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Samuel Hearne in Wintertime

John Newlove
From:   Apology for Absence: Selected Poems 1962-1992. Erin, Ontario: Porcupine's Quill, 1993. p.79.

1. In this cold room
I remember the smell of manure
on men's heavy clothes as good,
the smell of horses.

It is a romantic world
to readers of journeys
to the Northern Ocean-

especially if their houses are heated
to some degree, Samuel.

Hearne, your camp must have smelled
like hell whenever you settled down
for a few days of rest and journal-work:

hell smeared with human manure,
hell half-full of raw hides,
hell of sweat, Indians, stale fat,
meat-hell, fear-hell, hell of cold.

2. One child is back from the doctor's while
the other one wanders about in dirty pants
and I think of Samuel Hearne and the land -

puffy children coughing as I think,
crying, sick-faced,
vomit stirring in grey blankets
from room to room.

It is Christmastime
the cold flesh shines.
No praise in merely enduring.

3. Samuel Hearne did more
in the land (like all the rest
full of rocks and hilly country,
many very extensive tracts of land,
tittimeg, pike and barble,

and the islands:
the islands, many
of them abound

as well as the main
land does
with dwarf woods,

chiefly pine
in some parts intermixed
with latch and birch) than endure.

The Indians killed twelve deer.
It was impossible to describe
the intenseness of the cold.

4. And, Samuel Hearne,
I have almost begun to talk

as if you wanted to be
gallant, as if you went
through that land for a book -

as if you were not SAM, wanting
to know, to do a job.

5. There was that Eskimo girl
at Bloody Fall, at your feet,

Samuel Hearne, with two spears in her,
you helpless before your helpers,

and she twisted about them like
an eel, dying, never to know.

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

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