Dorothy Livesay

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Men prefer an island

With its beginning ended:

Undertones of waves

Trees overbended.


Men prefer a road

Circling, shell-like

Convex and fossiled

Forever winding inward.


Men prefer a woman

Limpid in sunlight

Held as a shell

On a sheltering island…


Men prefer an island.




But I am mainland

O I range

From upper country to inner core:

From sageland, brushland, marshland

To the sea’s floor.


Show me an orchard where I have not slept,

A hollow where I have not wrapped

The sage about me, and above, the still

Stars clustering

Over the ponderosa pine, the cactus hill.


Tell me a time

I have not loved,

A mountain left unclimbed:

A prairie field

Where I have not furrowed my tongue,

Nourished it out of the mind’s dark places;

Planted with tears unwept

And harvested as friends, as faces.


O find me a dead-end road

I have not trodden

A logging road that leads the heart away

Into the secret evergreen of cedar roots

Beyond sun’s farthest ray—

Then, in a clearing’s sudden dazzle,

There is no road; no end; no puzzle.


But do not show me! For I know

The country I caress:

A place where none shall trespass

None possess:

A mainland mastered

From its inaccess.


* * * *

Men prefer an island


Dorothy Livesay, "Other" from  "Other" from Section Lines: A Manitoba Anthology. Copyright © Dorothy Livesay Reprinted by permission of Dorothy Livesay's estate.


Source: Section Lines: A Manitoba Anthology (Turnstone Press, 1988)