Summer, 2017 / No. 39

The wagon’s wheels lift over the ruts as

the horses’ tails swing gracefully on their backside.

Their occasional stench blows into the faces

of my grandmother and grandfather.

We are huddled in patchy quilts

as the stars sprinkle the heavens

like fireflies.

It won’t be long before we arrive

at the camp.

I imagine the skeletal hands of my ancestors

caressing our hair as we watch the bats

in the clearness of this dark prairie sky.

The year is when the prairie dust stormed.

When my grandfolks couldn’t leave the reserve

without a permit to visit our neighbouring relatives.

There is no sound except the breathing horses.

We are all dressed in dark heavy clothes,

for we are fugitives in this land

we once roamed like buffalo.

The settlers are often scared,

as if our emaciated bodies could run across

their threshold, rob them of their stale bread.

We will find shelter in the thickness of the coulees,

munch on dry meat and pemmican,

huddle like rabbits in broad daylight.

We are the prairie

and the prairie is a tumbleweed inside us.

Louise Bernice Halfe, also known by her Cree name, Sky Dancer, lives in Saskatoon, and served as the Saskatchewan poet laureate for two years. She was raised on Saddle Lake Reserve and attended Blue Quills Indian Residential School. Her latest book is Burning in this Midnight Dream. Last updated summer, 2017.