Jamie Ross: On Theory, A Sunday

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The airlock on the huge lilac mead jug glugs away when it’s just me in the sunny third floor kitchen in Montréal’s North End. Way up from the water. The yarrow is flowering and the sumach berries are almost red enough for lemonade. July.

I text him back, telling him to meet in the shadows of the bleachers where the Major League Baseball stadium used to stand. There’s only the marquee and wall above the old entrance where people came to see games for a few summers in the 1970s.

That old alluvial plain that stretches from the last of the Great Lakes,  and sees more than half of the world’s fresh water  to the sea.  I’m reminded of that scene where the sailors are hanging around the port set with surreal lighting, smoking. He is in town for a week from Berlin.

She wrote: “What is important is anyone’s coming awake and discovering a place, finding in full orbit a spinning globe one can lean over, catch, and jump on. What is important is the moment of opening a life and feeling it touch—with an electric hiss and cry—this speckled mineral sphere, our present world.”[1] The discovery of a place takes time. Some things emerge only with practice.

The plan was simple. We meet here on the mountain every Wednesday. Noon in the sun and midnight around a bonfire. The women who collaborated on La Théorie, un dimanche met for years.

We read from the translation of the original works looking out over Wednesday’s weed dealers and city busses on Park Avenue. Wotan’s Day. Odin. God of poetry, of writing, of translation.

Odin, described by the Romans as the German Mercury in their awkwardly ethnocentric schematic of cultural equivalence, came to be associated with this day in English. And as Mercury the planet slipped into retrograde that month and the sun ramped higher towards the solstice, we came back to this spot.

One day I found myself walking there, the area blocked off with tape and squad cars right where we had met the day before. I watched the Sunday drum circle spread to our spot on another day.

Lieber Seemann.

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We eat the watermelon and talk the sun down from atop the little hill, in the grass, through the mesh jersey onto my torso.  And we would spend the next three consecutive nights together.

My grandpa, Red Anderson, used to visit the stadium on bus trips down from the tiny Ontario town, a few hours upriver in the wide Ottawa Valley, north into the rest of Canada. With the boys.

The pool is still there, and the trees have grown tall. A fake lake with a little fountain.

My Grandpa was only really referred to as Red throughout his life, in following with Scottish Gàidhlig nick-naming convention where red-haired boys are often called Ruadh or Ruaidh, the colour red. This is where the English name Roy, comes from. Since my great-grandparents still spoke our language at home, it made sense to calque rather than anglicize the name, and so, Red.

Those summer trips to Montreal were taken at arguably the apex of disappearance of my family’s Anishinaabe[2] and French ancestry. When he would visit Montreal, Anishinaabeg in the Ottawa Valley couldn’t vote or even own land.  The boarding schools would have been full those warm summer days my Mum watched a parade on Main Street. They probably thought no one would ever have to know about their mixed heritage. By her teens, my Mum would have come to fully comprehend that she did not in fact possess Scottish citizenship.

I wonder if Grandpa Red remembered his ancestors had once lived on this island on those visits. I wonder if he remembered that seven generations before him, a woman named Marguerite Suzanne Duclos lived within Montréal’s massive stone walls meant to keep at bay the same First Nations people her sons would go on to marry.

And I wonder what they would have done before getting back on the bus, him and the boys.

The day when everybody at our meeting had had the experience of crying after sex, except for me. I wondered aloud if I’ve been holding back tears. My masculinity is sore.

“Working on the edge of the articulable meant struggling with the relationship between thinking and the everyday(s) our identitary fury as women of a certain place, time, and socio-linguistic situation.[3]” Sovereignty has since been reckoned anew. Theory: A Sunday met before the Oka Crisis, after all.

‘S mise albannaich canadach. ‘S e Seumas Ros an t’ainm a th’orm.

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It’s late in the day. The portside streets of the old city run parallel to the river’s rapid spread to the ocean. Le fleuve, a river to the sea. They rise in relation to the river.

These streets receive the setting sun straight down their length for a few days on either side of the summer solstice. I am blinded as I bike up from under the rail underpass on my way home. I am seized with a blazing, epiphanic sense of that old port and a lifting up, of the riverine current which takes that huge estuary, kneeling down and reaching it to Europe.  A simultaneous occupation of multiple vantage points.

Then it came up in a newspaper that among the thirty-eight thousand bodies under Place du Canada downtown might be my Marguerite. Dorchester Square. Cimetière St-Antoine. One of the two hundred time-bleached sets of bones that will have been exhumed by summer’s end during renovations. She was moved once before too, when all the burials were reburied outside the city walls. They’ll sit in the city Archeological bureau, cleaned and boxed, awaiting reburial on the mountain.

Becoming, like any relationship, is a practice. I tip the can of 50 a few times, invoking his names. And Marguerite, rest your tired bones . And the sun strikes across the wide expanse of grass, way down the avenues to the water, they fill me. As the floodlights switch on, I get a text from Berlin. The Facebook group grows quiet. We discover ourselves through our relationships to the places in which we find ourselves.

Gigwiinawenimaa nimishoomisiban. Mii omaa mooniyaang endaayaan. Gizaagi’in.

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Theory: A Wednesday, a weekly feminist text-based gathering, was co-founded by Emily Sirota and Aimee Wall. To them I am deeply indebted for their friendship and inspiration.

Boys of Montreal - Jamie cropJamie Ross (1987, Canada) works primarily in lens-based media and performance. His award-winning work has screened on four continents. Primordial to Jamie’s oeuvre, including his recent artist’s monograph Fallow La Friche is the documentation and creation of queer community based on a sincere engagement with magic and ancestors, both cultural and biological. Jamie lives and works in Montréal, Canada. Jamieross.org



[1] Dillard, Annie. An American Childhood. Harper Perennial. 1988

[2] The Anishinaabe people include the Nipissing, Odawa, Mississauga, Ojibway and Algonquin nations. All Anishinaabe First Nations in Quebec are Algonquin. Members of the nations, who share a language are called Anishinaabeg, meaning ‘the people’. Anishinaabe communities are found from the forests of central Québec through the Great Lakes and well into the prairies.

[3] Scott, Gail. “Afterword.” Theory, A Sunday. Belladonna*, 2013

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