Sunday, March 3, 2013
Fresh corpse of a baby gull
splayed against a shore rock.
Feathers, guts, skin case, stain,
the sections of the skeleton
like parts of a pictograph,
neck, skull, eye hole, keel,
ribs, ilium, wing bones, claws,
thing that had not flown long
dropped by an eagle or hawk.
The tide will find it in an hour
and take what is left of it,
but for now the bones manacle
the carcass to the dry rock
while the shore rats run out
of nests to get at it. Sunlight
embraces it. The thief of fire
deep within the rock drinks
and eats it and lives forever.
When I carry her home each evening
from the park playground swing, she pleads with me
to let her walk on the bed of smooth stones
at the front of our apartment building.
She wants to find individual stones
and put them in her wide pocket, then place
the same stones along a row of large rocks.
I would like us to stay as we are now
within the flowering and flowing gold
gaze of the sun’s late rays. And suddenly
I imagine a day when she is old.
As if I were her child and she was soon
to be gone, I begin to grieve for her,
little mother, my daughter. Carrying
her shepherdess’s bag filled with her stones,
one for each sheep in her flock, already
she is keeping count for when it is night
and she brings the sheep into the stone fold,
already she is asking that they all
be kept in the great invisible scrip.
The tears she comes to cry for those she loves,
the tears others who love her cry for her,
the tears others who love her cry for her,
will stray and go lost, so she places stones
one by one on flat rock, stones that are tears
she gathered as they rolled out of the sun.
The cries come sharp, deep as the night and bright;
they tear the dark in my ear. It is the gulls
that have come up from the inlet through the still air,
the first proprietors of the daylight. The cries
rush out through the single narrow way of all their throats.
My daughter's favourite among her first words:
seagull. Then I seagull. She remembered
the white-winged ones that came clamouring and flocking
where she stood on the sand at the sea edge. The sweet
crystalline cry poured from her as she went up
on her toes and flung her arms about and gull after gull
arrived and circled close and cried into the circle
of soft lightning they had made around her.
My daughter’s first nightmare: standing at the crib bars,
eyes fixed wide yet still dreaming, not knowing
where she was, repeating again and again
her bottomless cry. The cry as full of address
as the cries of the lovers in the next apartment
calling out wordless across the sudden distances,
a calling almost unearthly. As full of address
as the final cry of abandonment on the cross.
The gulls’ cries come sharp, and gulls come wheeling
up from the water as if on reconnaissance
and searching for what they have lost, not knowing
what it is they have lost though they carry it
as they perform every wing-thrust, every glide.
They fly their torsos, beaks, eyes; they are alive and yet
they are desperate ghosts, their cries scavenging cries.
They wake her now, one cry then another
like wild beings in the room, and immediately
my daughter shouts seagull, as if a dream
has been waiting within her to put the word in her mouth
at just this instant. In her two-year-old voice
she takes her ecstatic run out to meet
the gull’s sound with her word and runs out into all
the words that will ever come to find her,
even the word that is her own name. Like a hand
through a window, they will come to snatch her away.
The sea waves will arrive, hushed and radiant,
rolling her first cry in their foam. The flock’s cries
will collect up the world, opening it like a door.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
When he pulls up in a truck and hefts new beds
into the house to replace our camp cots,
we see the dark in a metal’s dull sheen
is the dark displayed in his beard. The sound
rushing through the hollows of the square posts,
the frames, guards and rails, is the sound rushing
through the spaces he has made within us.
He sets them all down, the pieces he measured,
sheared, and welded together in the evenings
in his father’s factory, while I, half hidden
in among the machines, gathered up scrap
fallen to the cement floor. The four beds
stand in our shared room, one for each of us --
with this he fulfills his unwanted office.
He leaves us soon after, and I keep vigil.
Nightly I allow not one of my brothers
to speak or even audibly breathe. I know
that the sound of any of our young voices
will distract the light trying to make its way
through the fitted substance of the metal. I know
at the same time that this light is my father
searching for his sons. He does not know it --
long before he left us, his love began travelling
to us apart from him. If I memorize him,
I will be able to see the love. If I cut
from myself all that is not my love for him,
the right set of rays will find us. My brothers
fall asleep one by one. I lie and wait
for my dream. There is no space not swirling,
no fire with its core of blackness not burning,
within the beds’ angular emptiness
because of the love meant for us. Through the night,
the metal embraces me. It is a skeleton,
unending silver, pure and cold, and I become it,
the light of my father’s love arrived at last.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
At a window overlooking water -- container ships
and bulk carrier ships lying at anchor
framed in front of us. They’re always there,
I hear a voice say. As if the ships were the same ships
that sat there twenty-four or forty-eight hours ago.
As if, in the middle of the night, the ships did not
arrive and drop anchor at exact latitudes and longitudes.
And tugboats did not come and bring the ships to dock,
and other ships not arrive and take the first ships’ places --
in the middle of the night. As if the ships were not
emptied of what they brought here and loaded up again
while the ships’ sailors took their hours’ shore leave
to go to a bank, visit a doctor, talk with a priest,
buy a blouse or bracelet for a woman back home.
As if, between sundown and dawn, the ships did not depart.
