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In a simple meeting on the lawn in front of Station 20 West, two sisters reach out to each other. As the sunsets and the melodies float by, they find comfort in the connection they share.
This poetry project is a fictional story inspired by a young lady in Saskatoon. It is centered on a familiar place that binds the nuances of shared realities. Creating this project was nostalgic and I found it challenging not to use this as an exercise to remember. I sought to understand the dynamics of sisters in a way that goes beyond codependency and is rooted in patience, love and kinship. I want to give a special thank you to Kiyari for trusting me with her story. I want to also give a special thank you to Omar “Obeatz” Ballantyne for the wonderful instrumental.
Her desire to speak stopped me from waiting for her next move. It told me that I can breathe. I can stop wondering. I could stand at attention and accept her voice as my command. Listen for her plan to the response she has. She said she wants to talk. That kind that only sisters know about where it’s safe to let it out. I said, “Let’s go for a walk.” I knew it was bigger than this bedroom. Bigger than my assumptions. I’ve seen that face before and I knew it was saying something. She told me in that voice that demands action. The one that says softly, “I am losing traction.” It could have just been me though. Little girl, always looking for a purpose. But the risk was worth it. I flew into my shoes, opened the door and said, “Sister, after you.”
I remember it was still sunny. 20th was filled from Avenue B up to K and all the way up the hill. Where we live, it’s lots of colour and thoughts of where can I go when I’m stuck in my thoughts? I love that we’re here. And we get to make space to clear out our day for all our teenaged angst. My sister’s smiling. I can see she feels it, too. There’s this place where we sat. I think about it when I try to forget that my sister and I were little girls one time. When we’d follow your mom up and down the same street. The police called it “the beat” but we didn’t mind. We love this long road. Because we were always together. Imagine, two little girls and one little mother. She’d always have something up her sleeve that we liked. She’d make the longest days short with a comforting nap. With the ease of her mind in absolutely no time, mom would always find a way. A way to keep the goblins away, to keep sis and I safe, to make sure we could play, to use our imagination and to have good dreams. Mama always knew what we needed, it seems. When things got different, you know how it goes, my sister got quiet. It’s like she just froze. The darkness became darker on this long, lonesome road. I spent two years in the house on my tippy toes. She spent two years in her head. We both had nowhere to go. No more talks, no more walks, no more skipping rope. That’s around the same time I found my own woes. My sister became my example of strength and grit. The scars on her wrist told me she’s passionate. She said they mean she doesn’t give a shit, but I know she does because she doesn’t quit. And all that time that she was sad, I learned as much as I can.
I found some people who liked me who extended their hand. They listened to my stories and they helped me make a plan to make something of myself and to make sense of this land. I knew she’d come back when she was ready to speak, but it hurt me to see she thought she was weak. My new friends helped me though. They showed me the smudge. They taught me how to listen and how not to judge. They told me my sister is powerful. I agreed. But then they said I was too and that I couldn’t believe. But eventually I did. Because I liked them and they made me feel heard. They told me their truths and they stayed true to their word. They got me involved in all sorts of things that I liked. I started to take my own pictures and even took my first flight. I learned to be a leader and all about human rights. They taught me about depression and how it’s not all our fault, that others pain is nothing personal but a learned default. They said that when we’re sad that it mostly takes time, for all of those things to fall out of our mind, that we can’t believe all the things we think in our heads, that there’s a whole world of lessons to discover instead.
We sat on the grass. We were both silent. All we could hear are those familiar sirens. The chaos is normal. It’s just how it is. It’s how it’s always been since we were all kids. We like to watch the people, so that’s what we do. We know who’s cousins with who and who’s in what crew. We know what to wear and we know what we can’t. It’s all part of that old 20th Street dance. Those cars that drive slow are here to watch our sisters prance. We need them to know that they don’t have a chance. My sister tells me with her eyes that someone is coming. A guy is riding his bike and he’s happily humming. He’s got a tune for us, he tells us, as if he’s already performing. I think this is our warning. We’ve made a new friend. He sits on the bench and wrestles his strings and in no time at all his bad tune begins. He’s cheerful. And I see my sis smile that kind of smile that I haven’t seen in a while. We don’t have to speak to know what we’re saying. This man is giving us medicine with the music he’s playing. We are smaller than him but not smaller to him. We are all small together, just lost in his hymn. There’s some things that just happen. And we don’t always know why. But sometimes it makes us dim our own light. Like many times we lose a safe place to cry, or somewhere to turn when we just want to know why. There’s some things that just happen and you find all your might. Like two little girls who stick together for life. So there’s someone to call when you don’t want to pretend like everything’s okay and this whole world makes sense.
Interpreted from a Memory from Kiyari McNab
Produced by Omar “Obeatz” Ballantyne
GORDON TOOTOOSIS NIKANIWIN THEATRE (Saskatoon)
Ed Mendez, General Manager
Jennifer Dawn Bishop, Artistic Director
Cory Dallas Standing, Marketing Coordinator
Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte, Assistant Admin
Cheyanne Lemaigre, COV Coordinator
Elizabeth Ahenakew, Cultural Knowledge Keeper
Lois Hardy, Finance
Heather Cant, Consulting (Indigenous Cities)