Monday, December 20, 2010

in support and solidarity with victims of sexual violence.

*this is the first blog post ever in which I have not posted a picture for you to look at, because I can't think of anything to use that would adequately express my disgust.

* * *


So, being in Siberia-land with slightly sketchy internet and a local newspaper that is well, rather local, I am often a few days late to what’s happening in the rest of the world these days. However, one of the blogs I always make a point of visiting when I have time, and a good connection, is This wondrous compendium of feminist blogging was created by the inimitable Sady Doyle, who for reasons I shall get to in a moment, deserves an amazing amount of praise for what she’s doing right now. More on that later.

If you haven’t heard, basically some stuff’s been happening over the past couple of weeks, and I’ve been reading a lot over the past few days getting caught up, from many sources. The aforementioned Sady Doyle has already written it all, unpacked the whole situation very thoroughly and thoughtfully, so if you are not clear on the lies and offences committed by members of various media organizations, Keith Olbermann, and Michael Moore, I suggest you read her well-researched timeline post full of links that dissects said quotes, with various sources given. But first...

What went down:

Basically, there is this thing called WikiLeaks (see Google for more information), of which a man called Julian Assange was the director. WikiLeaks, in short, is an organization that publishes classified or private documents that it gets from news leaks and anonymous sources, because they are all about bringing oppression to light and giving people access to information that governments and other people in power are withholding. So, it's about freedom of speech. Some people thing he is doing good things, others think he is doing more harm than good. This isn't the debate I'm interested in now.

Recently, at the end of November, WikiLeaks began releasing a number of American diplomatic cables, including many that are confidential and secret. This made the American government less than pleased, and many right-wing Americans very, very unhappy. Thus, the US government launched an investigation into Assange.

Now, this past August, two different Swedish women in two different cities brought forth allegations that Assange had raped and molested them. Assange denied these things. At first the case, to my understanding, was put aside for a bit, but then reopened.

When this all broke a couple of weeks ago, a few things happened. One thing is that Assange and his supporters got angry, and began accusing the women of trying to damage his character, and that the whole thing was a plot against him, concocted by right-wingers/the CIA, etc. to punish him for WikiLeaks.

This is when things got really awful. This is when some men who call themselves "liberals", "progressives", people who allegedly care about women's rights, did some really, really abhorrent things. Some men took information from the cases of the Swedish women, and told some lies, which they have refused to acknowledge and apologize for. For example:

Keith Olbermann, an American political commentator and writer, then went on Twitter and posted a link that named and thus endangered the Swedish women (who are now receiving death threats from Assange's supporters). Michael Moore, you know, that dude who is infamously dedicated to exposing oppression and sticking up for the suffering, then decided to laugh about the whole thing, state that this is nothing but a smear against Assange by those who oppose WikiLeaks, and post $20 000 in bail for Assange after the U.K. took him into custody regarding the rape cases.

Here is a thorough and reputable summary of what Assange is up for, if my attempts at a concise summary are not coming through.

Neither Keith Olbermann or Michael Moore has retracted or apologized for these statements. Moore continues to Tweet about Assange, but refuses to engage. (If you want to know more about exactly what he said, or are concerned that he is being misrepresented, here are some highlights.) And therefore, Sady Doyle and her supporters have started a Twitter tag, #MooreandMe, to put pressure on Moore, and to spread awareness of what is going on.

This is the post by Sady Doyle that made me cry, that has made me seethe with anger since I read it. She's being incredibly dedicated and brave, whilst putting herself, another survivor of harassment and assault, at risk. This is why I urge you to support her, spread this information and contribute to this campaign.

These women in Sweden, like many others, have everything to lose, especially against such a powerful person. They are not bringing up charges like this for fun. In a climate in which women are shamed and dismissed for reporting sexual violence, they are risking a lot.

PART TWO. Letter to Michael Moore

I am just sickened by this. I am annoyed by the irresponsible reporting, but absolutely far beyond disgusted by the hypocrisy of Moore, and reckless stupidity of men who just run around posting and publicizing the names of the women accusing Assange of rape. How can they possibly think this is okay? These women are now receiving death threats from Assange’s supporters. How can Michael Moore laugh in the face of all this?

