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Issue I – MAINTENANCE – Jay Ritchie

My winter hands usually
arrive at this time of year:
inhospitable winds
and temperatures down to the
minus twenties,
in Januaries, often, and sometimes even in Decembers.

You showed me two different words
this week that detail my circumstances.
The first is
exogeneous meaning originating externally,
as opposed to
endogenous meaning originating internally,
of the same Latin root for indigenous,
which reminds me of my aunties’ brown hands,
nurses’ hands that sopped blood up with white
absorbent bandages, the gauzes quickly
becoming Pollocks and Richters.

The other word is integumentary
meaning a protective outer layer,
a shield, more often a skin,
which reminds me of:

hands on steering wheels,
our separate car crashes,
reparative body work,

battles and ensuing wounds,
like gouged flesh and chipped
wood or metal,
depending on the year,

and houseplants forgotten
out on balconies, withered fronds
and arthritic stems.

The right one often becomes spotted,
constellated in blotchy reds,
somewhere between the thumb and index finger.
The ridges of the left,
between the knuckles, are dried like
ancient valley ways. There are
receding calluses on the sides of the nails.

Yours do not do this.
So, instead,
you teach me words
to describe my own.



Jeremy Desjarlais is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at McGill University and the recipient of a Vanier scholarship. His research interests combine Canadian and Indigenous strains of the long poem, focussing on representations of the home. Most recently, he taught as a faculty member at First Nations University of Canada (2016-2020) and has worked with the Montreal International Poetry Prize since the spring of 2021. He is a registered member of Cowessess First Nation, Treaty 4.