Selected Poetry

Rosemary Clewes

Letting in the Light

For Donald Newlands

The #4 Car to Ottawa is neither
an airstream trailer of the rails
nor a Pullman carriage affording the 19th Century luxury,
a lounge and meals on your lap. In today’s world
there is no place for the large suitcase under your seat,
yet the first lurch and rhythmic sway out of the
train shed feels just right.

There’s a first time for rocking and for leaping down
the dropped steps on ten year old legs into the welcome
          lantern light.
Once it took twelve hours from Union Station to
         Algonquin Park:
the night wrapped in wet pines as adult hands reaching out
of glistening slickers gathered ours;
held at bay the folded forest, the lake’s black lap
at midnight.
            And so we were transported.

              As a matter of fact, no one said then,
you’d feel thunder in your feet if you stood
between the coupled cars, rolling over the ties,
A cinder in your eye if you hung over the side
smoke burning the corners of your throat.

As the train eats track from Cobourg to Kingston,
bare trees whistle up the lake’s bald pate,
the flash-by-do-nothing-houses idle like flatcars
on a siding in serial disorder after the winter’s blue yawn.

Diesel, this diesel, with its tin whistle and thin-as-a
-rail look, has relinquished forever the
big time railroading of yesteryear.

Even so, it comes as a thump in the gut:
slam of air and iron shudder jolting my spine.
     The westbound’s solitary beam hurts my eyes
as the oncoming freight topples
telephone poles like a deck of cards in the turmoiled air;
air, forcing the sky to make room
before the curtain of iron kills the view.

                                                    Up close the boxcars whiz
by the window. I want to touch them, reach beyond
the frame, taste the deafening death zone of speed
and pulse, ride until I tire on the saddle
of the coal-black tanker
fleeing like an African god in the sparking light.

There are days when I long for the world
to throw spikes in my eyes.
This way of letting the light in.

I lean back now embracing
the illusion
of the great escape.
Take a train any day, anywhere will do.
Click, clickety-clack.


From Paper Wings

Dawn. No leaven in the light. The bay
surrenders, straightening waves. Time sulks
and wind, pining for news of the forest’s green
hangover, won’t lift its head. How can
I set sail while earth fucks up, swap dawn
for the coke machine, add fizzle to the pop?

Take a hike, as they say:
skinny dip with strangers.
Buttonhole angels in any state of undress.
Let teenage evangelists feed you wurst and brot.

On Cave Point Lookout now, I’m easy
with the day playing dead. While Icelandic kiddies drum
a ring around the sun, foretelling daybreak
by the collar bone constellation, I’m stringing necklaces
of my own polar pictures in the lake’s cool lap.

Relieved now of the close heat of trees, I’ll tell you stories
about the ship’s red grip refusing to bow to ice,
about possession by light.
Believe me about horizons: infinity’s
                                         tusk is in me.

Look, fearless ivory gulls, winging white.

Out of Synch

Waking, against our will
        to cycles out of synch,
winter losing its bite, or
       biting in the wrong places.
Mistimed migrations.
      The North Pole swimming
                                         in blue soup.

August afternoons
      clouds of Monarchs would lift and land,
sipping nectar from sunflowers and lavender spears.
                                                                         Not this year.
On moonless nights I fear
we are cratering this overheated world.
Like gods we stride the Earth with clamped hearts,
for immortality before our prime.