Finalist : Terrain.org 8th Annual Contest in Poetry
A Cheering Stain
I wake up every day wanting
to do, walk out every day under
moreso than buildings, a heavy air
moreso than either, breathing no answer.
Why complicate the old confusions?
We’ve always been fogged and must
condense, mould. Icy hose disconnected
contents, you I wait out, curlicue, clueless.
You I hold self-evident, drop, don’t
bring indoors. Branch and saw. Twists
thaw and seep and surge towards
finality? In house we lumber, delay
and ingenuity. What wants doing?
Over the berm of the observed if I
could venture in a trusted tongue
you’d want me to speak (I must)
to the terrible extrapolations—a globe
warming… Is that the glow mistaken
for sunrise? Otherwise dark wall
of forest, mossy grave-mound
in the foreground of a cat
come back, but further went its sister
so far my grown-up daughter teases
me 10 years after, What would you do
if Cloudy sauntered today into our clearing? I’d say
Cloudy will always be with us or some such facile nonsense
as the statistical engines grapple
with how high the oceans might rise
to the numberless human occasions
anticipated in 2100. How much of this
rain-forest timber shroud will be tinder
or ash by then? You too, reader, lost there, in
this, in them? So quickly we’re losing
momentum going forward not
homeward crumb to crumb and the years
as ever just begun, and the day. . .
Impossibly into the emptiness north-
wards, light. And thinking, taking sides, slides
like Frost’s ice on a stove or the headlong stride
of the grouse from cover of salal to cover
of salal, its lovely complex multi-striated browns
and greys and blacks a life’s work if wanted
in lieu of the fitful, cheering stain
of pink in the sky near that opening, atmosphere’s
blow-hole, a whole planet breaching. Each
like the ice the master taught went poem’s way (its
own, individual) didn’t. Everything’s gravity
takes over this edge or that, and pools anew.
Motionless alders in mist/drizzle/drip, one last
brown leaf in an awkward attachment above
mush of leaf litter underfoot.
Murk-green backdrop, whitish dull sky behind cedars, whitish lake.
Flat-line landscape, steady state, lateral before lift: little swing/dip
upward dogwood twigs take at each leaf node intersection. Yes
I’m sweet on the dipper’s knee-
bend and bounce, on its blink and beak tilt—
sweet on the sprightly yerba buena and ochre
witches’ butter, sweet
on spring, on the deepening pond
but this is colorlessly closer
to the damage we’ve done, to something as close
we can never damage, longer
naturally, than life.
John Pass’s poems have appeared in 19 books and chapbooks in Canada, and in magazines in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Czech Republic. He won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 2006 for Stumbling in the Bloom and the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize (BC Book Award) in 2012 for crawlspace. His latest book is Forecast: Selected Early Poems 1970-1990 (Harbour, 2015). “A Cheering Stain” will be in This Was The River, forthcoming from Harbour.