Poems by Cameron Reed, Derek Witten, Christoph Sanz and Will Davies
Photos by Tim Andries
Poems by Cameron Reed, Derek Witten, Christoph Sanz and Will Davies
Photos by Tim Andries
to a room
books on shelves
the squared frames
clock hands rigid, fluid
The world assembles
bud by bud, leaf
In the gusts of May,
along roadside ditches filled with ferns,
the forest encircles:
spears of indian plum poke out behind
blackberry canes creep through fences,
onto the field
where the neighbour on his riding mower
temporarily halts the
june, irrevocably june, unmistakably
summer, smells of gasoline and grass
the retreating line of weeds,
thistles hacked to pieces
under the swinging summer scythe. The sun beats
down without guile or negotiation
cows hide in the shade of broad-leaved maples,
hands of green quelling malice, turning it to soft,
cool air. And in the evening streets,
children run and shout, peals of glee echoing
down the valley of trees
in june, irrevocably
The morning murder,
congregation of incorrigible crows
calling in the cedars
outside my window.
On the eve
a sudden downpour
the circle of friends gathered
in the driveway.
Under the feathery limbs
of the cedar which stood
in the field —
once pasture for cows,
now a park
— like a mast,
wind lifting the veil of scaly
needles, aged boughs
curving low towards
the ground in a gracious kiss
and back up,
once slender, delicate,
now thick as snakes, trunks in themselves,
covered in the veiny bark
rising like turrets around the main mast,
the weathered stick,
squat and pyramidical,
where cows once gathered
under the circling skirt
of serpentine limbs
protected from the sun in summer
the late spring rains and fall storms
stamping or reclining in the mud
tails switching, rubbing
their hides against the bark.
Here we sat and talked
rubbed the scales off our eyes
and knew the embrace of hearts,
the sometimes perfect shade
and leaky shelter of limbs
nestled beneath loving arms.
Over grey seas,
turquoise pregnant swirls,
the ferry moves unshakeably to shore.
Unharried, it draws a long line
across the swells. Islands in the channel
appear and recede,
glide by in the gloom.
The city awaits on the shore
empty concrete arms,
apartment balconies sagging
slack-jawed towards the sea.
Barnacles climb the iron pilings
and the sea swirls
a turbid turquoise,
The long waiting,
developing and perfecting
in the crisp summer sun—
holding out against mildew and rust,
gall wasp and maggots below—
drops one day
to land among the flies,
squished out among
the rubbery grass.
sewed white patches
on the yard,
placed a mute on his
runners’ metronomic crunch.
He keeps a scrap-heap by
the barn at Douglas Fir’s
tremendously rutted foot.
He thought he came for plywood—
three feet by three to fix Sarah’s bed,
but a mossy peace settles in him while
sifting through the boardpile.
Ungloved hands, he takes
care for nails or slivers,
like when he first
held Sarah’s wrinkled red body,
ginger and shy, careful not to
chafe her with his fingers’
It arose from where,
this descending grace, this
solid yearning? An undeserved
gift, he thinks,
Returning, he swings an adequate
sheet like a briefcase,
muffled crashes again,
moves back through a
newly dappled world,
notes the upside down, matte-green
rusted wheelbarrow still needs
a wheel, that the barn’s white trim
needs repainting come summer—
A gift, he thinks again,
but his life a brushing
away of leaves.
Rapt like statues before the black
picture window, tensely waiting
for the world to be caught
the camera flash, the momentary
exposure of our spruce-lined driveway,
our palomino mare,
our red and green tin mailbox.
When it sprang from the sky we
counted miles as seconds, felt like prophets
when we announced the destruction’s
numbered distance from our home.
In the morning I drift, a shirtless
young criminal, through piebald
poplar trunks, search a seven-acre empire
for the place of divine judgment,
stand shoulder to shoulder
with the jagged little effigy,
her paper skin electrified
into a corrugated sheen.
A moment like a skiff
drifting through fog. A cloudy
night on Great Bear Lake.
I painstakingly craft the spot,
the words, the hand to hold,
and pray for the skidding hull.
I’ll design the day as a rosary of
hours, an alleluia from head
But if it crumbles to a mere faltered
scattered verse, scrawled
on my blank daily
sheet of time, let at least the caesura of
my moments be marked
by thoughts of You.
