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Ride Off Any Horizon

John Newlove
From:   Apology for Absence: Selected Poems 1962-1992. Erin, Ontario: Porcupine's Quill, 1993. p.61.


Ride off any horizon
and let the measure fall
where it may-

on the hot wheat,
on the dark yellow fields
of wild mustard, the fields

of bad farmers, on the river,
on the dirty river full
of boys and on the throbbing

powerhouse and the low dam
of cheap cement and rocks
boiling with white water,

and on the cows and their powerful
bulls, the heavy tracks
filling with liquid at the edge

of the narrow prairie
river running steadily away.

         *

Ride off any horizon
and let the measure fall
where it may-

among the piles of bones
that dot the prairie

in vision and history
(the buffalo and deer,

dead indians, dead settlers
the frames of lost houses

left behind in the dust
of the depression,

dry and profound, that
will come again in the land

and in the spirit, the land
shifting and the minds

blown dry and empty-
I have not seen it! except

in pictures and talk-
but there is the fence

covered with dust, laden,
the wrecked house stupidly empty)-

here is a picture for your wallet,
of the beaten farmer and his wife
leaning toward each other-

sadly smiling, and emptied of desire.

        *

Ride off any horizon
and let the measure fall
where it may-

off the edge
of the black prairie

as you thought you could fall,
a boy at sunset

not watching the sun
set but watching the black earth,

never-ending they said in school,
round: but you saw it ending,

finished, definite, precise-
visible only miles away.

        *

Ride off any horizon
and let the measure fall
where it may-

on a hot night the town
is in the streets-

the boys and girls
are practising against

each other, the men
talk and eye the girls-

the women talk and
eye each other, the indians
play pool: eye on the ball.

        *

Ride off any horizon
and let the measure fall
where it may-

and damn the troops, the horsemen
are wheeling in the sunshine,
the cree, practising

for their deaths: mr poundmaker,
gentle sweet mr big bear,
it is not unfortunately

quite enough to be innocent,
it is not enough merely
not to offend-

at times to be born
is enough, to be
in the way is too much-

some colonel otter, some
major-general middleton will
get you, you-

indian. It is no good to say,
I would rather die
at once than be in that place-

though you love that land more,
you will go where they take you.

         *

Ride off any horizon
and let the measure fall-

where it may;
it doesn't have to be

the prairie. It could be
the cold soul of the cities
blown empty by commerce

and desiring commerce
to fill up the emptiness

The streets are full of people.

It is night, the lights
are on; the wind

blows as far as it may. The streets
are dark and full of people.

Their eyes are fixed as far as
they can see beyond each other-

to the concrete horizon, definite,
tall against the mountains,
stopping vision visibly.



John Newlove's works copyright © to the Estate of John Newlove.


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