- Three Poems
Sing to me, she said, sing me the name of the man turned to stone. Again and again remind me of the hero— and what it is I need to know about currents and tides in this burial place.
What of the mask and the moon’s blue face? Where do you go when you go far away? Here where the river meets up with the sea, oh sing to me, Papa, the story of water.
Am I not your beautiful daughter? Sing me to sleep, sing me awake, teach me to see the shape of the old in the haze of the city and all of your ghosts— is it true that we’re made of rubies and clay? Stay with me, Papa— sing me oh sing me the very first names.
Porch lights have come on all down the street. In front of one of the houses a white cat sleeps on a pillow in a dugout hollowed by fire. If you could look back, you’d see an old man tending that fire. You’d hear the river talking to the stones, the grass shrugging off the wind. The smell of red cedar would put you to sleep. You’d see a dog tied to the clothesline with a long leash and a colossal log drying in an old shed. The old man has nothing to do with magic but that doesn’t stop [End Page 87] the carved bear from rocking or the feast dish from dancing. He offers you bread and jam at his table with the blue-and-white plastic tablecloth. He gives you a new name. It’s late. You haven’t stayed up like this for a long time. It’s a kind of visit. He didn’t come to you; you had to go to him. The dead, you realize, are preoccupied with winter. The river will freeze. All of us will need a sturdy boat, a few provisions. Each time he pokes the fire it bites down hard: when you look up you can’t tell the stars from sparks.
Styawat: Wind that Blows the Clouds Away
All summer you watched the clouds. Shapes shifted: swans turned into fish, winged horses plunged through white drifts.
Shadows moved across the ground. Impossible to know fact from myth— All summer you watched the clouds. Shapes shifted: swans transformed into fish.
Your grandfather remembers a time when salmon walked out of the river as men. Your small face lifts. You are the wind that brings the sun, he whispers. All summer you watched the clouds, shapes shifted, men turned into fish, winged horses plunged through white drifts. [End Page 88]
Eve Joseph grew up in North Vancouver. Her first book of poetry, The Startled Heart (2004), was nominated for the Dorothy Livesay Award. Her second book, The Secret Signature of Things (2010), was shortlisted for the Victoria Butler Prize and the Dorothy Livesay Award. She received the 2010 P. K. Page Founder’s Award for poetry and the 2010 Malahat Creative Nonfiction Prize.