ARMAND GARNET RUFFO
The Rusty Toque | Issue 12 | Poetry | June 30, 2017
the atmosphere called for
torrential rain moss black earth stone
trunks of cedar birch pine spruce
kilometers wide clinging
to each our limbs drooping
green thick and heavy and every
body one direction inward
towards each other
all of us alone in this
for the first time for many
Inside forward we thought no backward
choice we chose NOW
though maybe not if possible
in debwewin – truth
in our mouths mouthing silence
in the overwhelmed
provoking bits of memory
akin to dawn’s first light
a hug smile kindness
warmth in the moment
when all was all
On side into ceremony we passed
and then unrecognizable
even to ourselves
grace lifting us
beyond petty who we are
wish we were
our hands carefully unknotting
moving into each pulse
of kinship friendship family
upon us like the feet of running
we all could hear in our blood
when the drumming stopped
the singing the rain
eyes gazing down upon
the tiny graves
At Pere Lachaise
Everything changes except my love
At his stark gravesite the heavy sky opens
and comes down hard enough to tick-
tock against the granite tombs,
where I notice other tourists
trying desperately to follow their maps
in the stone maze. How can we
not think there is a moment in our lives
we all want to relive? To say sorry,
bask in the indomitable light of forgiveness.
But we all know sometimes there is no chance
to make amends. The distance of a lifetime
will not allow it. We would only look foolish.
Besides a straight line without variance
in the end shortens everything.
My son plays among the countless graves,
and I make sure to keep an eye on him.
He could easily get lost in the grey afternoon.
The rain doesn’t let up, and I call it another day
in Paris, the wettest they say in 150 years,
As we head off to the nearest café.
Like a movie the scene begins to roll
Grainy and silent when I least expect it.
A movie where the road does not go on forever
Where cars and trucks do not mean freedom
And children wear short pants and suspenders
But are not forever young.
That’s me on the edge of the yard
Agape in my childhood on this summer day
When a storm of dust swells and fills me
With something of biblical proportion
There it is again, the black and white
Dragging its splayed hind legs
A half-body screeching and clawing
Its way across the dirt trying to get home.
So loud I oddly cannot hear it.
Until an old neighbour hurries over
And looks down in a moment of knowing
Then over to me where I stand fixed
And uttering what can only be a prayer
Or a curse he raises his shotgun
And blows the poor cat’s head off.
That summer we woke morning
upon morning to witness
the spectacle unfold before us.
And let our boat drift,
fishing lines unattended,
dangling over the side,
waves rocking us in
our exquisite excitement.
Our heads titled up, way up,
we put our hands to shield eyes
against the rising dawn,
and waited for the coming.
As she guided her little one
with what I could only imagine
appropriate coaxing and prodding,
as he searched for his ability,
his confidence in the maneuver.
And, then, it was upon us,
and I looked at you,
a son who would inevitably say goodbye,
and you looked at me and smiled,
And we turned together
to the tiny eagle
plummeting before us,
never once veering,
never once breaking,
as he hit the lake’s surface
And rose with a fish.
ARMAND GARNET RUFFO'S writing is strongly influenced by his Ojibway heritage. His poetry recently appeared in The Best Canadian Poetry 2016 (Tightrope Books). Publications include Introduction to Indigenous Literary Criticism (broadview, 2016), The Thunderbird Poems (Harbour, 2015), and Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird (D&M, 2014), a finalist for a Governor General’s Literary Award. He currently teaches at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.