Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Portage - Gwendolyn MacEwan

We have travelled far with ourselves
and our names have lengthened;
we have carried ourselves
on our backs, like canoes
in a strange portage, over trails,
insinuating leaves
and trees dethroned like kings,
from water-route to
seeking the edge, the end,

On earlier journeys we
were master ocean-goers
going out, and evening always found us
spooning the ocean from our boat,
and gulls, undiplomatic
couriers brought us
cryptic messages from shore
till finally we sealords vowed
we'd sail no more.

Now under a numb sky, sombre
cumuli weigh us down;
the trees are combed for winter
and bears' tongues have melted
all the honey;
there is a loud
suggestion of thunder;
subtle drums under
the candid hands of Indians
are trying to tell us
why we have come.

But now we fear movement
and now we dread stillness;
we suspect it was the land
that always moved, not our ships;
we are in sympathy with the fallen
trees; we cannot relate
the causes of our grief.
We can no more carry
our boats our selves
over these insinuating trails.

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