It hurts my brain to see that these apparently well-educated, “progressive” thinkers cannot wrap their privileged little brains around the simple fact that:

a) supporting freedom of speech, herein represented by WikiLeaks; and

b) listening to women who have been victimized and taking their experiences seriously

ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. Also, an individual can do a good thing, like promote government transparency and accountability, and also do a horrible thing. Doing one good thing does not mean that we should give them a free pass on the horrible one. I like freedom of speech. I also like taking people who have suffered seriously. Especially when these people are usually told incessantly that their assaults were their fault, and are thus further shamed into silence. This is just one of the many things I am sick of keeping my mouth shut about, sick of biting my tongue until it bleeds.

Right now, the so-called “progressive” left, dominated by the voices of men, is doing all sorts of things that it simply should not do. Things that are disrespectful, and dangerous, & just generally abhorrent. They are contributing to the rape culture we are living in and I will not put up with this.

Keith Olbermann, in response to the "frenzy" of people tweeting at him and asking for an apology and redaction, has shut down his Twitter. And then of course, as mentioned, there's Michael Moore. I have been a little bit disturbed in the past by his general inability to see the shades of grey in any situation, & his tendency to sensationalize, but now I have simply had it with him.

This is a draft of my letter to him (it will be edited before being sent, this is just what I am wanting to say in my head). This is a letter of which he will be receiving a variation of each day until he does what the supporters of #MooreandMe are asking.

So, Mister Moore, your friend Obermann has left Twitter, and dismissed us as a bunch of hysterics. He’s taken his things and gone home with his fingers shoved up his years. But you are different, right? You are constantly calling on people to stand up to those in power in the name of those who are voiceless and defenceless. You are asking us to show our support for the downtrodden, for those who are ignored and forgotten in times of crisis. Where are you now, when all these women and men, both cis- and trans-, who have suffered, and continue to suffer from the aftermath of sexual violence, need your support?

Yes, maybe "WikiLeaks has saved lives", as you Tweeted (Dec. 14th, 9:33pm) but right now, you are helping to ruin the lives of the two women who have brought forth this case, and by refusing to acknowledge the women and men, cis- and trans-, who have suffered sexual violence, you are contributing to the shaming that is an inherent part of rape culture.

You asked once us all in “My Action Plan: 15 Things Any American Can Do Right Now” in regard to making a change in leadership, to: “Get creative. Think outside the politics-as-usual box. BE SUBVERSIVE! Think of that local action no one else has tried. Behave as if your life depended on it. Be bold! Try doing something with reckless abandon. It may just liberate you and your community and your nation.”

Well, we are doing something. Listen to us. I urge you to pay attention to #MooreandMe and what its supporters would like you to acknowledge and understand.

I want to remind you that you can be in support of the right to freedom of speech, this right that Assange is apparently upholding with his work in creating WikiLeaks AND (yes! it’s really true) you can take a stand against rape and sexual violence. You can denounce these things for what they are – crimes. I’m sure that many times in your career you’ve been frustrated by people who won’t take you seriously. Well, guess what. That’s how most people feel after they’ve been sexually assaulted. That they mean nothing, that they are irrelevant, that their traumas can simply be ignored.

You are an extraordinarily rich man, Mister Moore. If you can afford $20 000 to help spring an alleged rapist, you can afford another $20 000 to help people who have suffered or are at risk for suffering by people like him. At the very least, acknowledge us and apologize. Admit your mistakes, and follow your own advice. As I said, we are not going to let this go.


Finally, if you are a close friend of mine who is reading this and were intending to give me something for Christmas, please don’t worry about that. Instead, I encourage you with all my heart to do two things: get informed on this issue right now, and spread the word about #MooreandMe. On Twitter, on Facebook, via email, through any medium whatsoever.

Write a letter to Mister Moore. (, or he has a handy form on his website here.) Send him a reminder of his hypocrisy, tell him you are disappointed with his refusal to acknowledge those who are suffering, and with his refusal to apologize to those he has hurt, and to make the effort to learn a little more about why his “progressiveness” is so very regressive. Tell him that he needs to acknowledge the existence of not only the issue, but the PEOPLE affected by it. Remind him that people are not going to back down on this issue.

And please donate something, any money you can spare, to a charity that helps rape survivors and works to combat sexual violence, or to Sady and those at in honour of rape survivors everywhere, and the work everyone is doing to not let this issue drop and be swept aside. Far too many women I know have had to deal with rape and assault, and I want to honour their survival, I want to support them and those organizations that also provide support.

