Posted: January 18, 2010 in Poetry

I’ve been a little under the weather lately… well, since Christmas actually… so I’ve been a little less productive than usual.

Then the big fight happened. I’m not going to get into it here and those of you who know what happened don’t need any more details, but it was ugly. I have gone over how I handled it and how the repercussions have gone down and I honestly feel that I did nothing wrong. This person, who doesn’t even really know me, made some pretty horrible accusations that go against values that I hold pretty strongly. Now she has paid the price for that, though it wasn’t me that pushed at all. In some ways I am thankful for the people who went to bat for me. In other ways I would really like this to go away now.

We’ll see.

In better news, Capital Slam was saturday. I finished third behind Prufrock and John Akpata. Tomy Bewick was the feature and did a great job, as expected.

Next week I am off to Kitchener where Ian Keteku and I will be competing at Speak Out.

CONTEXT: July, 2006

This is the first poem I wrote that I actually slammed. It isn’t the first poem I slammed (that is the next one). Instead it is the second poem I slammed.

I wrote it in July with thoughts of making a series based around the five elements. I only ever wrote Air. 🙂

In September I finally slammed and unexpectedly made the second round. After doing a decent performance, fully memorized, in the first round, I was unprepared for the second. I pulled out my book and read this piece. It was a disaster. My performance was awful and I did the poem no favours. I keep a spreadsheet that tracks things like scores and differential from the average score of the round (why? because I like numbers), and this poem is the second worst performing piece I have ever done (just ahead of ‘Van Full of Poets’, which is a whole different thing…)

Still, I like the concepts in it and just may rewrite it one day. The Haiti reference makes it feel even more relevent than ever.


I hear voices on the wind
Like some northern Costner
Looking over a cornfield.
I hear voices in my head
Like a new century version
Of flying over a cuckoo’s nest.
I hear whispers in my ear
Like a young lover with a secret
In a long-lost era.

But I am not mad or sad or glad.
I am confused.

For this voice says the same thing
Over and over and over.

I’m almost afraid to share
Because you’ll surely swear
I’m not all there.

I need to tell someone
So here goes nothing
Just trust that I’m not lying.
The voice says to me
‘Your brother is dying.’

The first time I heard it
I ran to the phone
To make sure it wasn’t the truth.
I pulled up short and said to myself…

‘Wait a minute… what am I worried for?
A voice in my head gives words of doom
So I panic and run from the room
To check on a brother I don’t even have?’

I have no brother
(The voice won’t relent)
I have no brother
So what is this message sent?

If you want me to learn
Rather than driving me mad
Give me something more.
Send me a sign, a vision, a word
A seer, a prophet, even a bird
I can follow to show me the secret

Then it was clear
It came like a bolt from the blue.
I have not one brother. I have not two.
I have three billion
Each as important as the one before
And many are dying by more than the score.

My brothers in the Sahara and Sudan
My brothers in Haiti and Iraq
Tibet and the Ivory Coast
Chechnya and Ecuador
My brothers in Rwanda
And the Congo
And East Timor.

Then I cried.
To endure so much death
In my immediate family
Was more than I could bear.

How could this happen
Right under our noses?
The helpless are bleeding?
Does nobody care?

So I watched the news
And their stupid talking heads
That talk of death and despair
In the same flat voices
That talk of stock market shares.

They say: ‘There is nothing you can do.
The world is just fucked.
You should get down on your knees
And bless the luck
That put you here,
A middle class Canadian
Who doesn’t face
A threat to his life
Over religion or race

Leave well enough alone
And mind your own business.’

And I listened, to my shame.
I never even learned the names
Of those brothers I had lost,
Or the cost on my soul.

I went back to my life.

And then the voice on the air,
The spirit, sage or seer,
Came back to me in a dream.
It was as clear as it had been
But it finally changed.
‘You do not care what is happening
To your brothers?
It is time you learned about your sisters.’

  1. delia says:

    amazing! it gave chills, ure an amazing poet i actually attented the workshop at umi i dont know if we have to actually sign up but i would really like to maybe get a one on one to improve on my poetry and maybe slam someday…

    • rpriske says:

      Thanks for the compliment!

      We can certainly arrange for some one-on-one. First, though, come to next week’s workshop where we will be talking more about performance and taking a poem from page to stage.

      Work on a piece this week so you can read it at the workshop and you will get pointers. After that, if you would like more help, I will make sure you get it.

      Finding people to try slamming is one of my favourite pasttimes, after all!

  2. […] it is my third worst performing poem at slams of all time, ahead of only A Van Full of Poets and Air. Four-Colour […]

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