Poem of the Week

Each week we feature a poem by one of our authors. Take a few moments to enjoy it. And then, if you'd like to pass it along to a friend who could use a pause-poésie in their day, click on the "share this poem" link below.

Anthem (O Canada)

The first time I set eyes on you,
you were laid out flat,
east to west.

You had no depth, no past.
You had not suffered,
or could not hear it yet.

So I taught you to listen for loss,
in the wooden echo of an axe,
in the blanketed folds of snow,
in the ice that cracked beneath your weight,
swallowing you whole,
in the nuggets of dreams that failed to pan out.

I had first learned to read you through touch,
through the dark vein of a blunt pencil
pressing down into your transparent traces,
outlining your crenellated coastal complications,
your squared prairie certainties.

When first I set foot on you, you were naked,
I doubled through water's refraction.
I dipped a tentative toe into your labial folds,
got caught in the matted shoals,
the rough creases.

Even so, at first your hold on me was tenuous,
fragile.
The tide tugged at me.

On certain days,
when the clouds pulled back from the mountains,
the angle of light played tricks on my eyes.
The birds, singing in a foreign tongue,
would fool my homesick ear.
Only the relentless green persisted.

I grew sick on so much fecundity,
so much unbroken promise.
My neck grew stiff, searching for the sky.
My eyes, grown used to walls,
lost focus.
My heart, surfacing too fast,
collapsed into weightlessness.

Over time,
I drifted farther and farther inland,
to where trees touched sky,
their roots stretched out in shallow graves,
any sudden wind laying them flat,
baring their snake-strung souls.

I lay down, resting my head
on a pillow of rot.
Leaves filled my ears with their fallen song.
Needles punctured the permafrost, marking a tattoo of the earth,
a disappearing map of the future,
on the soft underside of my skin.

I boarded the train east,
crossed unremarked boundaries,
slipped through tunnels and passes,
towards something approaching forgiveness.

Slept,
sitting upright for five days and nights,
watching the country grow smaller,
close in around me.

I saw what they meant.

I shared bread and cheese with the family across the aisle,
the children opening me up with their naked eyes.
The heat poured in from the Great Lakes,
spread through my pores,
washing the Pacific salt from my wounds.

The news from the west, from beyond the Rockies,
was that you had been at the wheel,
and that the wheel had been unforgiving.

What had been taken?

The Sudan sky,
the corrugated night we sweated through,
crows, white bibs tucked into their black vests,
toying with a mottled hawk,
the hidden passport,
promise of the Cairo night,
prophecy of the stars,
the kwashiorkor children running their fingers
over the freckled braille on your pale arms,
mourning-sickness, your body neatly serrated
into so many prime cuts,
the Okavango song, wondering where the lions are,
a broken premise,
the possibility of an ending.

And what's left in their place?

When first I laid a hand on you,
you had no shape,
save that of my fist.

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