(If you're looking for something local in Edmonton to support, there's the Sexual Assault Centre at the University of Alberta.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

babushkas, baba yaga, ivan bilibin, etc.

Ivan Bilibin's Vasilisa Carries a Flaming Skull...

I miss my grandmother, my baba. As of the end of November, she's been gone 5 years now, and I still miss her so much, still wish I could be coming home to her this winter to tell her what I've been up to, to show her pictures and tell her stories, to bring her beautiful silver Sakha jewelery and sing songs with her after we finish dinner. I know I will always miss her, but I've been thinking of her especially often lately. Meeting Sakha ebeler (grannies) here -- especially a friend's ebe, who reminds me of my own babusya -- fills me with such a longing.

I've also been thinking about grannies in fairytales and mythology... grannies often play important roles in Sakha tales, & grandmothers in general here are especially revered. The Sakha often do not refer to places by name, rather, in deference and respect they call them 'ebe', or 'ehe'. Rivers, lakes, and places on the land are ebe, grandmother; bears and fires are ehe. If you catch a fish in a lake, that's not a 'fish', or balyk, that's a gift from ebe. And snowy owls, those are khaar ebe, snow grandmothers...

Being in Russia--even though I am in the far East, the non-Slavic part-- has also led me to re-read the fairytales illustrated by Ivan Bilibin (see Vasilisa up there). They are intricate and breathtaking, and just... right, I always feel that sort of rightness and satisfaction when I look at them, as if this is exactly the way something is supposed to be. (I also feel that when I look at the illustrations of Tin Can Forest) They strike some deep aesthetic sensibility in me that never fails to comfort and delight me. Look at them!

Image loading, please wait ...
Ivan Bilibin's Baba Yaga in her Mortar and Pestle

But grandmothers! Baba Yaga. The grandmother of all the grandmothers. Sometimes (especially in contemporary retellings) she is portrayed as malignant (a child-devouring, cranky old hag), but at her root, she is neither good nor evil. She's not concerned with such things; she simply is. She helps those who need help, even if that 'help' isn't what they're expecting; she gives you what you need, what you've got coming to you, whether you like it or not.

She dwells on her chicken-legged hut, & flies around in her mortar and pestle... These accoutrements are often said to betray her mixed Slavic-Ugric (Western Siberian, from the Mansi and Khanty people) roots, as huts on similar stilts are used from Eastern Europe to beyond the Urals as storehouses, homes for wooden ancestral idols, and cremation chambers. Often depicted as pointy and bony, with her own avian limbs, she is sometimes seen as the bird-mistress (esp. of magpies!), and an intermediary between worlds. Flying about in a mortar also links her to shamans who travel between the worlds; in many Ukrainian stories I've heard she dwells in a dark wood on the other side of a river of fire (the underworld) but flies up to the treetops to see what's happening, thereby reaching the world of the living. She is associated with both birthing and dying, and she spins (like any good baba!) and weaves lives and fates together; she's an ancestor, warrior, adviser, provider, and caretaker of her forest, She protects those she favours, and is basically not someone you might want to mess with.

Sometimes people have to travel to the underworld for her assistance; this is where my favourite tale comes in. I knew the story first as 'Vasylyna the Wise', but it's also called 'Vasylysa the Beautiful'.Anyway, for a number of reasons, I prefer the 'wise'; so few heroines are ever described as wise or clever, but they are always vaguely referred to as lovely, beautiful, etc. I resent this, and so would Baba Yaga, who is not so concerned with appearances (in fact, in the brilliant book by Dubravka Ugresic 'Baba Yaga Laid an Egg', Baba Yaga is the antithesis of all the sad old women fretting about aging) so my Vasylyna is Wise. Mudra. And here is her story, with illustrations by Bilibin. (please substitute 'beautiful' with 'wise' throughout).