Past moments return distilled and perfected,
Legs first down the manhole
Into my memory.
There’s a sunset over desert cliffs,
Bedouin tents with weathered men
who don’t remember my name.
Little Alexis, chattering through
chain link, the syllables of a
A country highway crumbling from
my thousand passages, prairie
grass worshipping, throbbing
with the joy of the fourth
day’s greater light.
Seated at the cedar’s foot, I watch
substantive slanted rays illuminate
the shining silver homes of spiders,
note the sound of maple leaves
punctuating silence as their
descending spirals end,
loosen my joints like a skeleton,
rub my flesh off on the bark,
watch my legs become bones beside
a hundred other limbs and branches.
An approaching doe
could put her nose
into my ribcage,
watch baby green blades
of grass sprout from joints
in the column of my spine.
a dense brick
of swamp mud
testing us with
with only a
of your mysterious
Yet you are the great
The sheer potency
We lay the dough,
the work of
to rest in
always with a
But the domestic
Flour, water, our
and before us
staples lifted into
When I am old,
I will have time
I will save my breath
For the right words.
For now, I mourn
When I have time.
At my convenience
I lunge at words,
To the let them come
In their own time.
If you are out
you might catch
his solitary silhouette
two whips of
his hunched frame
rounding a far ridge.
They say he’s wandered
here seven seasons
with his head bent
toward the ground,
not once looking up
to see the Watcher
over his shoulder.
If you see him it
would be best to
keep your distance.
And you, could you stand
with the weight of the kingdom
on your shoulders?
And you, having seen your own glory,
do you recognize your portion
among the beasts?
And you, having shouted “What have you done?”,
Will you wait for the echo,
Ricocheting off the hills?
For the axe is at the base of the tree;
What can be shaken will be shaken.
Through the bronze and iron,
a shoot, a leaf,
fed by the dew of heaven
mixed with earthly grief.
As it rises it gathers
providing shade among the beasts,
its perpendicular branches laden,
with the fruit of humble feasts.
And we shall go and rest,
In our sorrow to be blessed.
the morning after the storm
the grass wet with
suffering and relieved,
the killdeer returning to
its nest to brood,
and the mourning dove
ascending from the
Water soothes fire
or obscures it.
The lake’s lazy sighs
turning over in slumber
along the shores
of the peaceful volcano.
In his wooden skiff
the fisher weaves between
the egret, their white
bills pushing out a meek call,
as he checks his nets,
in the shadow
of a peaceful volcano.
Hovering above the canopy
I let the water soothe
the fire within me,
a peaceful volcano.
All of desire can be summed up in a bruised grape,
The gentle tugging on a fresh Spring leaf,
A supple hand on a cool morning,
Brushing away arbutus flakes.
Two desires, deep, can be defined;
Two wild currents draw the mind,
Beat and surge beneath your crust.
Does your heart yearn in silent strains
To rest beside a thing or sign,
Or is it, in fear, a grasping hand –
Knowing the blade that waits
And tempting the fates to violent acts
With every cowering lunge,
With every keen divide foreseen:
The fear of being without?
Though, stripped of fear, the hand would be
In the cool heart of the deep,
Waiting for eyes and fingers to dip
Within in shivered hes-
-itation – trepidating reach –
A testing touch that knows.
Desire, the silhouette of oak leaves
Playing on the skin
From traffic lights, fluorescent signs,
Holiness engraved in bubbling paint,
On filthy, coloured bricks,
Where spectres dance and shout, steal fruit and beg
Change from lost Samaritans
To steal beyond your memories.
Desire, the creeping fingers that probe the
Shadows of the chest,
That smooth out creases – suddenly unsure –
Refuse to move away or closer come.
The brush of thigh to thigh and every
Breath, each shiver sparks,
Transmuting blood to stone.
Desire is each arrested thought,
By guilty eyes provoked,
The inner thrum of summer storms,
The stuttered breath, the tongue
Rebelling to the conscious word.
Desire, the void of touch,
The hand that hovers over skin –
Each standing hair, alert and quiv’ring.
Shrink, embarrassed, from lingering gaze –
The turning of the eyes.
