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Jade Wallace :: Four poems

 

Vanishing Beach

 

At night, the water level rises and the
beach vanishes into the tide.
I stand on the overhanging cliff and
look for shadows of the lost
city under the waves. 

In the morning, the water recedes
and I am given back all I ever missed. 

For a while, I wished I could
live in a small shed on that
ledge overlooking the shore.
But I want these rituals of returning,
fleeing and finding my way back,
to the waves and the tide and the stones
through the mist gathering over and around us. 

I like the way that desire takes
the place of disappearance.

  

Nature Has Limited Patience for the Human Condition

 

I think that growing old here
—in the smiling silence between
the ocean and the marshes, among
more crows than neighbours, with
no way out except by fallible car—
would only lead to swelling grief. 

It is a treacherous crawl across the cliff face
to reach the rock I perch on to see the beach.
Twilight is growing like a cloud on my left knee,
which I have already, several times,
dashed carelessly against the stones.
One day, my joints will not withstand the slog. 

But this week my cartilage is young
and does not yet mind.

  

 

Creatures That Were Not

 

Sprites

After a heavy fog, there is
a second fog, fragmented.
Pearls of mist cling in cloudy
strings to all the formerly
unseen spider webs and the
forest is suddenly full of sprites. 

Puffins

A large bird is sitting on a rock that
is half-submerged in seawater.
The bird looks like a puffin,
which makes no sense in this harbour.
I trip a bit on the beach shale
as I’m hurrying down to identify the bird,
and it flies off at the sound of clattering. 

Mammoths

The rocks that are uncovered at low tide
look like a herd of woolly mammoths
with their backs to the cold.
When I step on their spines,
the thick hairs of seaweed squelch
and slip away in sheets,
almost taking me with them. 

Certain Crows

According to your father, the five crows
of the harbour meet and converse
at the house of his neighbour, who
feeds them. But I see the crows every
time I walk through the woods behind
your father’s house and I swear
they’re trying to talk to me. 

 

 

 

Signs in the Southern Hemisphere

 

Deception Island

the sea god breathes at low
tide, sends heat rising from the
black beach; a caldera is a
warm con that keeps back
the storms but not the ash,
which comes to cover all and
bury the whalers anew.
penguins, unwitting,
attend the graves. 

Paradise Bay 

big-eyed in the endless
light of summer, we
stayed the season in
the harbour until darkness
overtook our days 

Deep Lake

the voluminous blue of it
could turn the dead sea to
palest green; the shore is laid
with seal corpses embalmed
by a century of salt that
will not let the water be still 

Dry Valleys

blood falls
but rain has not
since earth’s first
human footprint.
in their stone houses,
even bacteria hide from
the katabatic winds.

 

 

 

Jade Wallace's poetry and fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Canadian Literature, This Magazine, Hermine Annual, and elsewhere. They are the reviews editor for CAROUSEL and the author of several chapbooks, most recently the collaborative A Trip to the ZZOO (Collusion Books, 2020) and A Barely Concealed Design (Puddles of Sky Press, 2020), under the moniker MA|DE. Stay in touch: jadewallace.ca.

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