It's not a perfect story, and not how I first heard it, because in it Baba Yaga is pretty crochety and threatening in it, as opposed to simply strict and ambiguous. However, besides including the illustrations of Ivan Bilibin (go & look at more of his pictures!), I like it for the role of the doll Vasilisa's mother gives to her at her death, the doll Vasilisa feeds (much like the treatment of idols in Siberia). Thus, her wisdom comes to her from her ancestors, the spirit of her mother who is always with her, & gives her the bravery and intuition to seek out Baba Yaga (who in this story is pretty cranky, but that's to be expected from the popular tellings). Baba Yaga gets snarky and unfriendly, but Vasilisa persists through her trials and gains knowledge. & there is really nothing better than the illustration of Vasilisa carrying a skull-lantern--the knowledge she earned in Baba Yaga's service--through the forest and using this light (given to her by her mother and Baba Yaga) against her detractors. Baba Yaga and Vasylysa are tough, resilient ladies, & the skull lantern is a potent image for me, one that I come back to in my thoughts especially when dealing with difficult people, especially those of the misogynist variety. Baba Yaga wouldn't put up with that shit, & neither would my own babusya, who is pretty much the toughest person I've known.

Ivan Bilibin's Vasilisa Enters the Forest, Sees the White Rider

Looking at the portrayal of Baba Yaga in the newer tales (as in the last hundred or so years -- not ancient!) as cranky and awful, I am reminded about a difficult truth that I have been noticing in contemporary Ukrainian and Russian society. In short, it seems sometimes as if women are not fully respected unless they are mothers; women who do not have children are seen as extraordinarily pitiful and incomplete even more so than in other countries I've lived in, and a woman who does not want children tends to be seen as particularly suspect, and potentially unstable. So yes, Baba Yaga is a babushka, but she is childless. Thus, she cannot quite be trusted! Also, she's kind of homely. Strike two! Therefore, she must be evil. Sigh.

As thus as a (quite contentedly) homely woman who (very, very happily) intends not to breed, Baba Yaga is especially my friend.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

hedgehog in the fog

The village of Oktemtsy, Khangalassky Ulus, Sakha Republic, in the not-quite-fog-yet-season (November 2010)

I recently saw one of the loveliest short films, Ёжик в тумане, or Ëzhik v tumane, 'Hedgehog in the Fog'. Created in 1975 by the Soviet animator Yuriy Norshteyn, and based on a fairytale by Sergey Kozlov, it's one of the most meditative, quiet, slightly unsettling but ultimately sweet little things I have ever seen. Much like my dear Moomins, the curious yet anxious Hedgehog and the other characters are philosophical little creatures, & they resist all moralizing and summarizing. Deeply existential, they quietly explore without explaining. They wonder about what happens to horses in the fog, about why the owl is so noisy, about who or what they will find there, amongst the trees; & they accept the help of a mysterious Someone so that they might find their friend to drink tea with jam & count the stars.

Here he is, lost in the fog with a satchel of jam...

Beloved by all generations since it first came out, elements have also entered linguistic culture, too; I was told by a friend here that people often refer to the film when someone is confused, or feeling altogether rather lost, saying they are "kak ëzhik v tumane", like the hedgehog in the fog...)

Please, do go watch it. It's on YouTube here. (and apparently downloadable here, but I haven't tried it as my internet can't handle it)
& if you like, you can decorate your Chrome Browser with the art here.

Photograph of the fog-horse from Leah Bolvig, here.

Friday, November 05, 2010

another gratuitous bird photo

Sparrow, Yakutsk, early October 2010.

Here is another bird-picture I like. Sparrow-take off!

Also, I can't remember if I mentioned it, but I am indeed making blog-posts about living in Yakutsk on my old Scotland blog. More photos there! Not all of birds, I promise.

Friday, October 29, 2010

sleepy sparrow

Nesting in a sunny nook on the Sakha Teatra fountain... (Yakutsk, Sept. 2010)

Oh, did I wake you with my camera-shutter? Let me pick you up & put you in my flannel pocket!
(Yakutsk, Sept. 2010)

It's getting colder in Yakutsk, down to about -20C now, and the cheeky little sparrows are getting spherical.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Yes, more little waxwings, sviristeli,* perching on ash and red-currant trees in the Zalog area of Yakutsk. More of them, because as I said, these creatures make me a wee bit less homesick. I never saw one last year in Scotland, & perhaps that's why I suffered such an acute sense of dépaysement** the whole time.
*that's Russian for waxwing, sviristel'. I don't yet know the word in Sakha.
** new French word I learned that I love... It refers to the sense of disorientation you always feel when not in your home country. It's more than homesickness; it's the feeling of never quite adjusting to living amongst the new scenery, even after you start to feel at home.

waxwing silhouettes

Waxwings again, Yakutsk, October 2010.
Silhouettes in autumn afternoon sun. I love when the wind ruffles their head-feathers, giving them wee mohawks.

waxwings on wires

Bohemian waxwings on wires, Yakutsk, Sakha Republic, Russia. October 2010.

