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Issue 146

Composition: The Sound of a Heart
by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Kinaak sits alone beside the marsh
with just their mazinaabikiwebinigan
and the sound of the odd car
passing by at 70 km/hour.

Forty million years is a long time to live.
Two hundred years of smashed
carapaces is a lot to witness.
A world is a heavy thing
to carry on your back.

The moon travels farther than you think.

Kinaak sits alone beside the marsh
with just their mazinaabikiwebinigan
and the sound of the odd car
passing by at 70 km/hour,
and types one character
per twenty-four hours.

S is first.

L comes on the second day.

O follows on the third day.

and finally, W.

On the fifth day, Kinaak pulls the page out and leans the sign up on a rock at the edge of the wetland before the road and thinks the word maybe should have been “fast,” not “slow.” The original idea was that kinaakag and miskwaadesiwag should slow down before they cross the road and just think about whether the risk is worth it. Just sit with it for a minute. Just consider all of the other possibilities before stepping out onto the pavement.

Now it seems like the word “fast” was the better choice, as in, if you are making this journey don’t fiddle fart around. Get to the other side as quickly as possible. But “slow” is already done, so there you go.

Kinaak could lounge around all day in the pond now that the sign is up instead of moving each piece of shattered carapace off the road and burying it after each execution. But the problem of roads is easier to mitigate for Kinaak that the bigger problems of the pond. Even a two-degree change in annual temperature wipes out one gender of turtles, and housing prices have skyrocketed now that there are
hardly any wetlands left.

Kinaak is a faster, like Makwa. Each winter, Kinaakag go deep, below the mud of the pond and slow their drum beat to one beat every ten minutes, and lower their body temperature to nearly 0 degrees C.

they gather
in the winter lodge
formed from earth
and ice

slow
pray
sing
dream

earth below
world above
wait things out
but together.

Kinaak has done this
for forty thousand years.
yes. yes.
fasting is the secret to life.

fasting
is
the
secret
to growing the biggest heart.

A heart so big, that it’s the only sound.

A heart so big, it is the only answer.

Kinaak
wakes,
warms,
quickens.

Kinaak leans their SLOW sign up on a rock at the edge of the wetland and before the road and begins to remove the pieces of carapace from the pavement.

And when Kinaak removes the last broken piece of shell, they look back to see Kwezens installing her homemade SLOW, TURTLES signs using laminated poster board and her brother’s old sawed-off hockey sticks on each side of the road and on either side of the wetland.

A heart so big, now there are two.

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