Dancing the Three of Swords

my culture is an angry man
flooding the living room

my culture is a dragon’s tongue
frightening the air

my culture is a salt and pepper beard
who swallows drink

and he calls me his princess
and i willingly sleep on hard pink
curlers and dance for company
arms outstretched and smiling
i believe i can dry up his voice

and when the word british finds me
i embrace:
far away candy
tudor doll’s house
dream of the isle

it will
welcome me home
it will
take me away from storms
into abandoned circles and green hills

that i have never seen
except in postcards sent
from his trip to the fatherland

Dancing 3 of Swords

and i wanting so much
to put my hands on its soil
happily put on welsh costume
i am told now i am welsh
not knowing the difference

i put on
black hat   rimmed   pilgrim
red skirt   sash   white stockings
i am the princess of wales

and i march to school armed for acceptance
but i am not revered
i am made funny

crying, i do not
tell the father
who dresses me up
every year

he takes out his camera
i am not facing it
captive to the lens
i am blackened by the flash


Today is Saint David’s Day. When I was young I used to go to school dressed up in the traditional Welsh costume for Saint David’s Day. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of it anymore. I was bullied at school about it but I was pretty tough little girl!

In 1998 I was taking an English course in university on Canadian multi-cultural literature, and one of our assignments was to write about our experience of culture in Canada so I wrote this poem.

Now, I see that the poem is about so much more than culture (plus, I have a much more nuanced view of culture now). It was about a little girl dressing up and smiling while her heart was breaking at home.

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