College and is editing an anthology of black literature from Alberta.

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2018-02-28T17:27:43+00:00