Bottle Breaking Memories of Life

For Annie Pootoogook


I swam summer in Rideau River

where you were found a few days ago.

Back when sun held promise,

before leaves became shapeshifters.


Everything’s falling

since you’re gone.

You died three thousand miles

away from Kinngait.

Newspapers don’t call

you missing

or murdered,

your small body was taken by river.

Your drawings took many of us,

far from the colonial imaginary


observers of Coleman stoves


into intimate spaces,

tents in living rooms

whalings and matchbox houses.


we witnessed

portraits of life’s complexities.

Family moments, abusive relationships,

a pencil, a bra, a wood stove.

Pencil crayon-coloured drawings,

sketching every day rawness.

Curators imagine you swimming

laced with Sedna, Arctic mother of the sea.

Together, your fingernails are growing more


walruses and whales.

You’re no longer drowning,

taking strength,

floating on your back.

Your body wrapped in seal skin

your bones warmed by a fire keeper.


You’re spirit fierce,

dancing with Northern Lights,

drinking in vast night colours.

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