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Read Postcards for My Sister, Winner of the 2017 CBC Literary Prize for Poetry

Air Canada enRoute is a strong supporter of Canadian arts and a proud sponsor of the CBC Literary Prizes. For more on these prizes, visit, CBC's website devoted to books and authors, readers and writers. The CBC Literary Prizes continue in 2018, but this is the last time the award winners will appear in Air Canada enRoute.

Postcards for My Sister

By Alessandra Naccarato

The views and opinions expressed by the writer do not represent those of Air Canada enRoute, Bookmark Content and Communications or Air Canada. Some readers may be offended by the content, which is intended for mature readers

Above the green village, there is a hill where no one lives.
Our great-grandmother is buried there.

Before the town fell down, they spread
their cards and drank. Big-mouthed women, fat
as trees, their ceilings hung with meat.

A whistle of us in their hands, as they made plans
for weddings and daughters.

Our grandmother spoke to a man on the phone,
and this was how she was married.
Her long blue skirt, two gold front teeth.

On that green hill, I lay down with a man and read.
The floors have turned to moss.

There are no gravestones there.

* * *

Shell beach, a fawn with broken neck, weeping.
Sophie’s hand on split bone, a crown of rocks and seaweed.

I was certain I would mother alone, then calves were born
all spring and our sister arrived to the coast. Nine months

in a busted sedan, crying. Welfare kitchens, our shared father –
they are richer on the road, her mother says, and how can I

argue? We can’t expect joy, I tell her, like you told me.
But that night, algae on the shore, phosphorescence,
and we walk into the cold, bright glitter. We all fall in love,

eventually. The fawn on shell beach, weeping until it is still.
Sophie placing a shell on its eye. The water will guide her away,
by morning. The tide has its own kind of care.

* * *

The small house where you would not stop screaming.
The round body you were not ready to leave.

There were no legal midwives, but the women knew
how to turn a child.

Three days, the small house, our mother screaming.
She would not go to the hospital.

We come from this woman,
from women like this.

* * *

Shifting Plates, 2016

Art: Emma Kreiner, Shifting Plates, 2016

The plum tree where my friend parked
to sleep with his feet in starlight. One year past
the public clinic, where a nurse counted backwards in time.

On the dance floor, he whispered
it’s ok to play gatekeeper

to his absent wife, to me as I whirled silk into flowers, small rain
of blood at thigh: immaculate re-conception.

Four weeks along, though I’d known
the alcoholic for three. Unreliability of time,

of fathers. The word inside mother is tergiversari.
To turn away is to turn to, straddle, go on.

We have always taught each other
how to give birth, and not. Our same child came, he told me

under the plum tree. Once his ex-wife’s sadness
had spun out and dried. Rowan was always his name.

* * *

Above the green village, a hill where no one lives.
Our grandmother is buried there.

After the earthquake, they spread
their cards and drank again. Big-mouthed women, stern
as orchards, sending their daughters away.

The girls were told to not turn back. Our grandmother
waited sixty years, then packed her suitcase again.

Her second marriage ended with a Greyhound ticket.
In a long blue skirt, two gold front teeth, she left to pick
wild mushrooms.

Before the flight, in our mother’s bright kitchen, she joked
about the life of single women.

On that green hill, I lay down in her old scarf.
The grass is bright with flowers.

There are no gravestones there.

Alessandra Naccarato

Alessandra Naccarato is a poet, essayist and arts educator. Recipient of the Bronwen Wallace Award from the Writers’ Trust of Canada, she was runner-up for the 2014 CBC Poetry Prize; her writing has appeared across Canada and the United States. She has toured nationally and internationally as a spoken-word artist, worked with thousands of youth across the country and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.

Emma Kreiner is a Canadian photographer based in Toronto. She completed an MA in art history from Concordia University, and in 2013, she won the Emerging Photographer award from the Palm Springs Photo Festival.

Photo: Jacklyn Atlas


Gary Barwin

Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, multidisciplinary artist and the author of 21 books of poetry, fiction and stories for children. His latest poetry collection is No TV for Woodpeckers, and his recent national bestselling novel, Yiddish for Pirates, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Barwin will be writer-in-residence at McMaster University/Hamilton Public Library in 2017–18.

Humble the Poet

Kanwer Singh, a.k.a. Humble the Poet, is a Toronto-bred MC and spoken-word artist. He championed Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis to a win on Canada Reads 2017. Humble began releasing independently recorded tracks on YouTube in 2008, and since then has toured internationally. #LEH and #IVIVI, his collaborations with YouTube star Lilly Singh, have collectively drawn over 15 million YouTube views to date.

Rosanna Deerchild

Rosanna Deerchild is the host of CBC Radio’s Unreserved. Her most recent poetry collection, Calling Down the Sky, is a finalist for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Her first book, This Is a Small Northern Town, won the 2009 Aqua Books Lansdowne Prize for Poetry.

Photos: Adela Talbot (Gary Barwin); Jeffrey Thawun (Humble the Poet)

Poetry readers

Adele Barclay, Vancouver
Gwen Benaway, Toronto
Faizal Deen, Ottawa
Raoul Fernandes, Vancouver
Garry Gottfriedson, Kamloops, B.C.
Guyleigh Johnson, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
El Jones, Halifax
Richard Kemick, Calgary
Nyla Matuk, Toronto
Owain Nicholson, Toronto



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