O Captain! My Captain!
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up — for you the flag is flung — for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths — for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Breathe dust like you breathe wind so strong in your face little grains of dirt which pock around the cheeks peddling against a dust-storm coming down a street to the edge of town in Swift Current Saskatchewan or the air walked out into the fields across from Granny Erickson’s house with a few pails of water to catch gophers over by the glue factory downwind of all the horses corralled their shit and hay smell whipped over the grass and the smell of prairie water as unmoved water doesn’t move is stale or even rancid but the air along the prairie road by Uncle Corny’s farm first thing on a clear summer sunday morning and in winter how the snow smelled like coal when I maybe later in Trail B.C. up the alley behind our place my mother needed water to melt on
Crossing the Bar
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
This is our welfare half
a duplex with mint green
siding shrugged between
rail yard and main street
logging trucks and trains
shake the foundation so
much I mistake them for god
forever it is winter mom
dissolves into mentholated
smoke and Coffee-Mate at
the kitchen table painting
orcas and nor'easters in burnt
umber and verdigris until
the fuel we burn for heat
dissipates I find
my brother sitting
blue-tinged in his crib
mucus freezing to his
tiny upper lip come
spring he gets up on two
feet to press his left hand
onto her canvas leaves his
mark in the sky just over
Fear of Snakes
The snake can separate itself
from its shadow, move on ribbons of light,
taste the air, the morning and the evening,
the darkness at the heart of things. I remember
when my fear of snakes left for good,
it fell behind me like an old skin. In Swift Current
the boys found a huge snake and chased me
down the alleys, Larry Moen carrying it like a green torch,
the others yelling, Drop it down her back, my terror
Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d any thing.
“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth
Sometimes a Voice (1)
Sometimes a voice — have you heard this? —
wants not to be voice any longer, wants something
whispering between the words, some
rumour of its former life. Sometimes, even
in the midst of making sense or conversation, it will
hearken back to breath, or even farther,
to the wind, and recognize itself
as troubled air, a flight path still
looking for its bird.
I’m thinking of us up
Re: Happiness, in pursuit thereof
It is 2005, just before landfall.
Here I am, a labyrinth, and I am a mess.
I am located at the corner of Waterway
and Bluff. I need your help. You will find me
to the left of the graveyard, where the trees
grow especially talkative at night,
where fog and alcohol rub off the edge.
We burn to make one another sing;
to stay the lake that it not boil, earth
not rock. We are running on Aztec time,
The simple contact with a wooden spoon and the word
recovered itself, began to spread as grass, forced
as it lay sprawling to consider the monument where
patience looked at grief, where warfare ceased
eyes curled outside themes to search the paper
now gleaming and potent, wise and resilient, word
entered its continent eager to find another as
capable as a thorn. The nearest possession would
house them both, they being then two might glide
into this house and presently create a rather larger
mansion filled with spoons and condiments, gracious
as a newly laid table where related objects might gather
to enjoy the interplay of gravity upon facetious
Song to Celia
Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I’ll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.
I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not withered be.
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
And sent’st it back to me;
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
like the beginnings — o odales o adagios — of islands
from under the clouds where I write the first poem
its brown warmth now that we recognize them
even from this thunder’s distance
still w/out sound. so much hope
now around the heart of lightning that I begin to weep
Lord of My Heart’s Elation
Lord of my heart’s elation,
Spirit of things unseen,
Be thou my aspiration
Consuming and serene!
Bear up, bear out, bear onward
This mortal soul alone,
To selfhood or oblivion,
Incredibly thine own, —
As the foamheads are loosened
And blown along the sea,
Or sink and merge forever
In that which bids them be.
I, too, must climb in wonder,
Uplift at thy command, —
Be one with my frail fellows
Beneath the wind’s strong hand,
A fleet and shadowy column
Of dust or mountain rain,
To walk the earth a moment
And be dissolved again.
In my body flows the blood of Gallic
Bastille stormers and the soft, gentle
ways of Salish/Cree womanhood.
Deep throated base tones dissipate,
swallowed by the earth; uproarious
laughter sears, mutilates my voice.
Child of the earth-tear of west
coast rain; dew drop sparkling in
the crisp, clear sun of my home.
Follow thy fair sun, unhappy shadow
Follow thy fair sun, unhappy shadow,
Though thou be black as night
And she made all of light,
Yet follow thy fair sun unhappy shadow.
Follow her whose light thy light depriveth,
Though here thou liv’st disgraced,
And she in heaven is placed,
Yet follow her whose light the world reviveth.
Follow those pure beams whose beauty burneth,
That so have scorched thee,
As thou still black must be,
Till Her kind beams thy black to brightness turneth.
Follow her while yet her glory shineth,
There comes a luckless night,
That will dim all her light,
And this the black unhappy shade divineth.
