Wednesday, March 18, 2009

the one that knows your name.

jason has a chickadee-friend. feeding birds in hawrelak park, edmonton, march 1st, 2009

I'm parting with a lot of my books right now, because I have too many -- too many to bring over the ocean next autumn, & too many to leave behind in boxes in my parents' already cluttered basement. I'm starting to mail off (finally!) packages to friends living away, & poring over some copies for the last time in a little while. Many of them I know I will buy again, when I have a more stable bookshelf, and more space... But it's still a wee bit wistful to let them go.

My copy of Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit will always fall open to its penultimate pages, because I bent it over enough times to copy out a paragraph that was very pithy for me at the time I first read it (July 2004, 21 yrs old, oh my):

"The unknownness of my needs frightens me. I do not know how huge they are, or how high they are, I only know that they are not being met. If you want to find out about the circumference of an oil drop, you can use lycopodium powder, and I will sprinkle it on my needs and find out how large they are. Then when I meet someone I can write up my experiment and show them what they have to take on. Except they might mutate, or even disappear. One thing I am certain of, I do not want to be betrayed".

I'm now in a very different sort of mindspace than when I first read her, (& of course so much as happened!) but what still resonates the most strongly for me is the way she evokes desire and the intrinsic fear it carries. It has always struck me as deeply comforting, the way she writes of it; how she celebrates the fear of it, the faith in it, the freedom in it. This is at the very heart of every story she tells.

More from the same page in Oranges:

"There are many forms of love and affection, some people can spend their whole lives together without knowing each other's names. Naming is a difficult and time-consuming process; it concerns essences, and it means power. But on the wild nights, who can call you home? Only the one that knows your name."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

draft: part four of a poem not yet finished (though this is the last part).

dried flower bones, near sask. drive, edmonton, january 2009


i don’t know what moves me
like this, across these fields
like i have travelled them

before, following a crush
of fuzzy lupines, & your voice
stuck like a burr in my mind –

don’t know if it’s a dream
half-remembered, an aching
sightless & cellular

that is telling me i am exactly
where i need to be:
i feel your sweet seed-packets

sewn into the lining of my coat,
old-country nettles catching
on my dress –

a flock of bulbs is lies
eyeless, winter-deep in my skin,
subterranean birds curled in sleep –

onions & crocuses like
nesting dolls shedding a
thousand papery kerchiefs

& i open & i open,
& find you ever
growing there.

draft: part three of a poem not yet finished.

illuminated seedcoats, saskatchewan drive, edmonton, january 2009.


late october,
& i dream of you
in my kitchen:

o, doroha babusja!
call us in from the
fields now, from the

threshing & stoking
& singing, the chopping
of wood for the winter –

for we all eat round
the same table now,
you & every ancestor

who whispers in, pokes
a hole in the soft beeswax
of my cerebrum,

comes bearing gifts –

we’ll share that stubborn
gentleness, quiet relentlessness
& all that troubled wisdom

we’ll feast together
on roasted roots
that still taste of wet clay,

& the endless aching
centuries of sunshine
ground to flour –

we’ll make a toast
to this pantheon,
a pagan hagiography,

for there are no saints, no-one
except those who made us,
left us long before.

draft: part two of a poem not yet finished

fields, the acreage, october 2008


you had one thousand years
of orthodoxy in your mountains,
but still, you know better:

there is no paradise,
no such thresholding,
no either/or.

just the endless sweeping
of steppe-grasses, a slanting
of light on bare aspens
like honey falling on bone.

no tunnels to spit you
through blindness, no tubes
to suck you up into a bowl
pure whiteness –

just that everpresent whispering,
hushhush of the wind
in the barley,

a slipstream of voices
rushing through the wheat-ears,
calling us in from the cold.

draft: part one of a poem not yet finished.

bare trees, the acreage, october 2008.
“your eyebrows will be tangled up with the ancestors, you’ll see with the same eyes and hear with the same ears. won’t that be wonderful?” – wu-men, on solving a zen koan.


out in the fields, you looked
for the last time. travelling blurs
sharpened, & you saw only

the threshed hills rolling
into the silent black hearth
of the earth.

autumn passed, the geese
flew low; your shaky hands
followed their paths,

instinctual embroideries,
left piles of pillow-down
woven with snow.

then one day you slipped
away with the owl’s glide, &
slid like the fallen aspen-spine,

into the fallow of the field.
you fell asleep, fox with a
brushtail curled in shelter,

a soul gone bone-white
& blown clean
for dreaming.

Friday, March 13, 2009

kukuvala zozulen'ka...

footsteps on the frozen river, n.saskatchewan, edmonton, january 2009

I go to this site very often, just to watch this animation over & over again... I was introduced to the lovely artists of Tin Can Forest through their book Pohádky which was given to me as a Christmas gift by my dear friend Arwen. We spent an afternoon poring over the details of each illustration, & I was delighted to be able to recognize so many of the characters once mentioned to me by my baba & interpret the pysanka-inspired iconography. Tricksters, wise women, rusalky, the forest come alive... It was also a fitting introduction to showing Jason my most beloved film, Tini Zabutykh Predkiv (Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors)... as the pantheon of forest spirits figures prominently in that work as well.

I am currently particularly enchanted by this set of illustrations, called 'Domovoi' (house-spirit). Layered shelters, dark but warm, ancestral & hibernal. Certainly, some of it might be seen as sinister, especially by Western European sensibilities -- but I feel comfortable with this darkness, the ambiguity, the presence of death & the connection with ancestors tangled in the roots that brings forth life. These images evoke so many stories, feelings, songs, & I always feel this sense of wordless recognition when I look at them, wild & inchoate yet so deeply familiar; their work feels like such a home to me.