World Poetry Day: Duncan Mercredi

Mar 21, 2022

We’ve got a selection of poems by Duncan Mercredi (featured in our winter 2021-22 issue) in their entirety to celebrate World Poetry Day!

Our thanks to Duncan for letting us post these and to Pierrette Boily of Pierrette Boily Photographie for allowing us to use these fabulous pictures of Duncan.

Happy reading!


i’d watch you
hang your coat on the nails that held all our coats
shake the ice from your boots
uh, grunt, tukihow
the door opens and closes
each time the blast of cold encircled me
i’d slip deeper into that old couch
its cushions holding each imprint of all those who sat on her, kayask ma
yes, her, to me, a mother, a kookum
soft warm hugging her love into me
deeper, deeper i’d sink
only my shadow drifted from beneath the story she told
so many, so many, i don’t remember them all
but each time the door opened another one floated in with the cold
accompanied by uncle’s songs his fiddle played
dancing across the snow lit by moonlight and northern lights
and the laughter, the laughter echoed through the logs that held
this place together
you know, you remember that laughter
each of us carried
after each story shared
the rhythm of it throwing shadows of family dancing on its walls
i sink deeper, sometimes the stories carried tears and heartaches
i’d hold those closer and the songs became sadder
soft sobs muffled by soft shoulders
shhh, shh, shhh, drifting into the night
the night endless
the dull light of kerosene lamps throwing shadows across the room
tea na, asked endlessly
ah ha
Someone would hum a song
another joins in
soft tapping of moccasins on the floor
whoosh, whoosh
you would get up from the table
shake the cold from your shoulders
wana pakookate
kookum brushes the hide she’s working on
mom sorts the beads, smooths the cloth in her hands
sister washes the cups and saucers
i slip out from the cushion
dress follow brother out the door
i carry one pail he has the other two
uncle’s fiddle is silent now
the laughter has drifted away
the only sounds
dogs barking, wolf answers
i can hear a voice from agamik
wana wa
we walk to the river brother and i
the moon slips behind the clouds
the northern lights fade into darkness
i look up the stars make my head spin
piyatuck jo-jo says
i follow his tracks
dogs quieten
the wolf has become silent
i look around and all around me the houses darken
all i hear are the soft footstep sounds we make
footsteps only you can make when you wear moccasins


I’d slip upstairs sometimes after supper. I’d look out the windows, two of them, back of the house, looked over nokum’s chicken coop, those few trees we’d play on after seeing a Tarzan movie at Campbell’s hall, we climbed those trees so often all the low branches never recovered. I’m searching the old grey matter, the story about Jo-Jo, he fell off those trees more often than anybody else, just past that was the school, a row of trees that hid the shed, sawmill saw, stacks of lumber, I’d go sit by the river to watch the men work the saw, sawdust scent caught by a slight breeze, I’d breathe deep, the scent always there of dry sawdust, different from when it was damp, you couldn’t see that though because of the row of trees and willows, I’d then go to where the beds were, nokum’s bed, riverside, mine and my brother’s bed opposite, that’s where the other window was, facing west, I could see Yourba’s house from up here, near the river, next door neighbour to the catholic church, not far was Neil’s and Charlotte’s house, we used to help Neil clean his nets, never said much, I think he enjoyed the silence as much as I did, Jack Bernard would want to help, being a couple years younger, it wasn’t that he wanted to help, reasons being, Charlotte would bring cookies when we were done, we couldn’t see Uncle’s place, it was just past the graveyard, Uncle Isadore and Auntie Josephine, we’d go over a lot, I’d sit and watch him play solitaire, roll one cigarette after another, he’d say a few words now and then, sometimes he wouldn’t even take his cigarette from his lips when he spoke, that was what amazed me, now Auntie, very different, she spoke all the time and could carry a different conversation with whoever was visiting and at the same time give orders, I think that was what amazed Jack Bernard or it could have been Auntie always had a cookie for him when we dropped in, I’d have to go to the far side of the window to see a corner of Uncle George’s and Auntie Louise’s house, they also had a full house, Uncle played the fiddle, they all danced, no matter how loud he played, Auntie could still be heard giving orders, my view from the windows, in the winter, snow was our lamp, enough to see the shadows, especially when the moon owned the night sky, my view, it’s quiet in our house, even when we sat together, we spoke low, almost a whisper and then the door would burst open, cousins would pile in dropping coats, toques and hats scattered on the floor, and for two hours the house would be full of voice and laughter, I was looking out the window this evening, my view took me back, I wonder where it went.


I cry for you
The one who weeps at your loss
The smoke drifts around you
It stings it burns
It makes you blind
It makes you deaf
You only hear yourself scream
I cry for you
Who hears words of hate
All around you
It makes you blind
It makes you deaf
You only hear your voice scream
I cry for you
You hear the shot
You feel bones breaking
You feel the pain
It makes you blind
It makes you deaf
You hear only your voice scream
I cry for you
The one who lies there
Your face covered
Your body fed by tubes
Your breath is not your own
A machine is your soul

It makes you blind
It makes you deaf
You hear only yourself scream
I cry for you
This place I walk on
This water l drink
This child who waves good-bye
The one who weeps at your loss
The smoke drifts around the child
It stings it burns it makes the child blind it makes the child deaf
The child only hears your voice
The child learns
I cry for you, the one who taught the child

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