Radiants – Glyn Hughes
When the larks fly off –
not singly ascending but, at summer’s end,
nests abandoned, in a flock
swift, low over fields –
tiles of light are scattered on their wings
as if some brightness up there has been shattered.
I fancy that in such scraps of light
our insights come, the grace of words
like an old church window perhaps,
one smashed by the envious worldly,
its fragments lying in muck on the floor.
Or like a bright river glimpsed through trees:
eyes in a quiver of wind,
water sighs rippling after, out of shade.
An old poem that came back to mind recently. I first read it years ago and the imagery stuck with me – the “tiles of light” – but I couldn’t figure out which poem it was or find it again until years after, when I came across a scribble in a college notebook.
Always looking for those scraps of light.
Dark Pines Under Water – Gwendolyn MacEwen
This land like a mirror turns you inward
And you become a forest in a furtive lake;
The dark pines of your mind reach downward,
You dream in the green of your time,
Your memory is a row of sinking pines.
Explorer, you tell yourself, this is not what you came for
Although it is good here, and green;
You had meant to move with a kind of largeness,
You had planned a heavy grace, an anguished dream.
But the dark pines of your mind dip deeper
And you are sinking, sinking, sleeper
In an elementary world;
There is something down there and you want it told.
From The Shadow-Maker. Toronto: Macmillan, 1972
Accessed from Canadian Poetry Online, University of Toronto Libraries
One of my favourite poems by one of my favourite writers. The quiet, foggy swamp brought it to mind during a recent ramble.
These city apple trees know about survival. More than their country counterparts, city apple trees attain a sense of time. People-time – watching concrete poured and concrete ripped up, bus shelters assembled and smashed, streams made then channelized under highways. Houses and trains and abandoned bicycles. All the while putting out blossoms, making fruit. Sucked at by wasps and rolling under the wheels of cars. Smashed or sent spinning, unnoticed.
Watched the storm.
Thunder filled out the edges of my dreams into wakefulness, drew us outside. Skies, tumultuous clouds, cornfields and trees illuminated with the constant, flickering lightning. The storm was immediate and alarming, tremendous roaring thunder that echoes across the sky and leaves the house shaking. Rain misting our arms and faces. We sat on overturned wooden crates, tucked under the eaves, watched the wind toss trees and throw down shifting sheets of water. The parched soil and all the dry hungry roots, yearning for damp.
An hour after we’d crawled back into bed I’m up again – the world is cool, lovely. We may be in for more rain and only pale soft patches of blue show through the grey overhead. The goats are out in their pasture, the ducks happily splashing, chickens scratching for bugs and worms.
In the city this rain would be rivers in concrete, spluttering-down runoff to overflowing storm sewers. I’m thankful instead to be here and see the pond refilled, vegetables and fruit trees soaked through.