It is every warm awakening –
The tender bones and tensing body,
Aching temples at a mentioned name,
The thread of distant ties
Worn thin in passing time.
Desire, the cedar felled –
The scent of open grain.
Desire, the sharp caress of light re-
-fracting through a glass of rye, the ice
In weirding rivulets descends.
Incepted ever soon
And fulfilling always late,
It keeps its time and knows
Its own imperative, strange.
Would you halt desire?
Would you keep the seasons, still, from wheeling,
The leaf unfurled in Spring from
Falling when the crisp of Winter looms?
You would do as well to keep a child
In womb or halt the driving rain;
Suppress a wave from wild dance,
Give teaching to the wind,
Or guide the spheres in any other way.
Yet it is yours alone:
You set it forth, in motion, seem
To be the substance of its being –
Your portion irrefutably.
Your each constituent fibre formed
Of course desire, creatures bound,
And binding in cur’ious turns.
The low wind moans, as if it knew.
The fresh Spring leaf, so violent plucked
Has surely felt its grip.
The salt upon your skin, speaks all that I cannot –
Cool ripples in your water only
Knowing of my touch.
By peace and obscuring walls,
by field and forest halls,
by silence of a sacred type –
your voice, lost in the muskeg,
calms the building squall.
Your breath, in the morning,
leaves me low beneath the weight of oceans.
Your heart, a heavy Albertan sky,
that hides me under stone and loam and silent water.
Yesterday, in the rain, we were
the low sky and the earth –
eager for the touch of current.
Today, the storm, unbroken, passed
and we, by token, formed of stone,
deny the thunder’s ghost.
So these are the questions the Ocean would know.
It waits, an insistent vision tonight
that hungers beyond the trees
and asks by the wind, in soft
alchemical spells and ancient tongues.
For what does the Ocean not know?
In what insistent realm do its toes not feel the sand?
For from the sailor, it knows the king;
from the curve of the ship, the carpenter’s hands;
from the flood, the dirt and deep of every land.
Its questions are Babylon silver and
the orange of phoenix tongues
or the light of the stars in the sky,
when they all ascended in song.
But it holds, in the turning of waves,
ages uncounted in watery tomes.
So I have questions to ask it as well,
in hues as perplexing or true
as Autumn’s killing black or
the blue beneath a block of ice.
I ask why the meanest horizon of storm
brings lovers’ eyes and lips to mind.
I ask what part of me, if it knows, is good.
I ask for the words
that I never spoke.
The answer, then, is clear - on opulent breeze:
the ever returning waves
or birds of the sea that rest
on high swells of ocean air,
crying the strength of a lover’s claim.
And perhaps the Ocean is thoughtless and wild
and the wind as honest as lovers’ pains.
Your lips pull and tear
like slow waves
breaking on my beach.
The rock on which they fall,
worn deep, they score my bones
and pit them with a thousand rains –
eternal body to my body,
water to my stone.
I want a thousand years
so you can shape me in your image,
beat a tattoo of decades on my skin,
turn my body, stone, to sand
then carry to the ocean –
you will stir me and, renewing,
you’ll be body to my body,
constant water to my stone.
Then, when I am lost at sea,
sing hymns, pray prayers when you hear telling
of my ship in wicked weather,
for we have become humans.
No longer elements, we feel –
earth beneath our feet,
we feel clouds begin to break
and go on – like this,
till of age we pass, and rest
together in the shallow earth.
Soon, a thousand years go by
and seasonal rains arrive.
They trench deep rivulets
within our hidden bed.
And now a river courses through our bones,
milling our bodies, deep, to dust within the earth,
turning old flesh to new stones
and old bodies to new bodies
of water to melt into the heavens
that, with pregnant thunder, groan.
Rain your body on my body, and your water on my stone.
These roads are the traceries of corroding minds;
the cut from cactus valley
up to the blonde plateau
in shocks of dead grass – fallen locks.
Those hills surfeiture;
the bones of your wasted hips –
bleached stone – your
hungry body lying.
Your breasts – the empty
shadows of old hills from
the light across dry void
that aches – the dead land aches.
My mouth would dry on the chalk earth –
cheekbones – low mesas, sharp.
I want to dig oasis,
plant trees, give life –
verdant wild – fill your womb with a living child.