Arts

The year ahead, according to poet laureates from across Canada

Poet laureates from across the country wrote about the upcoming year for Maclean's. Here's what they had to say about 2022.

Maclean’s asked poet laureates from provinces and cities across the country to write about the year ahead. Here are their poems about 2022.

And orange became just another colour

the tears had dried
the mourning became a memory
the marches became tedious
the numbers were filed away
no one remembered why
or where they were lost
gathering dust
like little bodies
the little flags that fluttered in the wind
became tattered
a t-shirt tossed in the recycle bin
and orange became just another colour

—Duncan Mercredi, Winnipeg, MN

***

To 2022, the future

The poets are updating your wiring with more focus
on the soft underbelly of the anxious hours.
This is where our tender most often lose their way.
The challenge is how we’re all feeling tender, how we’re all losing our way. We brew phrases like we’re in this together for the ink

at the heart of its company. We’re tempted to drink this ink,
for the relief it brings but the task at hand has lost its antlers
and there’s no path in the ash. We brew the ink, let it cool.
A few of us write while the ink is hot. We’re the most terrified and have taken to stitching words like radiance and collective
to the lips of your minutes. The plan is you’ll breathe the spirit
of those words onto us. This is the heart of our practice, the belief that we can change something. And that you’ll trust us.

—Sue Goyette, Halifax, N.S.

***

Long-range forecast

walking into what lies ahead through fog
along the breakwater, I sense its bent

granite finger blindly beckon, joggers
as they breeze past, light-footed, confident

as I am not, the beacon at the end
too faint, with its bloodshot light, to cut through

what may roll in next—the low-hanging stench
of burnt inland trees, sudden heat, hail spewed

by atmospheric rivers, drought, snowmelt
while it lasts urging higher the levels

of troubled seas—yet, somehow, I have built
in the stillborn haze of such upheaval

a day-to-day, years-long walking practice
the boots I resole worn thin by witness

—Jon Barton, Victoria, B.C.

***

It was the land

no one knew the evil men could do
behind closed doors
no one spoke of it
no one said sorry
and in the end
it was the land
the very land itself
that spoke

it was the land
that carried the secrets
that knew the truth
that yielded a million sorrows
that stopped us like a thunderbolt
in the streets.
god forgive us
the whispers were true

it was the land that spoke for thousands
denied a life. denied a family
denied a mother tongue
and as our grief-filled days
stretched out before us
like a blanket of fear
from the land of the Mi’kmaq to Haida Gwaii
we were numb with disbelief

for it was the land
the very land itself
that spoke to us in the darkness
in the sacred smoke of our ancestors
and in the voices of our children
who whispered on the wind
guiding us
showing us the way

telling us
there will be a time
for coming together
as a nation. as a people. and as a family
to celebrate now
and lift our brothers and sisters
as never before
our tears are never far from the surface

it always gets darker before the light comes back

—pj johnson, Yukon Territory

***

2022: A logic problem

Poorly-maintained vessels squawk
loudest, so do poorly-maintained minds
awash in seas of misinformation.
Viscosity of regulation is thin,
miracle of petroleum no longer
the answer. Government recommends
homework, but education departments forget
they eliminated the distasteful task
decades ago when kids refused, and
confused parents complained.
Now research is synonymous with faith
in plausible social media scum clogging
phishy spam filters—recycled repeatedly
until we lose the 2022 plot, and Science
becomes de facto villain in a vocal idiocracy.

—Jordan Trethewey, Fredericton, N.B.

***

Through a glass darkly

What my crystal ball told me,
grumbling and swirling:

The charred forests will reach up,
sway leafy arms to the sky.

Salmon will crowd the falls,
tails lashing, blood running.

Sea-birds will unoil
themselves, the beaches washed clean.

Croesus —and his ilk— call
stolen billions home from offshore.

Each table will groan, laden
with bread, milk and honey.

A chicken in every pot,
a shelter for every head.

Bernier and his sack of poison
will vanish in a puff of smoke.

Clear heads will prevail:
vaccines in every arm.

Celeb babble and other baby talk
will—poof!—be gone from the airwaves.

The Muses will sashay in,
the listeners all gladdened:

No more dancing attendance
on truism, shibboleth, tiresome cliche.

A buzzing, an electronic sizzling,
a hiss. Then the globe turned opaque.

—Mary Dalton, St. John’s, N.L.

***

2022 What will you be

What will our next year be like, what will we have in store?
Will we get back to a new normal, or more rules, like what we had before?
Will there be weddings birthdays and fun, or will we be locked in again with those that we love
Will we get to go into work and school each day, learn, gather, and have so much to say?
Will we be working from home balancing our lives, keeping everyone safe, would be wise
2022 feels like it will be all fresh and new, allowing us to grow together to be steadfast and true
I want to feel the sun, as I sit on the sand, no more tapping elbows, I want to shake peoples hands
Let our bodies become strong enough in 2022, to save us from this COVID, that would make my dreams come true.

—Julie Pelissier-Lush, Prince Edward Island

***

ota (Cree for ‘here’)

I have been on this crooked-good
baring bear bones
burning in this midnight dream
walking and dreaming
with the blue marrow
of my ancestors.
They have sent awasis – the
kinky and dishevelled child
who taught me the courage
of sohkeyihta.
The trek filled with
mountains where I bathed
in the inviting White Rabbit River
my lover by my side.
Over the years I spoke
tapwewin acimowin,                                                   
ahcahk by my side.                                                                                     
Stored in marrow,
memory was a thunderstorm
that swept me into the fat darkness.

The lodges of my head and heart
filled with gentle fire, cooling water
to quench my thirst
as I hung from the Sundance Tree.

—Louise B. Halfe, Parliamentary Poet Laureate

***

Manifesting 2022

It’s 2022,
and apparently, things are still not “normal”
There is no “new normal” to comfort us
back to what we knew.
In fact, what is normal,
when extraordinary things still happen every day?
In 2020,
we learned how to get comfortable with uncertainty 2021, taught us to walk with faith.
Purpose is the legacy we create with every step we take.
Despite a challenging year,
We must go where there is no path and blaze a trail
This year unveiled
there is wisdom each time we “fail”.
We are both the authors and protagonists of our lives turn the page
write your story
make the most of your time.
In 2022, let’s walk in our purpose while trusting and believing
In the power of community service.
As Canadians
let’s walk hand in hand
despite our differences
we are human
& adversity is imminent
In 2022, our potential is limitless.

—Randell Adjei, Ontario