Postcards for my Sister by Alessandra Naccarato
2017 CBC Poetry Prize winner
Alessandra Naccarato has won the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize for Postcards for my Sister.
She will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, will have an opportunity to attend a 10-day writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and have their story published on CBC Books and in Air Canada enRoute magazine.
You can read Postcards for my Sister by Alessandra Naccarato below.
Postcards for my Sister
Above the green village, there is a hill where no one lives.
Our great-grandmother is buried there.
Before the town fell down, they spread
their cards and drank. Big-mouthed women, fat
as trees, their ceilings hung with meat.
A whistle of us in their hands, as they made plans
for weddings and daughters.
Our grandmother spoke to a man on the phone,
and this was how she was married.
Her long blue skirt, two gold front teeth.
On that green hill, I lay down with a man and read.
The floors have turned to moss.
There are no gravestones there.
Shell beach, a fawn with broken neck, weeping.
Sophie's hand on split bone, a crown of rocks and seaweed.
I was certain I would mother alone, then calves were born
all spring and our sister arrived to the coast. Nine months
in a busted sedan, crying. Welfare kitchens, our shared father —
they are richer on the road, her mother says and how can I
argue? We can't expect joy, I tell her, like you told me.
But that night, algae on the shore, phosphorescence,
and we walk into the cold, bright glitter. We all fall in love,
eventually. The fawn on shell beach, weeping until it is still.
Sophie placing a shell on its eye. The water will guide her away,
by morning. The tide has its own kind of care.
The small house where you would not stop screaming.
The round body you were not ready to leave.
There were no legal midwives, but the women knew
how to turn a child.
Three days, the small house, our mother screaming.
She would not go to the hospital.
We come from this woman,
from women like this.
The plum tree where my friend parked
to sleep with his feet in starlight. One year past
the public clinic, where a nurse counted backwards in time.
On the dance floor, he whispered
it's ok to play gatekeeper
to his absent wife, to me as I whirled silk into flowers, small rain
of blood at thigh: immaculate re-conception.
Four weeks along, though I'd known
the alcoholic for three. Unreliability of time,
of fathers. The word inside mother is tragiversari.
To turn away is to turn to, straddle, go on.
We have always taught each other
how to give birth, and not. Our same child came, he told me
under the plum tree. Once his ex-wife's sadness
had spun out and dried. Rowan was always his name.
Above the green village, a hill where no one lives.
Our grandmother is buried there.
After the earthquake, they spread
their cards and drank again. Big-mouthed women, stern
as orchards, sending their daughters away.
The girls were told to not turn back. Our grandmother
waited sixty years, then packed her suitcase again.
Her second marriage ended with a Greyhound ticket.
In a long blue skirt, two gold front teeth, she left to pick
Before the flight, in our mother's bright kitchen, she joked
about the life of single women.
On that green hill, I lay down in her old scarf.
The grass is bright with flowers.
There are no gravestones there.
Read the other finalists:
- Tourists Stroll a Victoria Waterway by Cornelia Hoogland
- Carry by Sarah Kabamba
- Lunar Landing, 1966 by Laboni Islam
- Saying the Names Shanty by Harold Rhenisch
About Alessandra Naccarato:
Alessandra Naccarato is a poet, essayist and arts educator. She was the recipient of the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers from the Writers' Trust of Canada and was a finalist for the 2014 CBC Poetry Prize. Her writing has appeared across Canada and the United States. She has toured as a spoken word artist, worked with thousands of youth across the country and holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia.