origins

Brutal as a tombstone1, this daughter's origins, their lithic character,

in the stone faces of various regions' petroglyphs;

her nature crystallizes in the shifting storms of 17922

 

The English and mobile Jews, Romany women casting river stones,

the Interior Salish in the final years of their salmon-river summer-homes,

the explorers3, and the as-yet-undiscovered, all of them with their blades

—from these I rise stubbornly, still undefined.

 

That year4 was wet, but the stones remained hard, their carved faces,

wings, memorial dates and 18th century graffiti marking

in meadows, on river banks, crossroads and tradeways,

impressing on time & matter, from England to Sp'q'n'i

dreams & desires, the dead and yet-to-be-living.

 

But this is all nothing, the underbelly of history.

What matters: the sea otter skins

were still heaving upon ships running fast to China,

horses had finally reached the the last of the tribes,

with iron kettles, knives;

salmonberry bloomed

a little later than it does today.

This is what matters.

This daughter, her origins 2225 years into their beginning,

cradling the small stone6 , the sharp knife7

sun-napping amongst the Asteraceae8 of Useless Bay.

1  The quotes in italics are from Rosario Castellanos.

2  In May of 1792 George Vancouver’s ship “Discovery” gets laid on its side by low tide, and in his spinning ire, he names the place Useless Bay.

3  John Shillibeer, born this year, would later sail on the HMS Briton, and as an artist would draw Patuki with his war club. They would, together, 

    undergo a ritual name exchange.

4  By the end of the berry season, Vancouver visited the Tsa Kwa Luten, a Salish group living on a cliff above Cape Mudge. They got along famously,

    although the northern neighbours, the Lekwiltok, had been readying their new guns and their old war canoes. The Tsa Kwa Luten were shortly to

    receive a visit, and as a result, move south.

5  The aunties would not have said that the number sequence 2-2-2 meant I was on the right track. If they’d talked about it at all, and not just given

    the twitch-lip stare, they’d have talked about that being lots of responsibility.

6  Origins: latest incarnation, ~60 million years ago

7  Origins: blade, ore smelted before the year of my birth (how long is still unknown); the antler (discarded) which became the handle, mule deer,

    birth and death dates unknown.

8  Specifically, Symphyotrichum chilense (Nees) G.L. Nesom var. Chilense aka aster chilensis aka Pacific aster. Origins: evolution of Asteracacea

    family 42-36 million years ago. Growth form: rhizomatous. Lifespan: moderate.

Originally published by Typehouse Literary Magazine, September 2014

Published under the name Carol Shillibeer