I wish I could express what a comfort it is to me that my favourite bird lives in this city. It's subtle things like this that make me feel a little more at home.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Graffiti on the giant grey sphere (the moon, I think) on Kirova street, Yakutsk, Sakha Republic, Sept. 2010

Sakha language graffiti on the stone in the old town, commemorating the city's founding, Yakutsk, Sakha Republic, Sept. 2010

More moon-ball graffiti, Yakutsk, Sept. 2010

Dear blog (which is nearly 5 years old!), & blog-readers, if you are out there,

Contrary to what it may seem, I do still intend to write things here! Yes! However, in the past month, I've been a little busy, packing up & travelling off to Siberia (the Sakha Republic/Yakutia -- I'll be based in the city of Yakutsk) where I'll be for 9 more months, doing my PhD research in (linguistic) anthropology.

As for exactly what I am up to, I am still not so good at the little research-in-a-nutshell descriptions, but mostly I tell people I am interested in their experiences of bi- and multi-lingualism (in this case, Sakha-Russian, primarily, with some other local languages possibly thrown in the mix, like Evenki) in terms of how they live their lives through language. And of course, how processes like urbanization affect these sorts of things, all the politics, global, federal, local, etc. But lately, I've particularly been trying to discuss how through language and communicative practice, we experience, and express the world. We make connections, create relationships through language. And I am interested in the choices people make when they use language, in terms of what influences those choices, and in turn how those choices shape their lives, & the lives of others.

I will be blogging here, anyway, but mostly posting poetry & photos & such. But I hope soon to start a Yakutsk-blog in particular, which will probably be mostly image-based (to give myself a break from all the language work, perhaps) or tell you small stories about the quirks of quotidian life here as I discover the place.

But there's no blog set up yet, as this past month has been hectic & I have been trying to settle in & get started. In the meantime, some Tove Jansson, from Moominland Midwinter, on how sometimes it is difficult to make connections, to make our words & our selves understood:

(but first, if you want to make yourself understood -- at least a wee bit -- in Sakha, you can see a list of basic phrases here!)

A herd of small creatures with spindly legs came blowing like a wisp of smoke over the ice. Someone with silvered horns walked stamping past Moomintroll, and over the fire flapped something black with large wings, which disappeared northwards. But everything happened a little too quickly, and Moomintroll never found time to introduce himself.

"Please, Too-ticky," he asked, pulling at her sweater.

She said kindly: "Well, there's The Dweller Under the Sink."

He was rather a small one, with bushy eyebrows. He sat by himself, looking into the fire.

Moomintroll sat down beside him and said: "I hope those biscuits weren't too old?"

The little beast looked at him but didn't reply.

"May I compliment you on your exceptionally bushy eyebrows?" Moomintroll continued politely.

To this the beast with the eyebrows replied: "Shadaff oomoo."

"Eh?", asked Moomintroll, surprisedly.

"Radamsah," said the little beast fretfully.

"He has a language all his own, and now he believes that you've hurt him," Too-ticky explained.

"But that wasn't my intention at all," said Moomintroll anxiously. "Radamsah, radamsah," he added imploringly.

This seemed to make the beast with the eyebrows really overcome by rage. He rose in great haste and disappeared.

"Dear me, what shall I do?" said Moomintroll, "Now he'll live under our sink for a whole year more without knowing that I just wanted to be friends with him."

"Such things happen," said Too-ticky.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

a land not mine

driftwood sculpture, lesser slave lake, alberta, august 2010

sunset & reflection, lesser slave lake, alberta, august 2010

* * *

A land not mine, still
forever memorable,
the waters of its ocean
chill and fresh.
Sand on the bottom whiter than chalk,
and the air drunk, like wine,
late sun lays bare
the rosy limbs of the pinetrees.
Sunset in the waves of ether:
I cannot tell if the day
is ending, or the world, or if
the secret of secrets is inside me again.

