Gender + Indigenous Voices

Titles of My Life — A Poetry Portfolio

I had written a poetry portfolio for a class during the course of the pandemic. It shows a lot of my loneliness and grief during that time. I wanted to share it with you all.

Ronnie Neiman
Jun 8, 2022
11 min read
Photo by Alex Jones / Unsplash

During the course of the pandemic, the lockdowns, and the loneliness, I took a poetry class. I had written poetry before, but never so much at one time.

Looking over the portfolio I had made for my class, I can see a lot of my depression starting to spill over, the loss of my nephew and my Mamere (great-great-grandma) was affecting me. It brought up a lot of memories from my childhood where I felt alone.

I just wanted to share these poems with you all. I hope you get something from them. For me, it helped heal my emotional hurt, not fully but enough that I could learn to deal with it better.


Pieces of Me

The pieces of my mind and soul.

They don’t always fit together.

They don’t always make sense.

But they are the pieces of me,

This is me.

Shy, quiet, attentive.

This is me.

Excited, quirky, creative.

This is me.

I have many pieces of myself.

I break into pieces.

All see that. I see that.

Anxious, impatient, timid.

This is me.

Nervous, afraid, sad.

This is me.

I have many pieces of myself.

I break into pieces.

All see that. I see that.

I am shy, excited, anxious, and nervous.

I am quiet, quirky, impatient, and afraid.

I am attentive, creative, timid, and sad.

This is me.

The pieces to me are numerous.

The pieces don’t always fit together.

My mind and soul are the ones to find the proper places.

This is me.

The pieces of my mind and soul.

They don’t always fit together.

They don’t always make sense.

But they are the pieces of me,

This is me.

Today

One day I will accept who I am,

To see myself as complete.

One day I will no longer hide,

To let others see me.

One day I will announce my identity,

To not fear the reactions.

One day I will allow my emotions to flow,

To accept my moods as normal.

One day I will accept help,

To let others be kind to me.

One day I will smile when I am happy,

To let myself experience positive emotions.

One day I will be myself,

To know that I can love myself.

One day will be today,

To have that one day every single day.

My Angel

You were born too early

You never took a breath

You never opened your eyes

You were gone before being born

We had hoped to meet you

We had only looked at you twice

We saw you very small

We saw you right after you were born

You are always part of our family

You are part of my soul

You are my first and only angel

You are my nephew forever

Healing My Soul

How did I get this far?

There were times I didn't believe in my life

I never believed there was a future for me

There were a few times I almost gave up

Why was I so sad?

I never really understood why my moods would change quickly

I would cry

I would get angry

When did I start my healing?

It was sadly the evening before my mothers birthday

I was crying too much and wanted everything to stop

My sister sensed my distress and talked to me

What had changed?

I know who I was at least partially

I have depression but I don't need to suffer

I accepted my label, I am Two-Spirit

I started to heal my soul, mind and body

I just needed time to figure it out

And I got the time to do that

Healing is always ongoing

Isolation

Being alone can be good

It can allow you to think

It can let you finish stuff

Being alone can be helpful

It can keep you away from others

It can let you be yourself

Being alone can be frightening

It can make you overthink

It can create panic

Being alone can be bad

It can emotional

It can stop you from making friends

Being alone is good and bad

It can be thought-provoking

It can cause some anxiety

Being alone doesn’t mean loneliness

It can mean needing personal space

It can mean being safe in isolation

Too Much Remembered

I remember a lot more than I should,

I know that not all my memories are clear,

I am aware that some memories are mixed,

I can tell that some memories are at of order.

I remember being three years old,

I remember people lied and I became separated my family,

I remember turning four years old away from my family,

I remember coming back to my mom and dad, everything had changed.

I remember lot, being much too young,

I know that I really don’t want to remember so much,

I am aware that time felt different,

I see too many events at the same time.

I remember a lot more than I should,

I know that not all my memories are correct,

I know that my memories mix.

I can tell that some memories are not always a full truth.

I remember too much, way too much…

I do not want to remember so much…

I know I cannot change the memories…

I just want clearer memories.

Me Too #MeToo

I didn’t know how to speak up,

To speak out, to expose the truth, my truth.

I didn’t want to open the floodgates.

Everything was locked down, and it kept everything appearing calm.

He didn’t see the hurt.

The nursesaid it was pointless to report.

My friendsaw it as dirty to even speak about

I saw it as something else to solidify my gender, to make me more female.

For six months I had ignored it, keeping the floodgates locked down.

Then I saw him again, just across the street.

Giving me the middle-finger, as if it had been my fault.

The floodgate collapsed at the same time I did.

