“What We Heard About the Canadians” by Rachel Rose

Rachel Rose


We heard they were not American.
Not British and not quite French.

They were not born in Hong Kong,
did not immigrate from Russia with one pair of shoes.

They were not all russet-haired orphans
who greeted the apple blossom dawn with open arms,

crying Avonlea! They were not immodest,
did not want God to save the Queen.

Their leaders were not corrupt, no;
they were not all Mounties on proud horseback

with hot tasers. Nor did they shit hockey pucks.
Fuck me was not considered impolite in their living rooms.

It was not just the weather that made them curse.
Not just frozen lakes cracked under the weight of the moon.

There was no great Canadian hush of things not to be talked about.
They did not ride sled dogs to the prom,

nor fight off polar bears for a chunk of Narwhal blubber.
Cod-stacking was not their Olympic sport.

Wedding guests did not dine on icicle, nor did the bride
wear a toque over a white veil. Not all of them

ignored genocide. Not all of them sang a “cold
and broken Hallelujah” as the bells broke crystal ice

across Parc Lafontaine. They were not rich and also
not poor. Not overachievers. Neither believers nor unbelievers.

C’etait pas tout l’histoire, and they would not
be caught clubbing seals on TV, red bloom

on white coat, melting eyes, they did not mine asbestos
in Quebec, make love in skidoos,

sleep in snowshoes. Never danced hatless
under dancing Northern lights. They were polite.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011
Tribute to Canadian Poets

[download audio]


Rachel Rose: “I write to order the burning world, and to burn the accepted order. I write to make sense out of the chaotic, the inexplicable, the unbearable, and also I write with the desire to imagine things being different than they actually are. I write to share an experience with an unknown reader, and I write as part of a great humanistic yearning to connect, metaphorically and literally. I write because I can’t play the banjo and I’m too shy to sing, but I can do this.” (link)

Rattle Logo