From Come Cold River by Karen Connelly, published by Quattro Books in 2013.
On maps of the territories that would eventually become Canada, Spanish explorers sometimes wrote Acá Nada, or, ‘There, nothing.’ This is a possible origin for the country’s name. Kanata is also a word in St. Lawrence Iroquoian. Meaning village or settlement, it is the most commonly cited etymological origin for our country’s name. With burning hearts we see the rise in the price of the old neighbourhood by the river where my mom played as a kid, grew up, married the wrong man, a crook, then to increase her mistake exponentially and complicate my family tree, left him and married his brother. Daddy, Daddy! He was more hardworking than the other but equally ruinous. It’s too damn bad she didn’t keep the house. It would be worth half a million now. True north, strong, no longer free for the taking. No wonder we have to stand on guard in this town. Where there’s money there’s a lack of it, and thieves. Who believes that Divino’s Bar once was a little place, bohemian yet elegant. Today it’s buffed new and polished blunt. The light fixture cost fifty thou and the wine list starts off —don’t ask me how— at three hundred a bottle. But I used to nurse a teabag there for hours, without shame across from a red-haired Englishman who taught me how to touch the flame that burns sapphire-blue above Sambuca. Ah. The first time, my very first to see a floating coffee bean and quench my thirst with fire. Alcohol, at last. Now I can’t afford to be nostalgic by the glass. Perhaps (the ghost of my uncle quips) I should take out a quick loan and rip off a liquor store on my own or play the VLT’s (that’s for Video Lottery Terminals) until the cows come home Just take a chance! Like my dad who gave my inheritance toonie by toonie to the AGLC (that’s for Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission). No complaints from me though I wish on my mother’s grave that some of my father’s cash could splash down helter-skelter into a food bank stash or a women’s shelter. Both proclaim their desperate need despite tons of oil and cattle feed. From far and wide, oh Canada and Calgary too, I have loved you desperately and departed. I can’t remember —can you remember?— how this song started. And how does it end? Am I home for good or for bad? Home to stay and bury the hatchet or dig it up and throw it? Here, catch it in your scarred hands catch it in that rotting treasure your tarred and feathered oil sands catch it nimbly between your teeth. It’s that trick with an axe that you taught me. Acá nada. Kanata. Oh Canada, what do you really mean? How can I sing you without lying?