I cried for days and hid away from the world.

No one knew what had changed.

I didn’t understand why it affected me all of a sudden

Why did it hurt so much now?

The truth was, it wasn’t sudden, it wasn’t quick.

It had been building up behind the floodgate, ignoring the cracks in the foundation.

Then the cracks caused the floodgates to collapse and somehow, I found a way to speak,

To expose my truth, the one I needed to tell.

I saw the women’s March in 2017, I listened to the #MeToo movement.

The realization that it wasn’t just me who had been hurt this way,

That I wasn’t alone in my experience, in my hurt.

I wanted… no I needed to tell my truth, and tell others Me Too

The Voice That Teaches Me

There is a voice, one that is always there, always ready to talk over bannock and tea.

It is the same voice that taught me to say ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’.

It is the same voice that protected me from the loud thunder.

It is the same voice that tells me that I am fine just the way I am.

There is a voice, one that belongs to my grama, right in front of me.

That voice is my constant companion, one I appreciate.

My grama accepted my identity as Two-Spirit without question.

My grama always explains stuff to me when I am ignorant.

My grama shares depression with me and helps me work through it.

That voice is my conscious and full of logical, even if she does not feel that way.

That voice is a knowledge keeper, one that is wide and full of advice.

I know my grama is hardworking, and tough, hands calloused from farm work.

I know my grama always takes care of me, bringing me fresh vegetables from her garden.

I know my grama is forever part of my life, we visit each other as often as possible.

That voice belongs to someone I love very much and loves me right back.

That voice is my window to knowledge, my intense need to always know more.

It is a voice that accepts me completely, no questions no judgment.

It is a voice that continues to teach me life lessons, even as I grow older.

It is a voice that I always acknowledge, that I give thanks for everyday.

That voice is my guide, my teacher, my grama.

Wanting to Help

Why did I grow up so fast? Was I ever truly a child?

Always trying to stop the fights my parents had,

Trying to make my mom feel less sad.

I was only three when it started.

I wanted to help, to take care of everyone.

To take care of my mom, to make her be happy.

My own happiness was never a priority, wanting to help, no matter the cost.

I wanted mom to be happy, maybe then I could be too.

Is there a place where only a mother and child exist?

where the child is the mother and the mother, more a child than the child?

Needing and wanting to help mommy feel better…

but not understanding her illness, her sadness...

It is something that is now shared between mother and child.

when it starts for each of them differs, how they try to heal is different.

Just like the mother, the child wants it to go away but not knowing how.

who becomes the caretaker when the child becomes the mother?


Childhood Friendship

I once had a best friend,

We met in school, sitting beside each other

It created an instant bond, a friendship.

I felt protected from harm.

I once had a best friend

For ten entire years, we were part of each other's lives

My friend kept me from hearing harsh words said about me

It protected me… perhaps too much.

I once had a best friend

We both grew up, and grew differently.

She couldn’t accept me for who I am.

I began to hear the harsh words, because she was the one speaking them.

I no longer had that best friend.

I had created a boundary unable to pass by.

Then I was able to become a better person, without my friend, but

I was all alone.

Cause of Death

Isolation doesn’t die… with me… with my family… the lost… the dead

My Mamére … 100 years young… all alone…

No one could visit… It wasn’t allowed… to be safe…

Mamére didn’t understand… a family so big and she was all alone…

No one could change that… not the rules…not the loneliness…

Mamére was totally alone… more alone than any of us…

I truly believe her death was caused by loneliness…

No one was there for her at the end… mamére was all alone…

The funeral… what funeral? It was something unattainable…

She was buried just before her 101rst birthday… only a few could attend… I was not one…

Mamére died… I couldn’t mourn her loss…  or celebrate her life…

She was alone… I am alone… Just like the entire world…

Trying to Find Balance

My mind is a battlefield of thoughts… too many to count.

Trying to understand what was going on inside my head…

The worst thoughts fought the hardest to heard…

They did the most damage.

My sadness was getting worse… it was not just inside my head…

I couldn’t pretend…

These changes in my mood had a sense of being wrong…

The changes in my own mind were wrong…

I wanted to be happy… I tried.

It took time to find a balance… the right medicine…

Happy thoughts surfaced… I could laugh and smile more…

Happy or depressed… It is always a balancing act… one that is constant.

