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 teenage 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 sacrament 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 colors 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 Dionysus, 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 and 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—that flows, like a pulse, right through my soul. 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.
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. 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, From Here (2017)