Governor General's Literary Awards·Connection

Sadiqa de Meijer ponders motherhood and separation on a misty morning

Sadiqa de Meijer's poem was inspired by a particularly foggy morning at the edge of Lake Ontario. In attempting to describe it, she found herself reflecting on object permanence — the stage of a baby's development where they realize that things outside their sight or hearing still exist.

Object Permanence is an original poem by Sadiqa de Meijer

Object Permanence is a poem by Sadiqa de Meijer, winner of the 2021 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Object Permanence is an original poem by Sadiqa de Meijer. It is part of Connection, a special series of new, original writing featuring work by some of the English-language winners of the 2021 Governor General's Literary Awards, presented in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts. Read more works from Connection here

Freedom to walk early and be mute, as involuted as a shell.

At the lake, I take on faith that shoreline where the land 
resumes this morning,

frigid hands plunged into coat. A foghorn sounds.
Each exhalation is a vapour in pervasive mist.

A mother leaves the room and still exists,

and it's out there, clay island of hayfields and sheltering deer, 
Mosier's and Fargo's general stores, 

etched contour of winter trees and the taller,
skeletal wind turbines. White blades still lift and bow,

turnstile the future into now,

but there's only fog's slow roving cotton past this edge, I watch
it drift and wait for nothing I can name —

then the cloud glows and the ferry's frame appears,
washed phantom, staunch ghost that is gone

before the motor fades. Half a minute on,

the ice floes, like the world's first shattered image, start to stir 
around the pier, speak their tinkered 

whisper language, sugar-murmurs 
in a newborn's ear, and all the fractured surface sways. 

At her father's house, the girl, for whom I will continue in three days.


The inspiration

Sadiqa de Meijer: "Last January, I walked downtown to Lake Ontario's edge and saw only fog. I stayed a while; the clouds made shapes, the ferry appeared and vanished. Back at home, I wrote a description of what I'd seen, and soon the idea of object permanence arose (the developmental stage when a baby recognizes that whatever is out of their sight or hearing still exists). Then a feeling came with it, of a parent first being apart from their child after marital separation; I'd had that experience years earlier, and now it was asking to be in the poem. It is a common thing to happen within families — this shift in the nature of a primal connection, and the effort to maintain its steadiness and continuity — but perhaps not one that we read or speak of often enough."

LISTEN | Award-winning writers share the importance of human connection in challenging times

How do we connect with each other, even in challenging circumstances? Four writers, all winners of 2021 Governor General’s Literary Awards, reflect on the bonds that stay strong — despite inadequate technology, physical absence, or even death.

About Sadiqa de Meijer

alfabet/alphabet is a memoir by Sadiqa de Meijer. (Palimpsest Press)

Sadiqa de Meijer won the 2021 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction with her memoir alfabet/alphabet: a memoir of first language, a poetic book that reflects on the writer's journey from switching her primary spoken language from Dutch to English. Born in Amsterdam and currently living in Kingston, Ont., de Meijer has also published two poetry collections: Leaving Howe Island and The Outer Wards.

About the series Connection

Connection: A series about the not-so-obvious and complicated ways we go about making them. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

CBC Books asked the 2021 Governor General's Literary Award winners to contribute an original piece of writing on the theme of connection. Object Permanence is Sadiqa de Meijer's contribution to the series. 

Read the rest of the series:

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