Standing at the Edge of a Limestone Cliff

absorbed in thought

as I stand atop high limestone cliffs

gazing across the divide at a shoreline

that mirrors the one upon which I stand

looking downward to the space beneath

dry riverbed full of shrubs and willows

struggling to grow on a bed of rock

where wild rapids 

once danced.


there you ran

eager to reach the end of your journey

having passed by mountains, prairies, and forests

now morphing to something much grander

as you merge with the calming depths of 

the vast lake 

and continue on your journey.


mighty grand rapids, wilder than any other

I have seen in my lifetime

where every summer, father

expert boatsman

would load us up to take us

for a summer of gathering, harvesting

preparing for winter

picking berries, digging root

drying fish, smoking moose meat

sleeping in prospector tents.


spirited grand rapids, so alive 

full of energy, oh, Singing Waters

you lulled many a child to sleep

since time began,

kā nikamōmakahki nipiya

heard in the distance 

ē-matē pēhtakwahki

singing their song as they leapt and danced

over limestone rocks.

father understood you, knew your rhythm

when to slow, when to go faster, when to cross 

to the other side, 

onikahpik, so perilous

churning whirlpools and eddies

where spirits of ancestors whisper

in the sound of the swirling water.


amazing grand rapids, so full of life

since time began

thundering over this same riverbed

white waters, so wild

so loved by those who knew you

you were our identity

we were you and you were us.


silenced grand rapids, dammed, stilled

ceased when the dam was built

no more dancing and singing

no more leaping and jumping

over limestone rocks.

vanished, so quiet.

no longer carrying families,

exuberant, laughing, shouting children

enjoying the thrill

as you bounced them along your white waters

spray from the waves wetting faces.


absorbed in thought

as I stand atop high limestone cliffs

gazing across the divide at a shoreline

that mirrors the one upon which I stand

I call out to the cliffs, our grandfathers –

will you help with the sadness,

and share the pain

as I grieve for the thundering misipawistik?

waters which cascaded between your cliff walls

since the beginning of time 

I will carry the memory in my heart,

till the water flows again.


for now, no more dancing and singing

no more leaping and jumping

over limestone rocks

vanished, so quiet,

silenced.

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