From Here by John Faithful Hamer

Next time you ask me where I’m from—
I swear I’m gonna say it—gonna say:
“I’m from here, asshole!”
—so says the angry anglo with acne and attitude,
a proud, poor, powerless punk,
a high school dropout from Verdun,
a teenaged tête-carrée
with a Molson Ex in one hand
and a Kahnawake cigarette in the other.

Mommy’s on welfare and daddy’s in jail
—hostie sacrement tabernacle calice!
He can’t swim, drive, or ski—and his French sucks
—but he can kick your ass, and he just might do it
if you give him an excuse.

If you ask me again where I’m from—
I’ll take you on a BMX bike,
across the Champlain Bridge,
to the forested Nun’s Island of my childhood,
where we’ll catch garter snakes with Alex Vinetti,
watch blue herons hunt for perch,
and forget about time
—till the setting sun paints our island paradise
all the colours of a Hindu wedding.

If you ask me again where I’m from,
I’ll take you to Nantha’s Kitchen
—a spicy, saucy spot—
where we’ll laugh till it hurts,
eat like earthbound Epicureans,
drink like devotees of Dionysius,
and meditate on the meaning of The Main.

If you ask me again where I’m from,
I’ll take you to the mountain,
after a night of dancing and debauchery
—up the Saturday stairs of summer,
on a sticky night in July,
to the top of our ancient volcano—
where we’ll drink dep wine out of the bottle,
watch the sun rise over Sin City,
and wait for the first drums to arrive.

If you ask me again where I’m from—
I’ll take you to the Tam Tams,
past the people and the pot,
above the mayhem and the medieval masquerade,
to the forest behind Fletcher’s Field,
where we’ll turn over mossy rocks with Tristan & Indie,
in search of magical fairy creatures,
commonly known as salamanders.

If you ask me again where I’m from—
I’ll tell you the only queen I bow to
is the queen of North American rivers,
and the only saint I pray to is the Saint Lawrence
—which flows, like a pulse, right through my soul.

We never forget that our lives are novels,
here in Montreal,
and we never forget what happens on the last page.
That’s why we run playfully through life,
like summer’s children,
through the rainbow showers of a sprinkler.

When ashes are all that remain
of this blessèd body of mine,
I’ll fly away off the Champlain Bridge,
back into the River,
which will take me back to the oceans,
back to the clouds,
back to the mountains and the sky
—back to everywhere—everywhere
I’ve always been.

So if you ask me where I’m from,
another goddamn time,
I’ll tell you the Truth, the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth,
so help me God:
I’m from here:
I’m from Montreal.


John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can’t swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he’d love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he’d love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn’t survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he’s doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.


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