Counting Twenty-Two Birthdays

One: Being alone, trying to find the calm

Two: Starting to see change, feeling too much

Three: Torn away from my family, seeing no way back

Four: Finding knowledge, trying to figure out my questions

Five: Starting to learn to say goodbye, angels of my life ascending away

Six: Forcing lines of separation, keeping everyone away

Seven: Able to know my first question, not really understanding who my true self is

Eight: Nothing can seem to explain what I feel, my questions are multiplying

Nine: Seeing the ghosts of myself, dimming the light of my soul

Ten: Trying to create awareness of my depression, hating what it did to my mind

Eleven: Life changes so swiftly, never knowing what to do

Twelve: So many questions in my mind, getting zero answers

Thirteen: Trying to cut deep, trying to stop the tears

Fourteen: Not wanting emotions, never getting help

Fifteen: Finding myself unable to hug, to see the love my family has for me

Sixteen: Not able to find anyone, wanting no one

Seventeen: Seeing my own pain, but unable to feel how much hurt it caused

Eighteen: Numbing my grief, trying to stop the dreams

Nineteen: Trying to get away from everyone and everything, more alone than ever

Twenty: The blood trailing over my arms, the sting of it strangely numbs everything

Twenty-One: Tears and pain, I just want it to stop

… inhale…

… exhale…

waiting a moment

… inhale…

… exhale…

Twenty-two: Being able to breathe again, to see the light and accept it

… I’m here… truly here.

… I made it… I made it past the age of  twenty-two.

…What do I do now?

…Am I complete now?

…Who am I now that I made it past twenty-two?

≥ ≥ ≥ –›

≥ ≥ ≥ –›

≥ ≥ ≥ –›

≥ ≥ ≥ –›

≥ ≥ ≥ –›

≥ ≥ ≥ –›

ALIVE

Language is a Gift

Language is a fascinating subject for me.

There are so many Languages to discover.

Across the nation and across the world.

It gives me the inspiration I need to tell my story.

As a child I spoke English and French.

Growing into an adult I discovered numerous other Languages.

I lived with a family who spoke Mandarin Chinese.

In university I discovered Indigenous Languages such as Ojibway and Cree.

There is just something special about Indigenous Languages.

The way the words form together…

The way the words describe so many things…

The words form beautifully when spoken, and when written.

Language is a gift, a gift to my soul.

Keeping Indigenous Languages active is important to me.

It is part of my culture that I discovered, and my heritage.

My hope, my dream, my aspiration is to share this gift of Language with others.

Find The Path

Making my way through the darkness

Trying to figure out the path to take

Looking for a light to guide me

Where do I look? Where do I go?

The path I am on feels lonely

I need to figure out which way is the right way to go

To find a path of peace to take

Where do I look? Where do I go?

Trying to create a light, to find the path to travel

If I do not find the peace I seek,

I may lose what is left of my mind

Where is the path? Where is the path of peace I seek?

Love you Forever

I’ll love you forever

I’ll like you for always

As long as I’m living

my baby you’ll be

Robert Munsch (Love you Forever, 1986)

Family is an important part of my life,

Creating memories that are shared by those I love,

The vigilance I take to hold the care of love, of family.

The memories are worth the time made to create them.

It is everything to me, the memories and time spent with family.

Even through the loss of family, love is what keeps them with me forever.

No one stays evermore, some barely have a chance to try.

Every single member of my family is someone I love; they sustain all that I am.

I always remember who I have lost, I never forget. Never.

I’ll love you forever

Family is the link between my past, present and future,

Carrying all of the love and care for them inside my heart,

The memory of those I have lost is forever part of my soul.

There is one loss that has changed how I see the world, how I write my stories.

My nephew never had a chance to live, we lost him before he got to live.

Learning to hold unto the memory of my nephew, in ways that amaze.

The gain of love from family, living or otherwise is something I cherish.

I write and I write. My nephew is there, finding ways to become a new phrase.

Before my nephew, I never knew what love and loss meant together.

I’ll like you for always

Family is my inspiration to continue to write with giving and loss,

To write with my love for them, to keep their memory as part of me,

To see their souls as a deep part of what I have gained in my life.

Writing is how I know I can keep their memory continuing onwards.

Family is infinite, the souls of the living and of the lost are part of me.

Being a family means that I have been loved and have loved.

So much of what I know to be the best of me is bound up in the love of family.

My love for all of them is never hidden.

The memories I have made with family is everything.

As long as I’m living

Family is my life, and my life is my family, and my love pours out for my family,

That is part of my writing, I try to show how much love I have for family,

I write about my family because of the love I have for each of them.

Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.

Losing my nephew helped me understand. I held unto the love and not the loss.

I always remember that I have lost part of my family tree.

When there is a loss, it is the love that keeps it going

I try to help myself and others to remember,

the spirit of my nephew lives in my writing and in my heart, and I know forever

my baby you’ll be

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