Monday, January 11, 2010

not needing all the words

A photo and poem to start the week.

(for George Whalley)

An hour after the storm on Birch Lake

the island bristles. Rock. Leaves still falling.

At this time, in the hour after lightning

we release the canoes.

Silence of water

purer than the silence of rock.

A paddle touches itself. We move

over the blind mercury, feel the muscle

within the river, the blade

weave in dark water.

Now each casual word is precisely chosen

passed from bow to stern, as if

leaning back to pass a canteen.

There are echoes, repercussions of water.

We are in absolute landscape,

Among names that fold in onto themselves.

To circle the island means witnessing

the blue grey dust of a heron

released out of the trees.

So the dialogue slides

nothing more than friendship

an old song we break into

not needing all the words.

We are past naming the country.

The reflections are never there

without us, without the exhaustion

of water and trees after storm.

from The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems by Michael Ondaatje. New York: Vintage International, 1997.