“N’Gii Zhibiiamaag Niijaanisag Chigamigong” or “A Poem for the Children of the Great Lakes”

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Margaret Noodin’s poem, “N’Gii Zhibiiamaag Niijaanisag Chigamigong,” or “A Poem for the Children of the Great Lakes,” appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review‘s Summer 2011 Great Lakes Special Issue. Join MQR, the Hopwood Program, and the Great Lakes Theme Semester on February 25th for a celebration of Great Lakes Literature.

Bíonn dúil le béal farraige ach
cha bhíonn dúil le béal uaighe. —Nibwaakawin Ulstering

Chigaaming shkitoyaanh bagosendamyaanh,
jiibaaygamigong anamiyaanh chikeyaanh.
Wenesh waa ezhiwebag pii baasadengak kaanan?
Pii niibishensan mitigens bid?
Pii gokoshag taawagag ziitaaganing?
Maamwimaajaan ina Anishinaabemoyaanh miinwaa neseyaanh?
Enya gonemaa enya
mii wii boonendaamaang
mii wii waanendamaadizoyaang
pii chigaming gaawin noondoosiimaang.

There is hope from the mouth of the sea but not from the mouth of the grave. — Ulster proverb

In the sea I can hope
in the grave I pray alone.
What happens when the bones are dried?
When the little leaves have become sticks?
When the sow’s ears are in salt?
Do they leave together, the language and the last breath?
Yes maybe yes
it will be forgotten
we will forget ourselves
when we no longer hear the big waters.