The morning kitchen catches sunlight.
Stare out past the bare branches
into the strangeness of a November day
that cold as it is, grows colder.
The air is hung with yellow,
the darkness of red roses
living on and being almost human
and wrong, the sky as bleak as a man
seeking only himself, observing light,
hungry among the dying trees.
Can you hear me thinking?
By the Clay Road
The complicated turbulence of sky
catches itself in the shining silver
mirror of a rainpool. If, only if
I bend at a perfect angle
of torso to leg and head to neck,
a delicate background of tall stems
will frame in this water the bright
circle of filtered sun, the white
unlikeliness of reflected cloud. Only if
I bend to the luminous event.
Unexpected, astonishing, as if to enlighten or reward us,
they have come
at a slow walk, three horses far off and moving toward us
as winds thrum
as hoofs crush fallen leaves. Horses, mute riders sway,
prepare to vanish
again, fading slowly far down the tall aspen perspective in sunglow
which will burnish
the present with its tint of light and shadow at the angle
particular to beast, rock, this
hour of day, then dissolve into diminished after-events as plans entangle,
miss and dismiss.
The trail of those horses speaks the locked nature of sequence,
of the past,
each horse and silent rider diminished to a notion of perfect absence,
beyond recall, restored to the space
of possible skies,
which might define some other order, precision to attain peace
and grow wise.
The chalk-blue walls shape
this afternoon of favoured ghosts,
mysterious harmonies of the heartbeat,
the many years, day by day
from the astonishment of birth
to the astonishment of death.
The man who sings will call
remembrance into time,
the personal, the vivid
hover in a nowhere, a where,
a possible now, closely
present at the end, behind glass,
the known, seen through
the mysterious rooms, the house
remembered, the house
forgotten. Keepsakes, capture
of a moment, Dickens, Tennyson
bound in green, a platter,
the Wedgwood teapot,
shaving mug from the barber’s shelf,
in an Atwood rarity, a joke
inscribed long since.
An empty vase: the elegant curve
of clay spins the click of perfect
consonance, its rhyme
the music of its being:
not will but the accord of grace.
David Helwig is the author of more than 35 books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction including, most recently, About Love, 3 Stories by Chekhov (Biblioasis) and The Year One (Gaspereau Press), Duet and his autobiography The Name of Things (Porcupine’s Quill). The founder of the Best Canadian Short Story Series, he has edited more than 25 books for Oberon Press. In 2007 he won the Writers’ Trust of Canada Matt Cohen Prize for distinguished lifetime achievement. In 2009 he was appointed to the Order of Canada. His avocation, however, is not writing but vocal music. After abandoning this for some years, he returned to it in his forties and has sung with a number of choirs in Kingston, Montreal and Charlottetown. He has appeared as bass soloist in Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s St Matthew Passion, and Mozart’s Requiem. He currently lives in an old house in the village of Eldon in Prince Edward Island.
“Only if / I bend to the luminous event”–so lovely and true.