Sunday, May 18, 2014

Snow is falling

Migration is a subject that fascinates me, not so much for the reasons, but for what it does to your concept of Home, the Center, your sense of belonging. During two very cold depressing months in Canada, I spent a lot of time reading up about the immigrant experience in newspapers, and talking to immigrants, in the suburbs of Toronto, the world's most multi-ethnic city. Most of them spoke about how, before landing in Canada, they never knew how harsh the long winters could be, and what the lack of sunshine could do to them.

I remember telling this Argentinian taxi driver who got so engrossed in telling me his story of regret that we got lost, that no, I would never trade sunlight for all the money in the world. And I mean it. (But then, I don't have to flee poverty, persecution, war, I have choices.)

And oh yes, the Arctic tern fascinates me no end. This poem reminded me of stories I haven't told anyone in years, and which, therefore, are fading.

- for Cathy

Snow is falling, snagging its points on frayed
surfaces. There’s lightning
over Lake Ontario, Erie. In the great central
cities, debt accumulates along baseboards
like hair. Many things were good
while they lasted.

Long dance halls
of neighbourhoods under the trees,
the qualified fellow-feeling no less genuine
for it. West are silent frozen fields and wheels
of wind. In the north, frost is measured
in vertical feet, and you sleep sitting because it hurts
less. It’s not winter for long.

In April
shall the tax collector flower forth, and language
upend its papers looking for an entry adequate
to the sliced smell of budding

The sausage man will contrive
once more to block the sidewalk with his truck,
and though it’s illegal to idle one’s engine
for more than three minutes, every one of us will idle
like hell.

After all that’s happened. We’re all
that’s left.

In fall, the Arctic tern will fly
12,500 miles to Antarctica as it did every year
you were alive. It navigates by the sun and stars.
It tracks the earth’s magnetic fields
Sensitively as a compass needle and lives
on what it finds.

I don’t understand it either.

From 'Pigeon', by Karen Solie

"Home was the centre of the world because it was the place where a vertical line crossed with a horizontal one. The vertical line was a path leading upwards to the sky and downwards to the underworld. The horizontal line represented the traffic of the world, all the possible roads leading across the earth to other places. Thus, at home, one was nearest to the gods in the sky and to the dead in the underworld. This nearness promised access to both. And at the same time, one was at the starting point and, hopefully, the returning point of all terrestrial journeys."

John Berger - 'And our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos', 1984

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