I glimpse through bewildered eyes

My mom’s birthday was two days ago. We went out for her birthday lunch on Saturday and my sister mentioned she had found my old autobiography that I had written in grade 7, I think.

She told me there were two sections that caught her eye. One section was about my ideal sister and one was about my ideal mother.


Homage to my hero (Photo credit: nokxayasane/Instagram)

I don’t remember much about what I wrote, but I do remember writing that my mom is my real-life hero. It always puzzled me when kids would say their heroes were movie stars or athletes. How do you know if they’re even good people, I had thought.

When I came across Jeannette Armstrong’s “Threads of Old Memory,” I couldn’t help but think about my mom and my family. It reminded me of the battles we had with each other, the struggles we all faced in coping with a new country, and the aftermath of my family’s arrival in Canada.

My father, my mother, and I had arrived in Cambridge, Ontario, from a refugee camp in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, (where I was born). This was our chance at a better life, but it was a rocky road, to say the least.

We faced many hardships, but in the end, I knew my parents loved me. Their love and sacrifice is something I will always cherish.

Threads of Old Memory, Jeannette Armstrong

Speaking to newcomers in their language is dangerous
for when I speak
history is a dreamer
empowering thought
from which I awaken the imaginings of the past
bringing the sweep and surge of meaning
coming from a place
rooted in the memory of loss
experienced in ceremonies
wrenched from the minds of a people
whose language spoke only harmony
through a language
meant to overpower
to overtake
in skillfully crafted words
moving towards surrender
leaving in its swirling wake
only those songs
the secret singing of which
I glimpse through bewildered eyes
an old lost world
of astounding beauty

When I speak
I attempt to bring together
with my hands
gossamer thin threads of memory
thoughts from the underpinnings of understanding
words seeped in age
barely visible strands of harmony
stretching across the chaos brought into the world
through words
shaped as sounds in air
meaning made physical
changers of the world
carriers into the place of things
from a place of magic
the underside of knowing
the origination place
a pure place
from where thoughts I choose
silently transform into words
I speak and
powerfully become actions
becomes memory in someone
I become different memories to different people
different stories in the retelling of my place
I am the dreamer
the choice maker
the word speaker
I speak in a language of words
formed of the actions of the past
words that become the sharing
the collective knowing
the links that become a people
the dreaming that becomes a history
the calling forth of memory
I am the weaver of memory thread
twining past to future
I am the artist
the storyteller
the singer
from the known and familiar
pushing out into darkness
dreaming splinters together
the coming to knowing

When I speak
I sing a song called up through ages
of carefully crafted rhythm
of a purpose close to the wordless
in a coming to this world
from the cold and hunger spaces in the heart
through the desolate and lost places of the mind
to this stark and windswept mountain top
I search for the sacred words
spoken serenely in the gaps between memory
the lost places of history
pieces mislaid
forgotten or stolen
muffled by violence
splintered by evil
when languages collide in mid air
when past and present explode in chaos
and the imaginings of the past
rip into the dreams of the future

When I speak
I choose the words gently
asking the whys
dangerous words
in the language of the newcomers
words releasing unspeakable grief
for all that is lost
dispelling lies in the retelling
I choose threads of truth
that in its telling cannot be hidden
and brings forward
old words that heal
moving to a place
where a new song begins
a new ceremony
through medicine eyes I glimpse a world
that cannot be stolen or lost
only shared
shaped by new words
joining precisely to form old patterns
a song of stars
glittering against an endless silence

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