Wednesday, April 23, 2008

April is poetry month

It was -3c when I left this morning shortly after 7 am to go for my walk; by 4 pm, however, the temperature had climbed to +20 c. That's a 23 point difference! I wore my gloves, scarf and headband in the morning; in the afternoon I pulled laundry off the line in short sleeves.

Although I've been working myself to the bone and I really should've slept in to at least 8 am, I wanted to go and see how full the creek was after the rains. Last night I had called my sister to tell her to try and catch the repeat CBC radio program Poetry Face-off at 10:30 pm because there is one amazing poem by Clyde A Wray that left me motionless in my kitchen [the clip on the CBC site is an excerpt]. His poem is a beautiful / troubling mix of being a father in times of environmental disaster. What a visionary. What a mix of hope and fears. I'm voting for him! [mind you, some of the other poets were really great, too. Especially Magpie Ulysses]
During our conversation, my sister told me that she had taken a walk by McIntyre River and that the waters were rushing, full of the recent rains and snow melt. So I set my alarm.
I wasn't disappointed. After passing beneath the bridge at Algoma Street, I stopped to sprinkle some tobacco into the torrent. Always have your tobacco with you, Melvina said, when you go down to the river. So, from my sons' stash of narguileh tobacco from Lebanon, I placed a few leaves into a small deerskin medicine bag I bought at the Napapiiri by Yli-Tornio in Finland one midsummer.

There were 8 anglers by the creek trying their luck to catch the fish traveling up the creek. One fellow had donned his waders and had walked out into the lake by the mouth of the creek. I would imagine it was a bit chilly inside those waders by that retreating sheet of ice!

here's the same mouth of the creek last November, early morning, when the ice was arriving. It's called McVicar but it was never McVicar's.*

I saw a sweet song sparrow serenading the morning quite seriously! Later, walking up the hill on Dawson Street, I thought I saw a flash of red on the birds in the upper branches of an old birch. They looked like grackles or starlings. But, no, there was a flash of red on the wing caps. A pair of red-winged blackbirds and no marsh anywhere in sight!

A ring-billed gull stood on a stone, behind a scrub of red dogwood. Probably already has been fishing crayfish out of the strip of water that's widening each day.

The hooded mergansers, as usual, took off as soon as I inched closer. They couldn't swim away because they were paddling along waterways between sheets of ice, so they flew away. Erkki and I had been walking along Pier 1 when I spied them and tried once again to get a "better" picture. Again I was thwarted. The mergansers refuse to cooperate.

This is the reflection on the ice glazed silvery surface of the lake of the double-twined birch tree that I told you about before, except this photo is taken looking towards the old train station, not out towards the lake. Presciently, I called her a golden lady! This morning she shows her true colours once again.

ice glazed window into the lake

zigzag defraction

into the depths

* The Shaman Creek

The creek was never McVicar’s

The water snaked here before.

Silver-tongued, the water

slithered outside the lines

long before the Bible and the boats.

The water snaked here before, before

McVicar and the prospectors and the lumber barons

carved into Turtle’s back, measured

their plots of land, made their fortunes,

and built their Victorian-style brick houses

in their hoped-for Chicago of the North.

The water snaked here before, before

the land was scaped and hedges pruned and clipped

and fences built, before the middens, the Misters and the Missus'

before the Catherines and the Victorias and the Peters, before

before the English flower gardens and the dandelions they brought

and the starlings they set free in their New World.

The river spoke. Talked back.

Resisted their sifting, sorting, and surveys, the borders,

alignments and acreage allotments.

The river continued to rush throughout the years

past the asphalt pathway, the roads and bridges tracked over him

past the rusting shopping carts, plastic pop bottles, plastic

liquor bottles, plastic grocery bags, smashed beer bottles, dented

beer cans, chip bags, chocolate wrappers, paper coffee cups, cigarette butts,

past the tampon applicators and used condoms, past

the no-name mouthwash bottles left behind by his grandchildren.

The river snaked here before

Before throwaway. Before convenience.

Before the civilizing mission.

The Shaman creek was here.

He comes from the North, making his way through

the hardest rock on earth. His sound is a rushing of white horses.

Seven cedars grow from his belly, overhead

a trinity of crows guards the stained glass window

barely concealing his thunder.

Golden offerings from poplar and birch line his skin,

Blue jay drinks from his lower lip.

Pink fleshed fish swim through his veins.

Close to Kitchee Gumee,

a fierce wind bends his bones

narrowing, he surfaces

a flotilla of geese glide to greet him,

swim into his mouth.

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