I say the name K’san

Skeena River Floodplain, photo by Adrian de Groot, reprinted from Panoramio http://www.panoramio.com/photo/7540929

Skeena River Floodplain, photo by Adrian de Groot, reprinted from Panoramio http://www.panoramio.com/photo/7540929

Smithers poet Sheila Peters posted Jan Zwicky’s poem “Near” on her Say the Names blog this week. It resonates so strongly with what I was talking about here that I wanted to share it—and to say the name K’san, K’san, K’san. Skeena, river of my deepest longing, of my daily pilgrimage to my sacred place, holy waters, threatened waters, source of life, inspiration. Home.

Near by Jan Zwicky

It arrives. The far dream
that terrified us—that put the steel
in our forearms, and we woke each morning
to its distant shuddering—

is far no more. Heavy-limbed, it sprawls
across the daylight, brushes back
the damp hair from our foreheads, stares
and laughs. And the axle of our will

is seized, the wheel splintered, an engine
that does not, does not
turn, and when we go below decks, find
it is missing, a hollow, a dark sift

of emptiness, and the ferry is slammed
against its moorings, helpless, the contagion spreading,
and the one who knows, the one who has been readied,
is absent from the table.

Near is the hard grief, the grief
from the pit, whose hands shake, which cannot find
the knife, which cannot stand, or kneel, or lie,
the grief that is tearless, that gags.

The clearcut, the dead zone, the gas-contaminated
well, the salt earth, the foreign
investment protection, the child soldier,
the rape, the spin, the addiction

to speed, the saving of labour, the image,
the image, the image, the image,
the genetic modification, the electromagnetic
field, the sense of entitlement, greed. The present

is thick-lipped and stunned; it sweats. The voice
of the century is a wild clanking, a loose stink that lifts
and settles in our mouths. Did you raise your hand? Did you
say something? Louder. Louder.


2 Responses to “I say the name K’san”

  1. matilda magtree

    I can’t tell you how much I love this. The poem. The picture. Your words and sentiments. Your love of this land and water is palpable.

  2. commatologist

    Thank you, Carin. I also love the idea of saying the rivers’ names. It comes from a poem by Al Purdy, which I haven’t read and would like to.

    de Groot’s photograph makes me want to fly the length of the Skeena!


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