Books·Borders

Bare Witness by Jordan Tannahill

Jordan Tannahill won the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom.

A poem by the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award winner for drama

Bare Witness is a poem by Jordan Tannahill. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

I stand outside your castle and I bear witness

I march behind your barricades and I bear witness

Below your rains of gas and fire I bear witness

I walk down streets of blood and I bear witness

I count the lost number and I bear witness

Through the fog of lies and war I bear witness

As you strip the tree of its leaves I bear witness

As you strip the books from the shelves I bear witness

And when you have stripped me of everything I will still have my body

When you have taken my home I will live in my body

When you have hid the truth the truth will be my body

When you have made me an outrage I will rage with my body

I know what you fear most of all is my body

What you cannot conquer or quell is my body

What you will never control is my body

I have nothing to hide as this hour's bare witness

I walk the streets naked as this hour's bare witness

My pleasure has purpose as this hour's bare witness

My flesh is a flare gun as this hour's bare witness

My body is now the weapon as this hour's bare witness

I turn it against you as this hour's bare witness

We all turn against you as this hour bears witness

And when our bodies, at last, are rid of your sickness

We will never forget what it was to bare witness


Jordan Tannahill accepts the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award from Governor General Julie Payette. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

About Jordan Tannahill

Jordan Tannahill is the author of Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom, the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award-winning two-play collection that re-imagines the stories of Sandro Botticelli and Lot's wife, Edith.​

About the series Borders

CBC Books asked each of the Governor General's Literary Award winners to contribute an original piece on the theme Borders: lines that, when crossed, mark a change. Bare Witness is Tannahill's contribution to the series. He also appeared on a special episode of CBC Radio's Ideas. Listen to the audio below.

Winners of the 2018 Governor General's Literary Awards address our challenge to create an original piece of writing on the theme of borders. In forms ranging from poetry to fiction and personal essay, they reflect on the idea of divisions, and on the other side, reconciliations. They'll talk about their work, read from it, and give their views on the way borders, boundaries and limits - real and imagined, psychological and political - are at work in our world and lives now. Presented by IDEAS and CBC Books, with the Canada Council for the Arts. 53:59

Read the rest of the series:

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.