This morning I heard from you for the last time. And I noticed
through the silent window, wind possess the bodies of trees
and comb through the yellow hair of stripped cornfields.
I opened every window to let the wind break in and steal what it could,
or at least erase the things I could no longer carry.
It’s evening now, and the cold the day left sleeps
in the chair beside me, breathing quietly as I write.
We never see ghosts, we always feel them.
We forget each season how this plague is so lovely:
the skyblood of blue birds, bees’ orange leaves,
rain yellowed in tall grasses. Gust-blurred trees,
gesturing their scoured rags. I need to imagine this
as loss. I see love in that. I see it the same way
I watch the trees, masts, pulling away what’s inside,
their knuckled fingers and knots of cartilage
muscled in stony moss, roots, a body,
that swallows another body. Here, I uncover yours.
You lean into the tree over Nassagaweya Canyon,
not yet prepared, this moment, to desert. You continue,
instead, to inquire for a movement that will still you.
You’re dressed for it, your orange sweater, red lipstick.
But, is it a flag, surrender to the bluster,
and the day’s patched-up camouflage
that loss has fitted for you, as loss obliges?
We know the tree travels toward another death,
into a disaster of lights: reds, oranges, blues,
reds, oranges, blues, and we watch as they paint
bridges across the vanishing firmament of the canyon,
Imitating rain, imitating birds, imitating sparks
that in an another time might have been souls
unpuzzlling from a body, enacting the same floating sensation
of music. It is in this way that I see you as another season.
I see that it lets you fall away into an emptiness, or as
you call it, a spacious sail. Every season, though, is prodigal,
and returns to earth because earth is the most spacious.
You’ll make landfall. You’ll press against roots brailled
with the tree’s final words: “turn around, look down to your feet,
see all of these beautiful colours you’ve become.”
Perhaps if I told you your face is the moon’s,
a rock, bright, defying all, but most of all, gravity,
carving flight paths of stone that land
then fly again from the surface of a lake,
you would find there’s nothing too heavy for flight.
And, perhaps if I drew your hands on my back,
you’d see how two birds touching down make
stillness out of tumult. And, have you heard that
words are stones, chipped away from faultlines we cannot
read, but whisper, write me. And, can you understand
that when you lean into my arms,
all that you are is a root, curled and naked,
climbing from the boulder split, which cannot drink
the rain it feels, or see, despite the sun that pours on it,
cannot understand, only witness, the scent of its silence,
the magnitude of its flower.
By Al Purdy
see myself staggering through deep snow
lugging blocks of wood yesterday
an old man
almost falling from bodily weakness
— look down on myself from above
then front and both sides
white hair — wrinkled face and hands
it’s really not very surprising
that love spoken by my voice
should be when I am listening
yet there it is
a foolish old man with brain on fire
stumbling through the snow
— the loss of love
that comes to mean more
than the love itself
and how explain that?
— a still pool in the forest
that has ceased to reflect anything
except the past
— remains a sort of half-love
that is akin to kindness
and I am angry remembering
remembering the song of flesh
to flesh and bone to bone
the loss is better
Where did I want to go with you, the brick streets,
the old town, that church. You’d think there’d
be some light, not this strangeness in the world
laid out in eyelets of rock-brailed roads
and the jelly sockets of prayer candles.
You’re right: I’m weak as a boy — to see,
I must be amazed everyday,
for certainty may only be in the unliveable
stories of faith, here, where I saw the arrow of flame
for the first time testing the air then jumping
from your hand back in to the marvellous
we each breathed.
Where did I want
to go with you.
The brick streets,
the old town and
You’d think there’d
be some light.
Not this strangeness
in the world
laid out in
of rock-brailed roads
the jelly sockets of
in the basilica.
You’re right: I’m
as a boy — to
I must be amazed
The only certainty
stories of faith,
for the first time
testing the air
from your hand
back in to
The leaves in the trees by the river
hold briefly. The way I held her close,
before the rain passed over,
and the river rose, slipped away.
Every colour’s falling now,
every Autumn bird
who’s never touched ground
is planting herself
with her own yellow hands
into gardens more lovely than
It’s October and I have not
written a word in two weeks,
other than imitations of Bashō,
each yellowed page
holding an insect, a centipede perhaps,
a small blackbird.
Nevertheless, I’m beginning to
understand his kinds of silences,
like the steadfastness of roots
undisturbed in their underworld.
That is how
I sit on the old sofa listening to
the sound of rain in the yellow trees,
the way I hear,
as they sway knots of silence,
their coldness that tightens
It seems intentional,
lines that will cannot scrape
borders of emptiness,
like these angles of rain diving
across streams of rooftops.
I don’t want to shut my eyes
and tease out words, and
find how readily they are willing
to become scraps that,
when I dot my pen against them,
circle around other lives; for instance,
these raindrops that touch water
to explain in brief rings
their already dying planets.
I let them stick to darkness, instead.
the leaves are pretty,
the way they rot, becoming glue.
Here, like small hands,
not even they hold on.