(this translation by Jane Kenyon)

Friday, August 06, 2010

ice-fishing ii

my father & a feisty perch on a lake, near st. albert, jan. 2010

skeleton of water hemlock, near st. albert, jan. 2010

field grasses by a lake, near st. albert, jan. 2010

It is August, and I have neglected posting for two months now, I know. After I defended my PhD fieldwork proposal in mid-June, I have been summering at home in Edmonton in preparation for going to Siberia for aforementioned fieldwork. I've been making things & taking photos & thinking about things, but not really sitting down long enough to do much with them. This is a recently finished-after-many-months, very unseasonal poem.

* * *

ice fishing II*

arching sedge bows low on the

shoreline, weeping into the snow.

slice my finger open on the auger,

cut skin gaping, a flared gill.

your lake lies in winterkill,

a thousand trout white bellies up

& bursting like cold willow

stems, flickering in the dark water,

snowflakes frozen to the sand.

there are two worlds here, in

the water: one obsidian sharp,

one soft as amber. from land

i call, how are you, down there,

father? but the voice i hear

is wasp’s nest hollow, awake

and gasping for air. how

do i lure you, now, out of

this dark season? where weeds

sway as if shadows only in the

memory of bent light? o

father, it was just a leech**,

you know, who sucked a small

hole in the sky’s white flesh, let winter

bleed out, suffuse into sun –

* * *

*ice-fishing I is in the March 2008 archive (scroll down for March 13th entry)
** the leech is part of a dän k'è story i heard in the yukon, & you can read about a lovely film that incorporates the story here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

poem draft about seashore at night; pictures of seashore in the day.

aberdeen beach at bridge of don, early evening, may 2010

the waves at night come like

small pale hands that spread

their fingers, soothe the sand:

the sea a grandmother i never knew

who puts the shore to bed: turns

the rocks over and over again,

worry polishing stones in shaken

palms, smoothing a coverlet

of froth. in the lessening light

her hair feathers out, white winter

cirrus, frost on the marram-grass,

prayers in a soft littoral whisper.

stand there, barefoot, sand beneath

a cupped sole, tides sucked up

by the shelled mouth of the moon,

each wave like a memory,

remembering comes inland:

skims cerebral ridges in the sand,

a piece of driftwood, inscribed with

runic toothmarks of that old

golden retriever, ever rushing

out & fetching as the waves recede,

reside. she hums a tune you

don’t recognize, like waves it’s

ever the same, it’s never the same

break twice: creeping waters will

comfort, endanger, wash

mussel shells lying butterflied,

their split spines salt-stuck, haunted

tide-marks lace your legs. but hush,

now, hush, her hands brushing

your brow, pebbles trace

each trailing thought to

renew, erase, recreate.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

why i love tove jansson (part one of many, i am sure)

waterfalls of dry grass & moss on slate, patricia lake, jasper, march 2010

I can't believe I've never written about her in this blog before, because I've been in love with her writing for at least a year now... but Tove Jansson is incredible, & I'd like to attempt to explain why. I could write a lot, I think, about her brilliant Moomins*, which basically are existentialist novels for children, or analyse exactly why I want to be just like Grandmother in The Summer Book when I am old... but I'd rather let her words simply be, because that is what they do. They are simple & draw you into their truths, small little truths that suddenly sprawl open, refreshingly & widely & sometimes painfully, but they leave you with such a calm, such a reassurance, because this is what is & you have to be tough & that is beautiful in & of itself.
So I imagine I'll be returning to her words in the next while, because they are giving me a lot of comfort at the moment, but for now, an excerpt, from my favourite Moomin book (thus far), Moominland Midwinter:
On the other side of the lamp, someone had dug herself a cosy hole, someone who lay looking up at the serene winter sky and whistling very softly to herself.
"What song is that?" asked Moomintroll.
"It's a song of myself," someone answered from the pit. "A song of Too-ticky who built a snow lantern, but the refrain is about wholly other things."
"I see," Moomintroll said and seated himself in the snow.
"No, you don't," replied Too-ticky genially and rose up enough to show her red and white sweater. "Because the refrain is about the things that one can't understand. I'm thinking about the aurora borealis. You can't tell if it really does exist or if it just looks like existing. All things are so very uncertain, and that's exactly what makes me feel reassured".
*If you grew up without Moomins in your life, you should probably remedy that & meet them, & go find the books immediately. Then find someone with whom you might enjoy reading them aloud, it's the best way. & don't bother watching the animated shows. They are a disappointment & are generally devoid of all philosophy & charm.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

letter from deeside (poem)

old pasture fence, kinloch rannoch (not deeside) , april 2010
poem draft.

