The Old Empire’s Language, 1: Lee Maracle



Lee Maracle

“The Language Leaked from my Lips”



The language leaked from my lips in letters too short and too young

to help me understand that remembering had some significance.


The language you gave me failed me, failed to assist me in those

moments when invasion fell upon my private self.


Now my language, so richly textured with instruction, is stripped of

emotion’s unraveling expression of possibility.


This possibility’s poesy, story, hopeful imagination, died in the dark

on the floor in the puddle of my leaked letters.


My lips emptied of light cannot imagine dark whose actuality was my

pathway to future dreamworld carving.


My forever light precludes dreaming in the dark, the starkness of

constant light burns holes through the curtain of hope outside my word puddle.


Letters dance lonely in the stark light at the edge of this pool.  Their

death throes mourn my dead dark night.


I crawl about collecting letters, rearranging them, playing with

meaning, grabbing whatever I can from wherever they appear.


These letters feel foreign, scrape at the meaning in my mind, tear at

the yearing of my soul and dance just out of reach of my heart.




Lee Maracle (born 1950) is a member of the Stó:Lō First Nation of British Columbia.

Her literary career began 40 years ago – the poem above is from a basket of poems called

“Turbulent Storm”, part of her collection Bent Box (© 2000, Lee Maracle).

She is also an orator and teacher.