Canada Day, 2015. Mahsie, Nika Illahie.

Further to my Canada Day column Finding the Right Words for Canada’s History I thought I’d put this up. It’s from Rain Language, a long poem in translation, the last poem I ever wrote. It was in dedication to the memory of the great Charles “Red” Lillard, poet laureate of the Sitka Biome, with whom I collaborated in this book: A Voice Great Within Us.

For the more cerebral among you, George Lang undertook an expedition into the poem that appears as a chapter in the collection Translation Effects: The Shaping of Modern Canadian Culture.

My thanks to Bernard von Schulmann for making Rain Language digital. Rain Language runs to eight sections over 17 pages; the first three sections should give you a sense of the thing, so here you go. Happy Canada Day nika tillicums, and mahsie to all those now long memaloost who made the greatness of this country possible.



Yaka yiem halo kliminawhit,
This is a true story
Waum illahie klip sun, kopa Byrne Oakut,
On a late summer evening on Byrne Road
kimta tenas wahm snass chako,
after a gentle summer rain,
Spose hyack colley konmokst chikchik, Ford pe Chevrolet,
in a race between a Ford and Chevrolet,
spose Ford tolo kopa tenas-sitkum mile
if the Ford won the the quarter mile
pe Ford man mamook klahwa,
and the Ford guy slowed down
kopet cooley, yaka halo mamook fly
soon enough to avoid going airborne
oakut opoots,
at the end of the road,
Ford, yaka skookum chikchik.
then the Ford was the skookum car.
Nawitka, Ford skookum chikchik
A right skookum car.

Yaka yiem halo kliminawhit.
This is a true story.
Spose mika hiyu mamook,
If you had a job
pe chickamin sun chako
and it was pay day
pe mike halo mahkook lum kopa tillicums,
and you still didn’t buy a round,
mika mitlite cultus bastard.
you were a cultus bastard.
Nawitka, cultus bastard.
A right cultus bastard.
Saltchuk, yaka mitlite saltchuk,
The oceans was the saltchuk,
klootchman kopa mika tillicum
your buddy’s girlfriend
yaka mitlite klootchman,
was his klootchman,
pe kopa okoke oakut, lelang mitlite
and this is how the language lingers
yukwa pe yahwa.
here and there.
Yaka mitlite kopa tenas wawa
It is in the little words
pe ole shantie.
and old songs.

Hyas Tlakowa nika
     I am so happy
Spose steamboat klatawa yukwa
     When the steamboat arrives,
Tlonas nika cly
     I think I will weep
Spose steamboat klatawa.
     When the steamboat leaves.


Alta nika potlach wawa kopa okoke pepah.
Now I will talk to you about this picture.
Yaka klatawa kopa stick
He went into the woods
mamook tzum.
to write.
Snass chako.
It was raining.
Yaka mitlite halo tamahnous.
He had no Guardian Spirit.
Kopa Nemiah, Mabel Solomon mamook le di.
Up in Nemiah, Mabel Solomon brewed up le di.
Le di.
Huloima klawhap mitlite kopa illahie,
There were strange pits in the ground,
konoway kah,
pe olemans pe ole klootchmans mamook wawa
and the old Chilcotin people called them
keekweelie holes.
giggly holes.
Okoke wawa, klaska wawa kopa
It is their word for
keekweelie houses.
underground houses.
Kopa ole yiem, yahwa mitlite t’kope man
In old stories, there is a white man
cloosh sakolleks, cloosh pasesse
in a fine suit of clothes
pa yaka nem mitlite Lejaub.
and his name is Lejaub.
The Devil.
Kopa okoke oakut, lelang mitlite,
That is the way the language lingers,
yukwa pe yahwa
here and there.
Halo chako, halo mahsh,
Not arriving, not leaving,
kopa tenas wawa.
in little words.
Wake siah kahkwa kwass leloo,
Not quite like the fear of wolves,
halo kahkwa snass kopa Bella Coola,
not like the rain at Bella Coola,
yaka mitlite nawitka kiuatan chako tseepie
more like the horse that was lost
kopa Snow Mountains,
in the Snow Mountains,
kiuatan nesika nanitch kopa stick
the one we would see through the trees
tenas hiyu times
now and then
kopa tenas lamonti klahanie Tsunia.
in the hills beyond Tsunia.
Yaka mitlite tenas wawa,
It is in little words,
pe ole shantie.
and old songs.

 Tlonas kahta nika tumtum
          I do not know how my heart feels
     Nika nanitch klatawa Godsroad klatawa
          I have seen the steamer Godsroad leaving
     Pe chali mitlite, pe tlakawa nika.
          With Charlie aboard, and I am sad


Ahnkuttie, yaka mitlite nesika lelang,
Once, it was our language,
nawitka nesika oakut
our own way
to dance,
to want, to love,
mamook mesachie,
to curse,
mamook polaklie,
to darken,
pe mamook skookum light.
and to make bright.
Alta, yukwa mitlite ketling,
Now, there is a kettle here,
keekweelie powitsh stick,
under the crabapple trees,
pil ilta kopa chickamin chako halo ikta.
rusting to nothing.
eneti kullaghan,
on the other side of the fence,
kokshut leshaloo
a broken plough
mitlite kow kopa klale ollallie.
is tangled in the blackberries.
Yaka mitlite kopa kopet tenas coulees kopa nesika illahie,
It is only the little places of our country,
kopa snass,
in the rain,
pe ole shantie.
and in old songs

Konoway sun nika cly,
     Always, I weep,
Siah Illahie nika mitlite alta;
     Far away is my country now;
Konoway sun nika cly.
     Always, I weep.
Siah illahie nika mitlite alta.
     Far away is my country now.

About Terry Glavin

Terry Glavin has worked as a reporter, columnist and editor for a variety of newspapers. His assignments in recent years have taken him to Afghanistan, Israel, the Russian Far East, the Eastern Himalayas, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Geneva, China and Central America. He is the author of seven books and the co-author of three. His books have been published in Canada, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom. He has won more than a dozen literary and journalism awards, including the Hubert Evans Prize and several National Magazine Awards, and the B.C. Lieutenant-Governor's Award for Literary Excellence. Terry's most recent book is Come From the Shadows - The Long and Lonely Struggle For Peace in Afghanistan.
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1 Response to Canada Day, 2015. Mahsie, Nika Illahie.

  1. Christine Elsey says:

    I really enjoyed reading this Terry. Thanks for sharing !


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