Summer Grass (excerpt)

Roo Borson

The willows are thinking again about thickness,slowness, lizard skin on hot rock,and day by day this imaging transforms theminto what we see: dragons in leaf, draped scalesalongside the river of harried, spring-stirred silt.The magpie recites Scriabin in early morning as a mating song,and home is just a place you started out,the only place you still know how to think from,so that that place is mated to thisby necessity as well as choice,though now you have to start again from here,and it isn't home. Venus rising in the early eveningbeside the Travelodge, as wayward and casual aswill, or beauty, or as once we willed beauty to be –though this was in retrospect, and only practicefor some other life. Do you still love poetry?Below the willows, in the dry winter reeds,banjo frogs begin a disconcerting raga,one note each, the rustling blades grow green –and it tires, the lichen-spotted tin canteensuspended in the river weeds like a turtleup for air: such a curious tiredness deflected there.And what would you give up,what would you give up, in the beautifulfalse logic of math, or Greek? In the sumof the possible, long ago in the summer grass . . .Here beside the river I close my eyes: therethe little girls lean continuously across a rustedsign that says Don't Feed The Swansand feed the swans. The swans are reasoning beings;the young cygnets, hatched from pinsand old mattress stuffing, bright-eyed, learningwhat has bread, and what doesn't. What doesn'thave to do with this is all the rest:one more chance to blow out the candles and wishfor things we wished forthat wouldn't happen unless we closed our eyes.Not the gingko or the level gaze, or the speaking voicebeneath the pillow, or the waking in the morningwith a name. But cloud – or grief, when griefis loneliness and you close your eyes. Speech,when speech is loneliness, and you close your eyes.

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photo of Roo Borson
Photo:
Steve Schwartz

Roo Borson has published fifteen books of poems, including Rain; road; an open boat, Cardinal in the Eastern White Cedar, and Short Journey Upriver Toward Oishida, winner of the Governor General’s Award, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, and the Griffin Poetry Prize. She has also won awards for her essays. With Kim Maltman, she writes and translates collaboratively under the pen name Baziju. She lives in Toronto.

"Roo Borson invites us to embark on a meditative, imaginative and spiritual journey. This book has a profound inner life. It is resonant and whole, moving with quiet, apparently easy steps into the depth of human experience."
—Jury citation, Governor General’s Award

"She’s become one of the best-known Canadian poets of her generation. She’s a clear writer, clear-minded, with a dark and musical imagination."
Washington Post

"To read her poetry is to make an exhilarating discovery."
Toronto Star

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