Sunday, 25 May 2014

Sunday Poem

Wood Violets—tiny islands of white—make up in numbers what they lack in size, as if spring’s first favours went to smallness. In tree tops by the pond Black-crowned Night Herons perch at noon. Washed ashore, shark or tuna line has wound & wound around a driftwood hulk. A Winter Wren sings its high, superlatively speedy song—the days too short & too few for singing everything that should be sung.
Today when I took our cat to the vet, the cage’s rusted door fell off. Rust eats a hole in the wheelbarrow. Rust invades the backyard shed & discolours a rake. Rust weakens the spikes in the backboard of the abandoned basketball net. The shed’s doorlatch, the propane tank, the croquet wickets—rusted. Once I found a lost watch in a park: in this oceanside realm of oxides, rust was gnawing on the hands of time
Half our frontyard is flowers & shrubs. While I guide the lawnmower around, neighbours stop & praise the proliferation. “My wife’s work,” I say, or “It’s Karen’s garden.” A perfectionist, she alone complains she hasn’t nearly enough time to serve it well. At dinner she’s skeptical if I mention more strangers finding pleasure in the garden just as it is—swoops & tangles, fallen blossoms, all that leafy leaping over boundaries. 
wind or mind? bear or hear? mild or wild? wiry or airy? peaks or freaks? drought or draught? endless or budless? expensive or expansive? command or commend? carting or casting? wearing or weaving? flaming or flowing? humble or bumble? reason or season? fertility or futility? world or worlds? me or one? woods or moods? almost or utmost? 
(Selections from editors' uncertain transcriptions of words in the manuscripts of Thoreau's 1848-53 journals) 
Clinging to tall grasses & clover stems, a scattered condominium built of bubbles. Spittlebugs, those Froghopper nymphs, excreted soapy liquid into which the bellows in their abdomens pumped air. Hidden, covered in their own foam, they now drink the plants’ juices—but I only know this, don’t see it with my eyes. I brush past the clover without stopping to knock on the doors of those houses of froth. 
Just below my knee, a bump the size of a small apple swells: a Horse-fly’s work, livid rose, like an inoculation gone bad. I hardly have the hide of a horse. Does the insect’s name mean it hangs around horses, or has the bite of one? While my skin flares & itches, another winged stinger rattles against leaves. Horse-fly, Horse-fly, if I wrote as many poems about you as Issa did about flies & crickets, would you scram? 
We don’t have to see a swarm of krill or fish to know one is there. In Passamaquoddy Bay, the signs meet in one misshapen circle: Sooty & Greater Shearwaters, afloat or in flight—Harbour Porpoises surfacing for a second—a Finback Whale’s dorsal fin sliding that way. At an observation boat’s railing, we too take part, but distantly, with an appetite for watching all those appetites converge in the furious water. 
I found a paddle abandoned in the woods, but no boat or raft—a rusted tin cup, but no jug of water or wine. Later, suspenders hang- ing from a tree, minus the pants. Farther on, a weather-bleached page—torn from its book—caught in a bed of ferns. All those findings weren’t clues to a single story, but bits of many stories. Not much joined me & the strangers except the place we’d all passed through. 
On the Wolfville mudflats terns cry kiri-kiri-kiri, a quick overlapping of thin voices thrown into the wind. We swivel & scan, scan & swivel, but don’t see the long-winged white birds—can’t even be sure if they’re to the left or right, in front or back of us. Avian ventriloquists? But then the excitement’s gone. You say a dozen, I say three or four—overstatement & understatement returning hand-in-hand to Front Street. 
Sunlight falls liberally upon the storm-shattered shells scattered over shore. You might think some fierce-wheeled machine had lumbered back & forth, fragmenting everything brittle—whether blue, pink or creamy white—but tumults of winds & waves & rocks did the work. The air is an ocean of winks. The beach is so aglitter, so much like a dumping ground for broken mirrors, you have to look away.

From Ringing Here & There: A Nature Calendar (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2014) by Brian Bartlett

("Canadian Autumn II" by Melissa McKinnon)

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