How to Roll With the Boys

As young as I can remember, as long as I can tell I have always tried to hang with the boys. They defined cool and rebellious. Be guts, glory or gold; I would hang as freely as they hung off sickly orange summer streetlights, off the drooping branches of fall trees, off the rain gutters of cold winter houses. Sometime during one of those passing summers I learned how to roll with them.

You must know how to fight, hold your own against this enemy and that. Justified or victimize you have to know how to hold a fist and hold your own. Crush an opponent all on your own, child or man; crush ‘em all the same. The drinking, don’t forget the drinking. Slam ‘em back without breath. You don’t need air, it’s at the back of those bubbles at the bottom of that 40 oz’rs. Big Bears, O.E.’s, 24’s and Whiskey, know them all. These are true friends, they’ll back you when you have the need.

The walk, you need to swagger with a little stagger in your step. Sway from side to side and arms spread out wide, all peacock like. If you can’t be this big than you need to resort to acting – method act Big Bad John. All 6’6 245lbs of him, the way Cash sees him.

After the walk you’ll need the talk. Talk with a slur and a fluent accent. With this you can let out a rude comment – it was an accident – due to your accent. Talk big but not large. No comprised and composed sentences; remember what Mary said: no picket fence sentences or manicured paragraphs. Be sure to use the versatility of fuck; noun and verb – fuck this and what the fuck.

Know your homies. Never forget where you came from, where you got on that bus. That’s the place where your brothers are, where your mothers starve, where your sisters scar. No matter how big, how thug or rez, you can’t fight those odds.

Remember the girls. Those ladies you stare at from across the room; they don’t want you that is why when you look, they squirm. It’s that accidental accent; they know you can’t handle a life outside that gas-laced jacket. That woman you adore is far better but the thigh-high-black-boot skanks come cheaper.

Deal with loss and facts. Lose a test or a fight; know that you can’t escape the reserve and that’s a fact. Lose your friend to a rope; drunk, staggering, slurring out the word fuck, dangling feet scraping the earth clutching for heaven. It’s his funeral, coffin and wake and it might be yours next.

Know when you swagger with a little stagger in your walk, when you slur with a little accent in your talk, know that when you scrap or fight, or speak or write that you are rez today and rez tomorrow, know that anyone and everyone that looks at you will know that you are just one of the boys.

~ Daniel N. Poitras

Daniel N. Poitras currently resides in the tunnels of Edmonton Transit System only emerging to barter his many stylish beaver pelts and read at various places where they either offer him virgin sacrifices or cheese & crackers.

“Home to me is the place you’re willing to claw, bite and burn for. What inspired the poems is my reserve, the Paul First Nation. It’s a dysfunctional home, filled with neglectful parents, cruel brothers and sisters, and love and pride you can’t drink away.”

Read more of Daniel N. Poitras’s poetry:
Hank Williams’s I Saw the Light
Don’t Let Them Take Me

Editor’s note: This poem is from Home and Away – a sequel to the bestselling Writing the Land (2007). Look for one poet to be featured each day as Alberta poets ponder the question “what is home?” and explore our complex relationship with working on, living with, exploiting and protecting our land and our home. For more information about the project, click here.

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