Jess Housty’s poetry & environmental justice for Great Bear Rainforest survival

Stone

i.

Salmon scales, damselflies,
the tailfeathers of a hummingbird –

brittle barnacles, a mink’s teeth,
soft river silt –

some of the blood is mine.

Moss, scrub cedar, a deer’s jaw
bleached by pale sunlight –

Creekfoam, dark soil,
sparrowbones –

some of the blood is mine, love.

Starlight, starfish, starflower,
stone –

some of it is mine.

ii.

And I will move in centuries
over your body, in millennia, carving you
with my two bare hands like glaciers,

marking you slowly with my teeth
and my fingernails to build fishtraps
and rock art and sweet middens
across the landscape of your body.

And I will build villages in the crook
of your arm, and teach salmon to swim
in your veins of bright water,
and I will live and die in the deep inlets
of your soft body

with your hair like kelp,
with your hair like spruce roots,

wrapped around us both as we sigh
into the rain and the slow bleed.

Some of the blood is mine, love,
none of it is yours, some is the sky’s
and it will paint the brief story of our love
into the stone from which stories and blood
will someday be washed away,

washed into the sea like the bones of people
and the bones of birds.

iii.

Night slept on, and the shadow ocean
was like the taut, stretched breast
of a skinned jay,

like the inner surface of a mussel shell
when the meat is stripped away.

You sank your teeth in, love, my love,
and some of the blood was mine
and some was the ocean’s

and none of it was yours.

iv.

Some of the blood was mine, love,
and none of it was yours, and some of it belonged
to the little wrens with their fragile beaks
and their precious claws that harmed nothing
in this frail world.

-Jess Housty

 

Jess Housty’s poems remind us that we share the same blood air water music seeds & magic, and that what cuts the land sky & animals cuts all of us.

Her poems personify the earth – likening the creatures of wilderness to herself, contrasting the lyric joy of being in nature with spilled blood caused by human greed & carelessness.  “Stone” likens the narrator of the poem to the earth – a generous lover who shares her salmon, river silt, mink’s teeth and the stars – who are also me and you.

Housty’s youth, honesty, femaleness, indigenous North American heritage, and roll as a librarian place her on top of knowledge & righteousness.  She’s working to build the up and coming matriarchy of benevolence and justice – extending love even towards those who would like to destroy her for profit:

Some of the blood was mine, love,
and none of it was yours, and some of it belonged
to the little wrens with their fragile beaks
and their precious claws that harmed nothing
in this frail world.
 

Housty represents us new generation of leadership who are rising up from coast to coast as a fantastic symbol of hope and resistance and resilience.

Specifically, she’s using art genius & ecstatic beauty to protect the Great Bear Rainforest & protest Enbridge’s plan to dump oil thru the most holy places.  She’s in the thick of the struggle for justice, working for both sides – First Nations and environmental groups.

 

Great Bear Rainforest

 

Corporations like Enbridge are eager to drill thru fragile North American ecosystems such as the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia and bring huge tanker ships through the pure waters for oil money, but some of the blood is mine.  We don’t want our lifeblood sliced out & filled with parasites that seek to fatten off the sacredness of our existence while we waste away to sickness.

Housty’s poems give an essential voice to a place and a people who are one in the same.  As Housty herself has said of her poems, “They’re just about relationship to place. If they do anything, they give people who have never been to the GBR a window into what that relationship looks like in its most intimate terms. And I think maybe the poems demonstrate that for some people (like my people), identity is not separable from place.”

And as she has said about her environmental justice work, with its focus of stopping the Enbridge pipeline from destroying the Great Bear Rainforest, “This project has become a national issue in Canada. It has the potential to be an international one. Certainly the Tar Sands are creeping into the North American imagination and culture in ways we’re only just beginning to understand, and all I’m doing is giving a voice to a place that’s become a threatened symbol of pure wilderness and deep history – a real voice, from someone on the inside, whose roots in the GBR go back to time before memory.”  And time before money.  Housty understands that what happens to the land happens to each of us, and she’s spreading the word.

On October 22 there will be a solidarity event in Victoria, BC to defend the wilderness from tar sands and pipelines: http://defendourcoast.ca

And to learn more about the GBR / pipeline issue please go here & here & here.

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Filed under literature review, poems, protest song ancestors, protest songs, truth speakers

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