Community·Poetry Club

East Coast Poetry Club: shalan joudry

This week, shalan joudry’s poem No Goodbye For Bones invites readers to think about bones, burials, and their stories.

For the twelfth and final instalment of of East Coast Poetry Club, shalan joudry shares a poem.


Welcome back to the East Coast Poetry Club. This is the twelfth and final week of the project, before we go on a hiatus until the fall. Each week, we have shared a poem and first-person insights from a local poet. For our final instalment we're honoured to share No Goodbye For Bones by shalan joudry.

(Robert Short for CBC)

I wrote this poem this past year as i was reflecting on various landmarks and their stories. One of these is an archeological site dating back thousands of years where our L'nu ancestors lived for millennia at the mouth of a river. Like many areas where our ancestors lived along waterways and coastlines, particularly bountiful estuaries, that place is now "privately owned" by non-Mi'kmaq. When you pause to think about it, many cities and towns in Mi'kma'ki are situated in places that our ancestors also favoured and are thus likely archeological sites. I try to imagine various time periods along our rivers and about the stories in an attempt to reach back to my ancestors. One day i was trying to imagine what happened to those individuals, that family, who passed away and were dug up millennia later.

I'm curious how readers will think of their own ancestors' bones and burials and how we tell the stories of them. Some cultures (including l'nu/Mi'kmaw) buried people with some of their closest tools or items. And does being close to the land remind us about our short human earthwalk, so that the ancestral past connects us to our descendants?

No Goodbye For Bones

a woman's arms were empty
no materials to take to other worlds
but her baby

like the ritual of porpoise feast
remains returned back home to se
these bodies laid high on cliff shore
looking west to bay

there was no song for their unearthing
through two thousand years of shell waste
but the timbre of metal against soil's grain
and the strike of museum caskets closing

*        *

he only tells the story in the wi'kuom
of how he repatriated the remains
to communal burials inland for safety
and a place to meet, again

In this piece, some words that are typically capitalized in the English language are not. In Atlantic Canada, English has displaced Mi'kmaw language, erasing a legacy of cultural and grammatical rules. Joudry shared that this choice questions the ego-centric first person perspective that is unique to the English language. Instead, she says, our culture needs to humble our voice and speak for collective rights and collective identity. "If i continue to capitalize "I" and not "We" then i am agreeing to this stronger first person voice, when in fact i need to de-emphasize it."

More East Coast Poetry Club:

Week One: Kanaar Bell
Week Two: Anna Quon
Week Three: Sarah Kierstead
Week Four: Cory Decker
Week Five: Logan Richard
Week Six: Nolan Natasha 
Week Seven: Michelle Sylliboy 
Week Eight: Bee Stanton 
Week Nine: Guyleigh Johnson
Week Ten: Abena "Beloved Green" Tuffour
Week Eleven: J.G. Lutes

About the Author

shalan joudry


Shalan joudry is a storyteller, author, ecologist, and mother from L’sitkuk (Bear River First Nation). Her poetry has been published in literary journals and anthologies. Her first book of poetry, "Generations Re-merging" was published by Gaspereau Press in 2014. Her second book of poetry is forthcoming with Gaspereau Press this fall.