And every two or three days, a new ship and new crew
did not sit at each terminal wharf. As if it was not
now a new ship visible outside the window.
All night, out on the water, the ships’ horns send out
sound signals for the ships’ arrivals and departures,
and all night, in inlet-filling fog, the ships’ horns
send out long blasts, long repeating notes -- accompaniment
to the circuit of sleep in the houses along the shore.
New ships and crews come, new products are brought
from faraway locales, and new loads of coal, sulphur,
lumber and wheat are taken to faraway locales.
All night, when gulls come up from the inlet
through cloud and rain, gull after gull takes up
the same insane-sounding cry of unfathomable
emergency in a wilderness of water, and circles with the same
single message that seems wound and unwound
as on a wire anchored somewhere unknown to any gull
in the inlet circling and circling through its tides.
All night, the outsized ships come and go -- all night.
As if they were not, each of them, the same ship powering
over the glowing deep blue water-globe. As if the voice
at this window had not been with me all along,
waiting inside my hearing. As if it was not
the voice of one more myself than I can know.
As if this one’s home had not always been here
where he could see an anchor place and hear gulls.
As if he had not always returned here. As if he would not
say of the ships he saw, They’re always there.
When the big hand is on the starfish
and the little hand is on the crab, you’re looking up
at the lobby clock. It's six o'clock. Now a flock
of sea-green Canada Geese, the sun’s rays
blazing over it, flies past a mass of sea life --
lobsters, turtles, sea snails, skate, make their way
through forests of seaweed. This is outside,
within the arched entranceway. Seahorses, pufferfish,
traced in terracotta, swim the front wall face
as along inlet shore rock. The same biplane
flies by twice, three times, then the same Zeppelin --
here, it is and always will be 1930,
when this was the tallest edifice in the entire
British Commonwealth. When the big hand
is on the starfish and the little hand
is on the lobster, it's three o’clock. Boats and ships
go by -- the Resolution, the Golden Hind,
the HMS Egeria, the Sonora, the Empress of Japan.
Inside again, at the five brass elevator doors,
above which sailing vessels burst out of waves
with lighting in their prows, stand five female
elevator operators, chosen for their beauty,
wearing sailor uniforms, female usherers
into hardwood interiors like ships’ cabins --
1930 is also 2009, and now they’re the flowing light
that chooses the lobby’s stained glass windows
for their beauty, and the zodiac pictured
on the polished marble floor. When the big hand
is on the starfish and the little hand
is on the turtle, it’s two o’clock. Terracotta
Canada Geese fly along the building’s sides
to meet above the brass-framed main glass doors.
This is the Marine Building, address, 355
on a street named for Sir Harry Burrard,
ex-shipmate of the captain who, at the behest
of His Majesty's Royal Navy, sailed here
to find a mysterious sea-route, and failed,
yet mapped the area’s every intricate coastal mile.
When the big hand is on the starfish
and the little hand is on the sea snail, it’s nine o'clock,
and I'm nine, or is it seven, years old, turning
the page in Haig-Brown’s Captain of the Discovery
where the captain and a dozen of his crew
sail in the ship’s yawl through the tree-branch-
overhung narrows into the inlet. Now people
from the nation whose home is the north shore
put off in canoes to greet them and offer
freshly cooked smelts. The Englishman at once
orders his men to shorten sail and allow
the canoes to keep pace. Now he looks out
across the inlet -- which he will name for Sir Harry.
The geese that fly across his sails, and past
the bright brass buttons on George Vancouver's
blue naval coat, fly now through the brass rays
brightening the Marine Building entranceway
and framing a Discovery. When the big hand
is on the starfish and the little hand is on the crab,
it’s six o’clock again. For an instant,
or is it a lifetime, terracotta geese pass
into living geese and back again -- Art Deco.
They pass through where illustrious ships
sail by and famous buildings stand. They pass
through to living geese like the seahorses pass
through to living seahorses, like the starfishes
to those with feet fastening onto rock,
purple arms slowly decorating time.
Monday, October 11, 2010
The women who would gather in the vale
chewed cherry laurel leaves; when the poison
took hold and ushered them into frenzy,
they would see the vale was a hovering
of matter, a glittering haze; the earth
their bare feet danced on, and that had brought forth
everything around them, would -- if they
threw off the names they had used for themselves --
begin to reveal to them what there was
of eternity in the world.
could open into a being, human,
yet other, whose name was a limitless,
pure embrace in an instant with no end;
then could close again and be a chaos
of innumerable identities
interspersed with abyss upon abyss.
It could pour blind currents of life, of death,
through the women's living skulls, and plunge them
into metamorphoses -- so they might
suddenly know more than any mortal,
having become the vale itself, knowing.
Some would never return from such knowing,
and collapse and die. But others would now
be called Daphne, the name for the laurel,
and be priestesses.
The light of the vale
is in love with those frenzied ones -- the rays
sent as from Apollo still following
the woman who ran from him and escaped
when she was changed into a tree; the fate
of even Apollo's love is held here
in the laurel branches. Here, your own fate,
though you do not know that fate, pours through you,
while the light, the vegetation, and rock,
so bright, so mysteriously exact,
are a moving stillness, about to speak.
Vale of Tempe/Larissa