This poem was inspired by a photograph taken from Allan Gardens in Toronto, although I was thinking about my own city, Ottawa, when I wrote the words. The photograph and mural got me thinking about connection in an urban setting. Credits are provided after the poem.


this city grows
like a pole of totems
layer on layer

shading each other,
a game of hide
no seek

mostly inside
our totems now,
which one is yours?

to what clan
are you tied, what
lineage, what tribe?

my father wears
our totem on his finger
flies it on a flag

I wear mine
inside, it hangs
like a heart
I wear it inside
like a heart

fly it on a flag
wear it on a finger
my father’s totem

what tribe,
what lineage am I tied to,
what clan?

which is yours?
we are inside now,
which totem?

shading each other
no seek
a game of hide

this city grows
layer on layer
a pole of totems


Photograph by Mary Crandall and used with permission; mural art “Equilibrium” by Okuda San Miguel, aka Okudart.


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