Rhonda Douglas is the author of Some Days I Think I Know Things: The Cassandra Poems (Signature Editions, 2008). Her collection of short stories, Welcome to the Circus (Freehand Books) was published this spring. Now the poetry editor of Arc Poetry Magazine, she has won the Malahat Review‘s Far Horizons Award for Poetry and Arc‘s Diana Brebner Prize. Two of her short stories received first prize in fiction contests from Prairie Fire and Room magazines. She is the Program Strategy Advisor for WIEGO. During the past year, Douglas spent time in South Africa, Indonesia, Peru and Uruguay. Douglas was interviewed previously by Canadian Writers Abroad: click here.
This poem is from her current poetry manuscript.
Letter Home to My Sister
for Sarah Dover
On March 8th I thought of you
when a woman dripping in gold
tried to sell me a story at a
Senegalese hotel, and when I
offered a polite Canadian refusal
she shook her gorgeous head and said
“so this is the solidarity of sisters now.”
And I thought of you again when
I drank a Coca-Light in a village
because I couldn’t get clean water
even with American dollar bills and
again when enquiring about the
ownership of the wildlife preserve
where the story is one local man
makes it legal for four Germans
to send endangered money home to Berlin.
Now, the girl bringing me drinks
at the pool is not my sister, and on
such a technicality, neither are you
and I want to know what is this state of
sisterhood now? I think of you and me
at twenty, trading our stories, turning them
over like polished stones, your hands holding
mine through the clinics and the cramping,
and your hands on the head of my baby girl
as I practised my football hold and the goal
of connecting infant mouth and breast.
Here in Senegal, storytellers – les griots –
are buried under the Baobab tree, its hollow
mouth speaks for them when they are silent.
I think for two no-commitment girls
we’ve done quite well with this long-haul love
and I mean to say to you now, Sister:
I have planted a tree for you in my backyard,
and when you die you can visit yourself there
at the small opening, the mouth of the tree,
which I will cover in a thousand, tiny, shining stones.