letter from deeside, march 12.

in the backseat of a car rolling through deeside
the air is shocked with starlings; across the field
rooks peck away in the melting, & i will that
distance to melt, bring you here reeling beside me.

i want us to be the earth that piled the stones
here, in long crumbling fences dreamed
up between the roots, the yearly remembering &
forgetting held in the rings of trees;

i want to walk with you in those peripheries
beyond the edge of the fields, into the margins
of this country, among the soft yellowed bones
of sleeping grasses and the tea-coloured burn;

where the land is the same colour as spring
where we come from, the place where you are
now & the place that is ours & no longer
as we remember, shifting like a solar glory

over the peaks of our peregrinations, on
the river like sun-beaten copper, weaving
between the bare birches & overflowing
the trembling spring sands of the bank.

sometimes i just want the stillness that
can never be, for it’s too much an ache,
this passerine life: never perching anywhere
long, perpetual migration between continents—

but in the backseat of a car rolling through
deeside i suddenly felt you near me, curling
around gently my fingers like the soft claws
of a bird, wings shaking out breath:

& i felt then a nearness i never imagined,
& i felt myself touch with your own hands.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

this is what i am made of.

this is my home; the land i am made of.
(a home for pollen)
(a home for seeds & vitamins!)
(a home that longs for water to visit)
(a home for wind)(this is a boll, a weevil's home)
(a forest of old wheat bones)
(a vast home, at the edge of the earth)
(cones, the tiny homes for seeds)
(double-storied home for magpies)
(a home for buds & leaves)
From Erin Moure's poem 'The Unseizable Elegy', in her new book O Resplandor:
To spring from our own earth
in the very sowing of such light; though winter
now ices lichen at the oasis of our dawn, spring
will write the length of laughter.
Springing from my own centre
where, human and alone, i'm haunted
by the net of love,
or purely and simply when winter
falls away and spring
is misting space in a wide circle
seeding hearts intimately
with the space of love's own unseizable margins.
Amazingly there is a cure
in spring,
the knowledge of seeds that speak life in the sowing
as earth already speaks of earth.
But more urgent than anything
we are seeds, we are
what wanders in all partings still,
and our place is also in the light that streams from eyes
of from a field, the field of grasses
grown before our eyes -- us with our ourness
not yet undone, though some say it hardens as do molten metals,
yet we still sow fire with our beings
to help us work in work's torrent
in the place of cherished tremors
in which our work is yet to be born.
More urgent than anything
we are seeds, and implicated
in the rising of our own selves as we hazard a way outward
to where exaltation rises,
to where parting bears the name of spring.
To be in being and laud the phenomenal, again and again
laud the phenomenal.
To be yet in being
these seeds spring up for us, unseizable
in our own earth.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

geological poem #1

(all photos taken in Kananaskis, near King Creek canyon / Iyarhe na kiska (Goat Mountain)
& Marl Lake, for the loon, June 2009)

when my father sleeps

when my father sleeps, he dreams
of the loon’s vertiginous whooping,
the strength of bones so unhollow:

envies that solid skeleton, a watery
gravity pulling it close to the earth
as he searches in the swirls of clay, ready

to remake a world. when he sleeps
he dreams he is rich like the marl
in the fens, made of sweet grey milk

to feed emptied bones, karst-ridden;
he doesn’t know where the waters go
when they disappear beneath him,
into the cerebrum of unknown crust.

when my father sleeps, he is deep
below the earth, watching fossils calcify,
haunted by the pressure of the core.

with each mottled fragment, he marvels
at the sightless molecular migration,
minerals gathering together, unifying

those million mayfly lifetimes. when
my father dreams, it’s all equal:
everything so swift to a rock.

nothing is briefer, more sudden,
more painful on the surface. the loon
dives, no one lingers more than another.
we all sleep early, sleep young.