Put Aside by Kaiya Mongrain
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Put Aside by Kaiya Mongrain

Put Aside by Kaiya Mongrain


Trickles of rain upon the canvas roof,

Gentle rappings paired with the crackle of flames devouring poplar,

The smell of rotting leaves covered in moisture creeps in from the outside.

The thermos is set on a crumbling log

Through the parted canvas, put aside for later.

The reminder of July is gone,

Having been replaced,

Having been forgotten,

Having been.


The cold seeps deeply into all that belongs to me,

It sinks into my cedar tea in the steel thermos,

Into the supple moose meat roasting over the stove,

Into the brown and black fur blankets upon which I lay.

I stare up at the beige in a never-ending stretch across the sky;

It reminds me I should move.


To think of moving is a nearly impossible thought, a thought that shatters into despair, cascading through my veins.

This land, with its lithe rivers and fertile forests, has housed and tended to my kin for generations beyond counting.

To think of leaving is to abandon the land on which my family has died,

And deny my children their rightful legacy.

Along the tent roof are shadowy claws of tree branches stripped clean of green stretch.

They sway, and the lower branches seethe and scrape loudly at the top of the tent—

I belong to this land.


My grandmother would tell me stories of family who lived atop white-capped mountains and in lush valleys below,

My grandfather would tell me stories of my people, legends of the great spirits who danced barefoot

In the woods and the animals whose kinship runs so deep it is ingrained in every facet of my being.


To put aside the land is to put aside the beating, glimmer gift of life that drums inside my breast,

To put aside the land is to put aside my right to die upon this land.


They can come and burn my tent to the ground,

Rip my children from me, declaring me unfit to educate,

Try to purge me from this land,

But I belong to this land, wild and untamed as I can only pray it will forever be;

I will die on this land,