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The Loon's Egg

Peter Dale Scott
From:   A.J.M. Smith (ed.). Modern Canadian Verse. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1967 (pp. 317-18). Murmur of the Stars: Selected Shorter Poems. Montreal: Vehicule Press, 1994, 51; published in U.S. as Crossing Borders: Selected Shorter Poems. New York: New Directions, 1994, 48. "The Loon's Egg" was later translated into Croatian as "Jaje Sjevernog Gnjurca" by Luko Paljetek, Mogucnosti (Split), XIX, 7 (July 1972), 737-38.

On the eighth day, the rain stopped before dusk
Letting in sun. We canoed again at last.
The trip ruined, we could stop where we liked,
And picked, from the shadow of a tiny island
Like a ship going under, this loon's egg.
Its oval rested in our aching hand,
Turned amid chaos with a strange precision:
An orb, turned inside out, like an astrolabe
Of dimly remembered mists and galaxies
Sepiaed on dull blue. Dull, white within,
It had been broken into. Perhaps a snake
Lubric as night, had wound within its toils
These mottled stars, then with its wily bite
Had let in the catastrophic light,
As if this loon not to be hatched were Time,
And we Time's infants, the grey dust within
This ghostless orrery within our hand.

No trail came near. The jagged waterline
Unchanged in that water since the glaciers,
Rain, snow, wind safely cherishing what we
Could crush in an instant by mistake.
O yes Talk was strange there, letting in contagion;
Yet we listened to it as if we were miles away
Or years. Nor can I tell you, using words
Furbished from savage industry and war,
Why this inky egg-tint we have no legend for
Rests in my memory as if innate,
Vast, and secular. Is this the universe,
A shell, love's broken 0, a voided beauty
The lover dare not look inside? The stones
Were almost worn away; the three short pines
Looked stunted in its formal presence; while the
Berries in the moss and outcrop were
Blue and sweet, as any in Ouareau Township.

            If you cross over from the narrow high
            end of Lake Antostigan (itself
            two days in) where there is some
            maple that was never cut, and wade down
            six miles of creek which is mostly mud and alders
            so dense even the aerial maps have missed them,
            and then, below the cliffs, more like a
            staircase the canoe is handed down
            since the high portages were never cut
            and the rest blown over in the hurricane
            before the war (you could, I suppose,
            come up the other way, with ropes
            around the falls, if you were mad enough)

You will stand above our fireplace and, like us
Seven years ago, perhaps will break off speech,
Kneel, and look down upon
This broken relic of a mottled world
We cannot really know, how hard we try,
Yet carry in the hollow of our heart:
The loon's egg

Peter Dale Scott's works copyright © to the author.

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