A journal of art + literature engaging with nature, culture, the environment & ecology

Two Poems by Lee Maracle

Lee Maracle, Canada

The Call:

Breath is wind,

Voice is wind

Wind is power

            [sto:lo teaching]


My Response:


We enter the world wailing, fighting for breath.

First breath assaults the skin, offends the body.

Insulted, we weep, unsure we want to be here.


The woman who bore us murmurs.

Vocables—intended to soothe,

sharpens the surgical light.


This first language recedes under soft incantations,

family chatter intoning us in urgent nonsense

to bond, to connect, to seek joy.


These murmurs lighten the burden of being

in this. Our grand entry into the world of shadow, of light

at times too bright, in folds too dark,


wondering without knowing, looking not seeing.

Breath sparks up courage

to listen and sing back.



Lee Maracle is a Sto: lo [Coast Salish Nation].

The above is the teaching we adhere to when we speak.


Everything begins with song


The sweet mountain breath of wind whispering through cedar—earth’s symphony.

Wind taps out tunes to the valley floors, even the howling storm winds sing agonizingly beautiful songs, arias of painful transformation we come to love.


Songs hooked to the language of wind lessens this burden of being,

couples itself to the promise of language;

voice elevates being, renders life manageable;


There is power in the breath we pass over vibrating vocal chords.

The words carry a charge.

The spark invites response.


The hum of song points receivers in the direction of the good life.  

The breath of others takes their own journey through the body,

passes breath through some imagined future.

Lee Maracle is the author of a number of award winning and critically acclaimed literary works, including Sojourners and Sundogs: First Nations Fiction, Polestar/Raincoast, Ravensong, Bobbi Lee, Daughters Are Forever, Will’s Garden, Bent Box, First Wives club, I Am Woman, Memory Serves, Celia’s Song, Talking to the Diaspora and My Conversations with Canadians. She is the co-editor of a number of anthologies including the award winning publication, My Home As I Remember and Telling It: Women and Language across Culture. Born in North Vancouver, Maracle is a member of the Stó:lō nation. Mother of four and grandmother of seven, Maracle is currently an instructor at the University of Toronto. She is the Traditional Teacher for First Nations. In 2009, Maracle received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from St. Thomas University. Maracle is a Senior Fellow at Massey College, U of T and has served as Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, and the University of Western Washington. She is distinguished for the following awards: the 2014 Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the 2016 Ann Green Award and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Officer of the Order of Canada, the Blue Metropolis First Peoples Literary Prize and the International Festival of Authors award in 2018. Her book, My Conversations with Canadians was shortlisted for the 2018 Toronto Book Award.

Odocoileus virginianus

Editor’s Preface