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god’s river

April 18, 2016

by Billy Ray Belcourt


it is september 2009 and health canada sends body bags to god’s river first nation—a community hit hard by swine flu


a body bag

is a gun

is a smallpox blanket

is a treaty

—call it a medicine chest


wait for

the autopsy

they call it H1N1

you call it

the pass system:

bodies like

these can

only leave if

they’re on


—call it “moving


someone says

it’s like sending

body bags to

soldiers in



remind them

that canada is

four hundred


—call it colonialism


to live in

trenches like these

is to be

civilian casualty

and soldier all at once

—call it “a suicide epidemic”



how many deaths

it takes for a

country to

call itself



think maybe

reserve is

another word

for morgue

is another word

for body bags

—call it home anyways


Billy-Ray Belcourt is from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He is a 2016 Rhodes Scholar-elect and is completing a BA (Hons.) in Comparative Literature at the University of Alberta. He blogs and writes poetry at

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2016 1:22 pm

    Reblogged this on nakinisowin.


  1. Reading: April 25, 2016 | Gukira

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