Two Poems from What is Long Past Occurs in Full Light by Marilyn Bowering
August 20, 2019
Marilyn Bowering's newest
What is Long Past Occurs in Full Light (Mother Tongue Publishing) is a collection that meditates on absence, loss, and the natural world which Jane Munro calls "Tender. Passionate. Informed. Haunting. [...] giving us much to reflect on as we, too, engagewith the intense presence of a past we, and the Earth, have lost.” Scroll on to read two poems from What is Long Past Occurs in Full Light.
and a note in the bottom of my shoes: my family will need
to know what happened. I carry keys, in case everyone is absent
the day I return. I know it has to do with the sea
and a fixed aid to navigation giving cardinal direction,
although I am not about to set sail. Mostly my eyes are on the ground
where people drop clues—gloves, hats, tissues—before they continue.
The world will end, but not its sadness: that island so close
that if the tide were out, I could walk to it,
once held the bodies of the dead in its wind-stunted trees.
I am looking, instead, let me say it, for happiness.
The whole affair gives me the sense of heading out into open waters,
yet I linger under a green umbrella
and deconstruct chewing gum wrappers and crushed beer cans,
and track a hermit crab as it clicks and clambers out of its shell
and looks for another. My heart remains quiet,
and so I listen, without giving consent,
to the waves’ cursive account of my life.
It is difficult to change. I could climb to the height of that island,
once the waters retreat, but it is flood time now,
and I see what I see with a penlight and the quick
skipping beam of a lighthouse, its pulse like a heartbeat.
What I’ll come back with, I have no idea,
but happiness is always ready to speak.
“Advance,” it says, “undress and enter the currents,
but above all, keep up with your finite measure of time
and its drumbeat, and call out through the shoals without stopping—hello,
hello, hello, hello, hello.”
* * *
You, age, you are not cheerful,
Though we don’t know how to avoid you.
—Dòmhnall mac Fhionnlaigh nan Dàn
The cove of my heart
where the swans swam,
the sun glassed
and alive on the waves.
A boat scraped ashore,
and friends now distant,
stepped onto an island.
Seated under the tree-roofed sky,
the hills to uphold me,
the mist for company,
and a dog on watch,
what could be better?
Traffic sullies the quiet,
the trees empty of birdlife:
I will not say more about age,
but why take everything
and leave us blind
to the Milky Way?
* * *
Marilyn Bowering is a poet, novelist and librettist. Her awards for poetry include the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, the Gwendolyn MacEwen Poetry Prize and several National Magazine Awards. She has twice been nominated for the Governor General’s Award. Her most recent books are Soul Mouth and Threshold: An Encounter with the Seventeenth-century Hebridean Bard, Màiri nighean Alasdair Ruaidh (Mary MacLeod), and the novel, What It Takes to Be Human. Marilyn Bowering lives on Vancouver Island.
All Lit Up is produced by the Literary Press Group and LitDistCo. LPG and LitDistCo acknowledge the financial support of the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council.
All views expressed by bloggers and contributors to the All Lit Up blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of All Lit Up or the Literary Press Group.
All Lit Up acknowledges we are hosted on the lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat. We also recognize the enduring presence of all First Nations, Métis and the Inuit people, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to meet and work on this territory.