Joshua Whitehead: Can You Be My Fulltime Daddy: White&Gold[Questionmark]

CAN YOU BE MY FULLTIME DADDY: WHITE&GOLD[QUESTIONMARK]
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i was in the winter of my life
& the men i met along the road
were my only summer
heating my thighs with hands
that were warm yet pinching;
at night i fall asleep with visions of myself bleeding, dancing, singing:

“theres an ndn
chanting in the dead of night
& she says take your broken bones;
learn to write”
i cry with these dreams
how did williams, whitman & ginsberg
see themselves as beautiful things?
twenty years down the line
im still banking on the promise of an ndn giver; these memories of my family
are the only things that sustain me
even if i have to conjure them
as ghosts in the machine
dancing puppets on the prairie
solicit me, solace me
give me approximation proxy
adopted ancestral adaptations:
heres a photo of me saying
i wish i had said goodbye when you died
i wish the reservation wouldnt deny
cant i be an ndn too?
why is my ethnicity always lacking proof?
are two brown boys in love not injun enough? when i say (nikâwiy) mother in cree
it still tastes like a dirty thing –
& i see nôhkum
blooming in saskatoon
the land of rape & honey
shes the breath of babies now
i huff her scent every morning;
i see my cousins
burning in a re
arms akimbo, ngers askew

nailbeds embedded in riverbeds the deep ow of our dna
in the river red;
i see the cancers in my father the diabetes in my mother

how much time do we really have? can iktomi trick you into lying here in these memory beds
that snatch like spider silk

i caught you, ill hold you
but i know youll never be mine
kisâkihitin, kisâkihitin –
these are the only real happy times
i have left;
i was a storyteller
& not a very popular one
i once had dreams of becoming a beautiful poet but upon an unfortunate present
saw those dreams dashed, divided
peppered & burnt in the sky
hazing the sun
with words, with stories
with tricksters howling in pain;
here are my people

moulding in the gutters of a psa
canadian heritage moments
i wish over & over
to be these things
be everything for everyone
but im just one man
one sad red poofter
brazen & broken
moulting in july;
i dont really mind
because i was born knowing
that it takes getting everything you ever wanted & then losing it to know
what liberalism truly feels like;
& i cry into the night
singing with my ancestors
proud & loud
“if we cannot be free
let us die
what is life to a caged bird threatened by death on all sides?” & when the people i used to know
find out what i have been doing
how ive identified
they ask me why –
why do you play ndn now?
dont you still taste ddt
in your mouth when you say these words to me?
but theres no use in talking to people who have a home
they have no idea what its like to seek your kind
for safety in numbers
for home to be wherever you lay your head
for relocation to be a homestead;
& when i found them on a back road
we decided we had nothing left to lose
nothing to gain, nothing we desired anymore
except to make our lives heard
to be beautiful once more;
i was always an unusual boy
my mother told me i had a tricksters soul
no moral compass pointing north
no xed personality, gender
just an inner indecisiveness that was as wide
as wavering as smouldering sweetgrass
on the horizon, blind;
& if you say you didnt plan for it to turn out this way – youd be lying
because i was born to be the other man
who belonged to no one, who belongs to everyone who had nothing & wanted everything
with a cigarette burn for every experience
& an obsession, as they call it, with freedom
that terri es me to the point
that i can only hum it in a poem
that pushes me to a nomadic point of madness
a past they all want to see
im an ndn –
that both dazzles & dizzies me;
so i suppose i nd it hard to nd the time to live
when i so often want to be left alone
im afraid of love, that smothering embrace
the lingering danger of benevolence
you always ask me to taste
for if i let you
youll love me to death
suffocate me with your suf x
your grammar squanders
it squishes
your papers cut me

& hugs strangle, gently
the hanging indent of a goodwill iou great “X” on the signature line
so i just ride
to the west
looking for the country kanata used to be i ride
i ride
i ride
just hoping to
catch catch c a t  c    h

m
y b
rrrrrrrrr
e

a

t
  h–

Joshua Whitehead is an Oji-Cree, Two-Spirit storyteller and academic from Peguis First Nation on Treaty 1 territory in Manitoba. He is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Indigenous Literatures and Cultures at the University of Calgary on Treaty 7 territory. In 2016, his poem “mihkokwaniy” won Canada’s History Award for Aboriginal Arts and Stories (for writers aged nineteen to twenty-nine) and earned him a Governor General’s History Award. He has been published widely in Canadian literary magazines such as Prairie Fire, EVENT, Arc Poetry Magazine, CV2, Red Rising Magazine, The Malahat Review, and Geez’s Decolonization issue. He is currently working on a non-fiction, critical manifesto and a forthcoming young adult novel titled Jonny Appleseed to be published Spring 2018 by Arsenal Pulp Press. Follow him on Twitter.

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