Poetry

Oh Canada (as sung on Vancouver Island)

Another spring cracks open
on the rocks as the seagull drops
living mussels on stone shore,
alights to tear the flesh.

I know the fierce gull.
I know the creature
torn from its shell.

Amidst the carnage
the sea laps, laps,
licks the stone foot of the house,
sea like a beast,
sea like a beast I know.
When I was a child it almost killed me.
The one who went before,
my mermaid sister,
drowned.

Yet I have learned to love
water: the ocean beyond measure,
every sea, the river of my birth,
the lake that pulled me under
into memory.
Finally we love the beast
that lets us live.

Red tulips burn above the bay, rock cress hangs
purple and white
yellow daffodils sing
an idiot’s song of colour
I can’t understand can’t understand it
the beauty foreign-bright gaudy nothing
is real here I am not real
my head floats past my feet
and I cannot retrieve it.

Oh Canada.

I try so hard with you
but nothing explains
your terrible polite immensity,
your merciless wind, your deaths,
which are my own.
Not to suggest that a country
is a family

but stating it unequivocally
a country is a family
and this is mine,
my country
my family.

I come back to them now
as water always comes back.
It is the dead
who teach us how to live,
well or badly, it is the dead
who teach us how to swim,
well or badly, it is the dead
who walk among us
but cannot spell our names.

I stand on the shore
looking at the mainland,
trapped between coming home
and leaving it, knowing like the convict
that something must change
or nothing ever will.

Oh Canada, Canada.
I regard the dark water
as coldly as it regards me.
The seals do not speak human.
The herons neither.
I no longer understand
what animal I am,
what is my language.
I only know one thing:

if I do not find the truth
on my own cold shore
then I cannot swim well
through this world.