Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Native's Cape Breton Ditty

On the river’s pebbled bend
in woods where no voice was
save the river’s, grandma did not wish
the clear-cut rending of the air
by music from another realm.

How say the river’s flowing was?
She turned all accidental,
leaping over rocks in lullaby.

Had we been there awhile
or not awhile, all day an age
or just arrived, planned, by the by-

not sure; what stays with me it was
an afternoon of simple outing
held in the sun’s soft pulses
in which the sharp strains ushered from without
that lent the floor of stones,
the river’s odd fish-sprout,
the jig of mosquitoes,
some change, as of a vessel quelled:

Some clear procession about to be seen
was outlier, on the bend’s unseen
other length, coming where it curved
round on to our side. And at that
grandma forthright, started, bolt up.

“Get in the car! Now! Get! Now!”
Could not have been more adamant
had she found us in our reservation house,
were it burning beyond being put out,
when she started shoving us out. Out?

“Don’t look behind! Don’t!
In the car! Get! Now!” until within
the car that must've been some boat's rusted kin,
with the heavy doors you did not
want your fingers gotten slammed in,
she repeated her commands, might
well have told us look behind, for I did.

I did, back through the fleeing trail
down to the water where we were
instants ago: there luminous little men
in the gemmed grass astride the stones
began a circle-dance, joined their hands.

The leaves they left from showered voices
like streams leaked out in rows from cracked
pitchers, of which the sound’s brilliance
car’s shelter would not shut out,
until the rise its wheels rolled over
came up as we went down and walled it off.

What they call middle-age
is where I sit as now.
And little ones again I see
on the floor around me
(to whom I tell this ditty),
not though of that matter which
seems to flee as it does come,
but of my own flesh and blood.

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