I Mind the Time

Mary Barnes

You ‘member those schools?

I musta been eight or nine
before Christmas it was.
I was helping Father____
glue stickers to the school window.

First came the angel
over the stable
watching over everyone.
Use lots of glue he said

Then Mary and Joseph
who were looking at baby Jesus

                 the three kings.

Afterwards Father____ thanked me

then that rat…

You know.

The last thing
I remembered was

                           where were the shepherds?


Author Statement:

In September of 2015, I read a piece in The Walrus titled “If These Walls Could Talk: the physical trace of residential schools,” and I recall how a deep sadness filled me — I felt I was caught inside a maelstrom. It was a moment of helplessness. I was particularly drawn to the photograph of the Nativity pasted on the window, a familiar scene we see on snow-covered lawns and in stores at Christmas. How ironic, I thought that this scene of love contrasted to what was happening in the residential schools. Then I heard the voice of an Indigenous Elder. I imagined him as a small boy telling me his horrendous story. Far from his family he had no place of comfort, ashamed of what was occurring in his young life. Gradually this poem emerged. I hope the spirit of this boy’s words shows the need for reconciliation.

Of Ojibwa descent, Mary Barnes is a graduate of the University of Waterloo and a winner of the Tom York Award for short fiction. She has written book reviews for The Antigonish Review and currently writes for Prairie Fire. Her poetry has appeared in literary journals such as the Prairie Journal, Tower Poetry Society, and Voicings. She also has a forthcoming book of poetry with At Bay Press. Inspirations for her writing come from the landscape of her youth and everyday encounters. Born in Parry Sound, she now lives in Wasaga Beach with her husband Bob and writes, gardens, and talks to the birds.

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