Say the Names

Al Purdy

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— say the names say the names

and listen to yourself

an echo in the mountains

Tulameen     Tulameen

say them like your soul

was listening and overhearing

and you dreamed you dreamed

you were a river

and you were a river

Tulameen     Tulameen

— not the flat borrowed imitations

of foreign names

not Brighton Windsor Trenton

but names that ride the wind

Spillimachèen and Nahanni

Kleena Kleene and Horsefly

Illecillewaet and Whachamacallit

Lillooet and Kluane

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

and the whole sky falling

when the buffalo went down

Similkameen and Nahanni

say them say them remember

if ever you wander elsewhere

“the North as a deed and forever”

Kleena Kleene     Nahanni

Osoyoos and Similkameen

say the names

as if they were your soul

lost among the mountains

a soul you mislaid

and found again rejoicing

Tulameen     Tulameen

till the heart stops beating


say the names

“Say the Names” by Al Purdy, Beyond Remembering: The Collected Poems of Al Purdy, edited by Sam Solecki, 2000, Harbour Publishing,