UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LINKS
From: Water Stair (Lantzville: Oolichan Books, 2000)
All day the sea escaping
(the long-legged inlet slipping off her lace)
I catch sight of shining
through the trees and hazy heat
restless as a man awake
beside his sleeping lover.
He lifts the sheet in the moth-soft
whirr and waft of the fan, in curtained light
and gazes at the woman he knows best of anyone
longing to know her. I should put on old runners
to walk the creek's last clarity, its main channel
down the estuary utterly exposed,
brazen and pungent in the sun. Its bed
of clay and hard sand is the only footing
in acres of slippery, deep mud. Its few round stones
in shroud and sweep of seaweed hair are the blind heads
of seekers pushing upstream.
They would be worth knowing, knowing
what a husband knows.
A river, a marriage, living
are deep-pulling puzzlements their whole length.
Where the methodical eagles
took each merganser chick,
where the heron stood
in its private patience
music floats from a weathered float-house above high tide
new wings spread on swell of outcrop and midden.
Added decks (broad leaves unfolded seaward)
kneel, rooted in the water. Its windows bloom
the pale yolk-yellow
of evening primrose in evening shadow.
Where in Pleyel's Duo is the hinge
between the crumbled centuries and the violins'
lush harmonies, palatial balconies
where Deva dances? She is three
or five by her held-up fingers
and interrupts my questions
Exuberant singing from the scarred throat
of a young man no longer
a cancer patient, leads the recent graduates in
I got troubles, whoao oh
I got worries, whoao oh
I got wounds to bind...
Defiant languor amidst the high sedges
under June's waste of greenery, squeezed
in glossy droplets from the tips
of every seed cone on every fir on the mountain...
The stickiness earth is for us
at every turn... Quickly sideways
in awkward singularity
crabs in the shallows grab
at prawnshell scraped off our plates.
Each makes a little detonation
of muddiness in its instinct.
We've done all we can for you,
they say at the clinic...
And something mindful, endlessly confronted,
fed and native here ten thousand years (the depth
of fire-blackened, broken shell at wave edge) looks up
(once looked up the names of the early astronomers
who came to the science through music)
and looks down wearing their mantle, leaning
over the railing, evening light on its shoulders
sets aside its scraping tool on the eye-level ledge
to drift in its nebulous, drowning, sacred places
its tombs and temples upstream of Aswan or Three Gorges
drifts against the weave of weir and whale-song
in fire-gazing silences, sounds sources
of relentless presence, gorgeous knowing glances, guesses
at timing, balance
and at a heavier, murky beauty
under each human carapace
teases from selfhood's blackest hole and floodlit reservoirs
a cramped and crabby nebula expanding
luminous excesses, watery losses
of ancient, reflected starlight.
John Pass' works copyright © to the author.