Raising a Boy by Armand Garnet Ruffo

For Alex


teach him he is beginning
teach him to put his hand on his chest
teach him to take this thing he feels for his mother
teach him his mother is the earth
teach him to take it in his hand
teach him to blow on it and give it breath
teach him he is beginning
teach him it is the creator’s breath
teach him he’s just made the world
teach him to watch it closely as it floats above him
teach him to look at all the rivers and lakes and mountains
teach him this world can be anything
teach him he is beginning
teach him to imagine it is on fire
teach him to be careful not to burn himself
teach him many people live lives of fire
teach him they are not happy people
teach him they break things
teach him he is beginning
teach him his job is to fix things
teach him they don’t know any better
teach him his job is to know better
teach him once there was a great flood
teach him it is the same flood in every culture
teach him he is beginning
teach him once the fire went out
teach him the water brought beginning
teach him the people lived in peace
teach him he is water
teach him to be happy
teach him he is beginning


Copyright © Armand Garnet Ruffo. Originally published in TREATY# (Wolsak & Wynn, 2019).


Armand Garnet Ruffo was born and raised in the Oji-Cree territory of northern Ontario and is a member of the Chapleau Cree Fox Lake First Nation.  He is the recipient of a Honourary Life Member Award from the League of Canadian poets and an inaugural Mayor’s Arts Award from the City of Kingston. He is the author of Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird, (Douglas & McIntyre, 2014) shortlisted for a Governor General’s Literary Award.  His latest publication is Treaty# (Wolsak & Wynn, 2019) and his latest film collaboration is “On The Day The World Begins Again,” a video-poem, which premiered at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival in 2019. He lives in Kingston, Ontario, where he is the Queen’s National Scholar in Indigenous literature at Queen’s University.

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A festival 30 years in the making—The Word On The Street Toronto has championed literacy and excellent Canadian writing since 1989, delighting audiences of all ages with author readings and featured programming alongside Canada’s largest open-air book fair.

On Sunday, September 22, 2019, the WOTS returns to the Harbourfront Centre to celebrate the past and beckon in the future of Canadian literature with an exciting lineup of debut authors alongside perennial favourites.

Catch Armand Garnet Ruffo at Word on the Street Toronto on the Indigenous Voices stage for Presenting: TREATY#, 2:30 PM – 3:00 PM.