In Poetry: Canada, History and Remembrance

As we remember and rethink our country’s history and the story of the Komagata Maru, Canadian poet Renee Sarojini Saklikar shares a poem from her book, children of air india.

 

C-A-N-A-D-A: in the after-time, always, there is also the-before-

 

June 23, 1985

punctured, probed

embedded

sediments—

other peoples’ stories

cracks within cracks,

tales, anecdotes

gossip, family legends

tied knots                                   other peoples’ stories twist

in N’s left gut, nation, in her, a body of provinces

when she walks down to the river

each story-bit

a laceration

inside her deep down

secrets

dismembered

one limb after another—

incident as saga, saga as tragedy,

tragedy as occurrence

so what a plane explodes

so what people die, they die every day

in her body, blast and counter blast

(Air India Flight 182)

her story and the stories of other people

interact—a toxin?

Alloy, mixed suffering:

name the Ukraine, find the Doukhobors, ferret out head taxes,

also, Cambodia, Ireland,

the bombing of Britain,

Guernica, Dresden,

Gaza, Afghanistan,

Khymer, Ararat, all such entries in any such list, incomplete,

Auschwitz (shush, shush)

each name

releases vibrations

Komagata Maru

Internment and confiscation

words tremble

into this cornered saga, a litter

suppressing action,

an accumulation—

and there is N, down at the river—

 

lumber on the docks, metals underground

salmon on the pier,

how the dates, such flies, buzz

1888-1910-1945-1947-1967-1985

also, add 1907, 1911, 1914, 1962, 1997

and after,

scandal and song

rise up, Air India, portal,

the river, a conduit,

each comer’s story

a stain on a shack, lean-to, split-level house, hall, lodge,

grocery mart, train station, bridge, railroad,

condo tower, Skytrain tracks

emanating messages—hoarded in hoax nation,

a taking and-a-taking, this country

receiver of peoples, and always underneath, the everlasting story—

this is how we suffered

list each band, tribe, linguistic group, hereditary chief

no accounting with those names, not released to her

because not student enough, not seeker enough

not listener enough, each tale incoming

woven unending saga,

citizens,

settlers,

first nations,

neighbours,

families, loners,

saints, thieves,

liars and fine upstanding sons and daughter

receptacles

holding, holding,

C-A-N-A-D-A,

once she sang—

 

From  R. Saklikar, Children of Air India, un/authorized exhibits and interjections (Nightwood Editions, 2013).

Renée Sarojini Saklikar writes thecanadaproject, a life-long poem chronicle that includes poetry, fiction, and essays. Work from thecanadaproject appears in literary journals, newspapers, and anthologies. The first completed series from thecanadaproject is a book length poem, children of air india, (Nightwood Editions, 2013) about the bombing of Air India Flight 182, nominated as a finalist for the BC Book Prizes’ Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Read our interview with Renée Sarojini Saklikar here.

 

Interested in learning more about the Komagata Maru and early South Asian immigrants to CanadaVisit our History section for stories about history, racism, fashion and film.