One Poem, and That’s It

I don’t write much poetry.  I think I hear a sigh of relief…  Poetry is so personal compared to other modes of writing.  It may be too much to inflict it on an unwitting and largely casual audience.  But blogging’s like that…

I still come back to this one, written a few years ago.  It means something to me. I feel like I hit where I aimed, within the narrow confines of what I’m able to do.

A little preamble… The District of Kent is an agricultural area in the lower Fraser River valley, perhaps two hours drive northeast of Vancouver, British Columbia.  Its main little town is called Agassiz (pronounced AG-as-see), which proclaims itself to be the corn capital of Canada.  They grow a lot of corn, and grain.  Most of the land is flat and in the floodplain of the Fraser River.

Rising up now and then from the flat terrain are small rocky hills.  When the river does flood seriously once in a long while, these hillocks are islands of rock and trees.  On one of these bumps in the landscape is Kent’s old cemetery.  There’s a newer one, closer to town.

The first pioneers of European heritage came to live and farm in Kent in the late 1800s.  (This is a young province, that way.)  They were laid to rest not far from where they worked the land.  One noon hour, on a beautiful early summer day, I went to look.

Cemetery Mountain (Their Gift to Me)

at the Kent Municipal Cemetery
unused with a couple of exceptions since 1936

bushwhacked once or twice a year by the local historical society
to keep the undergrowth down

on the steeply sloping hillside
bracken ferns
sway
over brush stubble
decades-old pine and fir
arise amongst the graves

~

their bodies were lifted up here

the old folks
the children
the beloved wives and husbands

to keep them from the waters
of the floodplain
to keep them safe

~

up the sunlit hill, past big chestnut trees
and the soft sound of the wind
I wander between worn granite headstones
granite crosses
family plots rimmed by stone or iron boundaries
askew, toppled

adult and child-sized concrete mounds
submerged in the hill
mother, daughter, father, son

~

towards the top rest the first farm families
their names on the roads that cross the farmland
just below

if they could see
I know they would appreciate
tall aspens trembling in the breeze
greenwooded hills
and the gray and white mountains
thrusting into blue

I look at the loveliness of the world
for them

~

leaning over a headstone, I brush the forest litter
from the engraved and mossy letters

Jenniset Marden, gone in 1915
only three years after her 10-year-old Llewellyn

          next to her
husband John followed a few years later

all gone

~

all the stories
forgotten or never told
are in the ground here with them

their wordlessness fills my heart

in not so many years
the headstones too
will be unknown

~

farther on
in the shade

on a cross-engraved unnamed tomb
a fat garter snake
flashes his forked tongue
pulsates with breath
and slithers unhurriedly
into the forest

~

a large yellow butterfly dances
down the breeze
over this cemetery hill

~

at the bottom
looking back up

I feel the presence of that hillside
and weep
without being able
to say why

~

later
walking in a meadow
I found I had long forgotten
the sweet scent
of white clover

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8 Comments on “One Poem, and That’s It”

  1. qazse Says:

    I look at the loveliness of the world

    for them

    a large yellow butterfly dances

    down the breeze

    are my favorite lines from a poem I enjoyed reading several times on a rainy Saturday morning in Pennsylvania.

    I liked the bushwack reference, the imagery, the Marden tombstone, the movement, the story, your tears, the “without being able to say why”, the white clover . Thank you. I would like to see more of your poems when you are inclined to post them.
    regards,
    Herb

  2. fencer Says:

    Hey thanks, Herb! That means alot.

  3. qazse Says:

    you are most welcome

    Now for something completely different…

    For Father’s Day I asked my wife for a BMG sign-up. I have been kicked out of the club twice before but they apparently liked me enough to welcome me back recently via email. So I took on a third membership and hope it is the charm.

    Today I rec’d my first seven of eleven free choices. Here they are:

    Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life (counts double)
    Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
    Jeff Beck – truth
    The Best of Richard & Linda Thompson
    Blood Sweat & Tears – Child is Father to the Man
    (in LA they are known as Bloods,SWAT, & Tear gas?)
    Young Rascals – Time Peace

    what do you think?

  4. qazse Says:

    ps (Again an editing limitation for the commentor. Again a brain limitation of the commentor. Whichever.) Please put this comment elsewhere. I don’t want to take away from discussion of the poem. Perhaps this would go better on Music post. Dah. Too late for me but not you.

  5. fencer Says:

    That’s quite all right… I like your music picks, especially Richard & Linda Thompson (their Shoot Out the Lights album is a classic — I think that was the name), and Young Rascals. I have Summerteeth by Wilco which I like. Sometimes I have a hankering to hear some BS&T. Is David Clayton Thomas still singing? And of course Stevie Wonder is a genius.

  6. qazse Says:

    The BS&T album is their first one and preceeds DC Thomas’ joining them. Al Kopper was the original voice and organizer of this creative and in my opinion their best album. He left after some creative disputes and BS&T’s next album became a huge popular hit ( Spinning Wheel et al ).
    I am not surprised you have an appreciation for Richard and Linda. I relly should have gone for Shoot or Pour Down but they were unavailable. I saw Wico on Austin City Limits and that sealed my mind on them. (strange metaphor?) There are several songs form Key of Life that knock me out. Blackman is one of them. Sadly, it is never played or covered.

    Again, I offer an apology for inserting music talk in the poetry area. I was visitng my friend who runs a music club (Riverstreet Jazz Cafe) and got home late and excited to listen to new CDs and bang away on the blogosphere.

    Happy trails.

    ps I am working toward starting a second blog which will be more entertainment focused. There I can do posts on music, beer, places, etc. I am thinking of ADDambulance.com

  7. bloglily Says:

    You’re a storyteller, Fencer — those gravestones, the stories untold — I like that a lot; and the description of the place is quite lovely.

    And it was fun coming across this discussion of music — I’ll have to check some of these things out.

    Best, BL

  8. fencer Says:

    Thanks, Lily, it’s nice you’re back from the rigors of camp!


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