The Author to Her Book
Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, expos’d to publick view,
Made thee in raggs, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judg).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light.
Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could:
I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joynts to make thee even feet
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed — and gazed — but little thought
At the heart there is a hollow sun
by which we are constructed and undone
Behind the mirror. Favourite place to hide.
I didn't breathe. They looked so long I died.
What's shown when we unveil, disclose, undress,
is first the promise, then its emptiness
Ghost-face. Not because I turned my head,
but because what looked at me was dead.
— We don
Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Living, I had no might
To make you hear,
Now, in the inmost night,
I am so near
No whisper, falling light,
Divides us, dear.
Living, I had no claim
On your great hours.
Now the thin candle-flame,
The closing flowers,
Wed summer with my name, —
And these are ours.
Your shadow on the dust,
Strength, and a cry,
Delight, despair, mistrust, —
All these am I.
Dawn, and the far hills thrust
To a far sky.
Living, I had no skill
To stay your tread,
Now all that was my will
Silence has said.
We are one for good and ill
Since I am dead.
Song: To Celia
Come, my Celia, let us prove,
While we can, the sports of love;
Time will not be ours forever;
He at length our good will sever.
Spend not then his gifts in vain.
Suns that set may rise again;
But if once we lose this light,
’Tis with us perpetual night.
Why should we defer our joys?
Fame and rumor are but toys.
Cannot we delude the eyes
Of a few poor household spies,
Or his easier ears beguile,
So removèd by our wile?
’Tis no sin love’s fruit to steal;
But the sweet thefts to reveal,
To be taken, to be seen,
These have crimes accounted been.
Let the Ponies Out
oh papa, to have you drift up, some part of you drift up through
fresh water into the teal plate of sky soaking foothills, papa,
to have your breath leave, escape you, escape the
weight of bone, muscle and organ, escape you, to rise up, to loft,
till you are all breath filling the room, rising, escaping the white,
sheets, airborne, taken in a gust of wind and unbridled ponies,
let the ponies
out, I would open that gate if I could find it, if there was one
to let you go, to drift up into, out, out
of this experiment into the dome of all breath and wind and
reappear in the sound of the first year’s
Kay in Summer
Someone waiting in the lobby of a Hotel Imperial amid
the spaciousness tourists and peeling gold leaf
might see it all as too hesitant for truth
Might think for a moment about the art in scattering
too solidly carved tables crowding too many dreams
before dim Victorian sofas
Might remember certain high-backed chairs or a woman
that could lend a touch of veracity to this place
From this might wonder if truth is possible if always
and everywhere there is the notion stage
as true of a bed as of a lobby
Imagine now Kay as she steps through
Newfoundland Sealing Disaster
Sent to the ice after white coats,
rough outfit slung on coiled rope belts,
they stooped to the slaughter: gaffed pups,
slit them free of their spotless pelts.
The storm came on unexpected.
Stripped clean of bearings, the watch struck
for the waiting ship and missed it.
Hovelled in darkness two nights then,
bent blindly to the sleet’s raw work,
Out of the deep and the dark,
A sparkling mystery, a shape,
Comes like the stir of the day:
One whose breath is an odor,
Whose eyes show the road to stars,
The breeze in his face,
The glory of heaven on his back.
He steps like a vision hung in air,
Diffusing the passion of eternity;
His abode is the sunlight of morn,
The music of eve his speech:
In his sight,
One shall turn from the dust of the grave,
And move upward to the woodland.
La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.
I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.
I met a lady in the meads
Full beautiful — a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes
Poem For Duncan Campbell Scott
(Canadian poet who “had a long and distinguished career
in the Department of lndian Affairs, retiring in 1932.”
The Penguin Book of Canadian Verse)
Who is this black coat and tie?
Christian severity etched in the lines
he draws from his mouth. Clearly a noble man
who believes in work and mission. See
how he rises from the red velvet chair,
rises out of the boat with the two Union Jacks
fluttering like birds of prey
and makes his way towards our tents.
This man looks as if he could walk on water
and for our benefit probably would,
if he could.
He says he comes from Ottawa way, Odawa country,
comes to talk treaty and annuity and
The Charge of the Light Brigade
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
400: Coming Home
You are still on the highway and the great light of
noon comes over the asphalt, the gravelled
shoulders. You are on the highway, there is a kind of
laughter, the cars pound
south. Over your shoulder the scrub-grass, the fences,
the fields wait patiently as though someone
believed in them. The light has laid it
upon them. One
crow scrawks. The edges
take care of themselves, there is
no strain, you can almost hear it, you
Back in the city many things you lived for
are coming apart.
Transistor rock still fills
back yards, in the parks young men do things to
hondas; there will be
heat lightning, beer on the