Dr. William Henry Drummond Poetry Contest 2015
In The Museum by Susan Siddley
… love the calm
blessing the First People paintings.
Love the muted mauves and browns.
Want them spread through my house
washed over walls I´ve rashly painted
like a Rubik’s cube.
Love the teal wave of the river
morphing to orange in the evening sky,
the turquoise beads in the cradleboards.
I need to slide away in a birch bark canoe
that’s all sturdy thwarts and slow-creaking ribs,
unlike those on the floor below,
in a dinosaur, long as a row of houses,
with a handbag-sized brain.
Love the handsome, indigenous faces
framed with black hair.
Their flaring caribou skin-coats, whose
intricacies, it turns out,
were inspired in dreams.
Dreams not dashed like mine
when I read painter, Paul Kane,
Grief by Marsha Barber
We don’t navigate grief
as if all we need
is a compass and some spunk.
We absorb grief
into bone, blood, marrow,
part of us, we stoop —
not because of age
but because of all
the lost ones we carry.
They haunt our sleep.
They are everywhere:
in the smell of pumpernickel bread,
the soft brush of a hand.
In the right light, you can see them
in the waters
of Lake Timiskaming
reflected like dark branches
as we will be reflected, one day,
and eventually absorbed.
Listening to the Wren’s Song by Debbie Okun Hill
What is your name little one
as you flit and flirt
land on the spruce top
to soak up sun’s goodness
those healing powers
You are like a weathervane
perched on a church steeple
a feathered angel who sings
with a high pitched voice
Who are you calling?
Your notes carried on wind breath
If only you would hold still
for just a moment
I would put down my garden gloves
grab my embroidery hoop
so I may trace and thread
your image onto my pillowcase
so that I too may dream of flying
beyond the thistles
beyond the bindweed
that winds around my ankles
keeps me imprisoned
behind barbed wire fences
Be still for just one more second
allow my thoughts to wander
my escape mapped out
in feathered motifs
Sheep in Sun by Keith Garebian
Rocks clambering into russet,
the sturdy herder, staff in hand,
keeps close watch
of her wool-tufted
charges tugging at dry grass.
Small black hooves, busy bells.
The afternoon blinks
cloudless in noon glare,
sun’s blade cutting into the living.
Bleats and blares.
The far fields
glimmer to sheep eyes.
Slow white swaddling,
they let the tourist bus
pass, their beaded gaze,
dark tongues snagging
my attention, world outside the glass
I’m no keeper of sheep,
nor is my soul a shepherd
of seasons, observing
and following along.
Still, a sadness like sunset
falls on me
after the clanging bells.
A wanderer, a stranger
in any land.
The Way A Dock Waits by Marianne Jones
The way a dock waits
like a memory
for you to return to it.
The way it has weathered in the waiting
The way you recognize every stain, every marking
The particular lines and scars of each board.
The way it welcomes you
without reproach for your long absence.
The way it invites you, like a friend,
to study the water’s play,
the rocks beneath.
The way you remember this
until all else drops away.
The Trail by Marsha Barber
That morning we follow the muddy trail
through lush trees,
dip down to the curved path
where the lake laps wildly,
then continue past spruce, pine, fir,
wide-leaved, open to the sky,
soft light dappling the trunks,
trickles of sun dripping
onto our bare arms,
the steady hum of bees.
Yesterday as the moon waned,
rain lashed down.
You tell me you hardly slept,
dreamed wolves and bears were fighting
You couldn’t breathe.
We need to walk the trail, you say,
the place where we know
each curve of lake and grotto of trees.
We need to walk the trail
to set things right.
Pembina Berries by Sandy Campbell
Ahead of me on the trail
a voice says, “The bush is stinky today.
I don’t like it.”
But I like it.
It is a heavy tangy smell
that whisks me be back
to a warm September afternoon
on a bush track
searching for cattle
to be taken in for milking.
The whole understory of the aspen forest —
red-orange leaves that fade to pink and green,
hand sized bunches of scarlet berries —
each berry suspended on its own stalk.
Pembina berries — nothing smells or tastes like them.
Bright translucent skin with tart, juicy flesh
around a flat seed
that always seems too large for the berry.
Some call them high bush cranberries,
but as I soak up the scent and flavour and colour,
I imagine hundreds of years of Cree and Métis women
working their way through these bushes,
plucking Pembina berries
and collecting them in moose hide bags.
Directions for the End of Time by Pamela Dillon
Make a schedule of rising and setting
like the sun, a life of purpose
has at its heart — discipline.
Walk the dog, even if it rains
on your uncovered head, look up—
see the great birds leaving
in a V as high as God might
be. Know the ones who stay
will stay, and the ones who go—
must go, they belong to no one.
Everything fits in a galaxy of stars,
so make your life a legacy
of love. You said, "It takes someone
sturdy to carry on while waiting
for the great reveal, it’s not forever
this living." As small as the distance
of the universe lies between
us. Someday I’ll leave home,
and the warm bed as hard
as a fall from grace, as quick
as the last breath is slow.
You left me love
notes to read when I’m alone,
but I forgot to ask—
how I’d find you, and if
you’d write down the directions
for the end of time.