Dragons Might Have Been Here

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Performed with the Edmonton Slam Poetry Team: Colin Matty, Medgine Mathurin and Dirt Gritie. At the 2012 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, October 2012,  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Dragons might have been here once
But we would never know
Cause the footprints that they might have left
Are covered by the snow.

Under every foot of track in the Fraser Valley lies the body of one Chinese railroad worker.

This is a poem for the train tracks built on the backs of mountains.
Train tracks built to build a nation.
Train tracks built to build a dream.

For the tracks that splintered spines of rocks.
For the tracks that splintered spines of Chinamen.
For the train tracks built on the backs of coolies.

This is a poem for the train tracks

Train tracks built on broken backs.
Broken bones.
Bones snapped like chopsticks.
This is a poem for the bones that never made it home.

This is a poem for the heads taxed
Yellow bodies less than white.

For the stories that line the faces of the grandparents who won’t speak to save face
Who faced the seas
Who faced the mountains
Who faced the wars
But whose faces will never appear on our $100 bills.

This is a poem for the ties that bind
Ties that break
That break our feet, our backs, our spines, our spirits
For we are like railroad ties,
Laid out in parallel lines
We don’t see that collectively
We are the track
That bears the load of each passing train
We are the track that underlies this economy
This society, where
the skeletons of our cities are shades darker than the faces in the board rooms.

These race lines, these power lines
Are the cracks in the foundations
Of this nation’s
heritage.
And in that Canadian heritage moment:

The Last Spike.
They’re all white.
This selective amnesia
Makes for collective amnesia
Makes us internalize
Invisible lies
Lines that we have learned by heart, by skin, by bone,
That tell us we are not at home here
That tell us we don’t have a stake in any of this
When these train tracks would not exist
Were it not for the backs of Chinamen.

So this is a poem for the silent spikes
Who never spoke because
Shame
Pride
Strength and
Hope that the future might be different kept them silent.

For all the backs upon which we stand, Canada
This is a poem for the train tracks.

Dragons might have been here once
I’ll tell you how we know
Cause the footprints that they
Left are where the wild flowers grow.

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