Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Landscape Doing A Moose

Heard, a bit late, that yesterday was a day to post poetry on your blog. Here is one that I love for many reasons written by John Steffler, who, until recently, was a resident of Corner Brook.

John actually was one of the very first people I met in Corner Brook when we were staying residence in Curling in 2001 as part of the Pouch Cove Foundation's west coast experiment (note that it is pronounced "pooch" not "pouch"). Colette Urban invited us to have dinner over at her place in Meadows because she had heard some artists were staying there. I still feel amazed when I think of it. She just called us up to invite us sight unseen and off we went to Meadows - a family of four no less!. We had never heard of Meadows or the North Shore but to say it planted a seed is a whopper of an understatement. We met John and his girlfriend there, along with Marlene MacCallum and David Morrish. Like any good American, I had no idea who these people were, except that they were very charming dinner companions who welcomed us into the homes and lives without reserve. The evening lives on in my memory in an almost dreamlike way. It was quite warm and we had BBQ fish and one of Colette's amazing salads. We even saw a minke whale swim up the bay: something I have never seen since. Who wouldn't have been completely seduced by that place?

A couple of years later, I asked John to record himself reading four of his poems for use in The House Museum. He graciously agreed and I tried installing them in the bathroom the first year. My hope was that, when one shut the door, the sound would start. But I never worked out the techincal details properly and it didn't work as I had hoped. Plus no one ever used the bathroom! I still have his recording of the poems saved and I will use them at some point when it feels right.

This is the one that has stuck with me the most, especially when we drive home from Stephenville.

That Night We Were Ravenous

By John Steffler

Driving from Stephenville in the late October
dusk -- the road swooping and disappearing ahead
like an owl, the hills no longer playing dead
the way they do in the daytime, but sticking their black
blurry arses up in the drizzle and shaking themselves,
heaving themselves up for another night of
leapfrog and Sumo ballet -- some

trees detached themselves from the shaggy
shoulder and stepped in front of the car. I swerved

through a grove of legs startled by pavement, maybe a
hunchbacked horse with goiter, maybe a team of beavers
trying to operate stilts: it was the

landscape doing a moose, a cow
most improbable forest device. She danced
over the roof of our car in moccasins.

She had burst from the zoo of our dreams and was
there, like a yanked-out tooth the dentist
puts in your hand.

She flickered on and off.
She was strong as the bible and as full of lives.
Her eyes were like Halley's Comet, like factory whistles,
like bargain hunters, like shy kids.

No man had touched her or given her movements geometry.

She surfaced in front of us like a coelacanth, like a face
in a dark lagoon. She made us feel blessed.

She made us talk like a cage of canaries.

She reminded us. She was the ocean wearing a fur suit.

She had never eaten from a dish.
She knew nothing of corners or doorways.

She was our deaths come briefly forward to say hello.

She was completely undressed.

She was more part of the forest than any tree.
She was made of trees. The beauty of her face was bred
in the kingdom of rocks.

I had seen her long ago in the Dunlop Observatory.

She leapt from peak to peak like events in a ballad.

She was as insubstantial as smoke.

She was a mother wearing a brown sweater opening her arms.

She was a drunk logger on Yonge Street.

She was the Prime Minister. She had granted us a tiny

She could remember a glacier where she was standing.

She was a plot of earth shaped like the island of
Newfoundland and able to fly, spring down in the middle of
cities scattering traffic, ride elevators, press pop-eyed
executives to the wall.

She was charged with the power of Churchill Falls.

She was a high explosive bomb loaded with bones and meat.
She broke the sod in our heads like a plow parting the
earth's black lips.

She pulled our zippers down.

She was a spirit.

She was Newfoundland held in a dam. If we had touched her,
she would've burst through our windshield in a wall of

That night we were ravenous. We talked, gulping, waving
our forks. We entered one another like animals entering

That night we slept deeper than ever.

Our dreams bounded after her like excited hounds.

1 comment:

Patti Blaine said...

That's beautiful Robyn. Thank you!