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The River Pilgrim: A Letter

George Elliott Clarke
From:   Whylah Falls, 1990.


     At eighteen, I thought the Sixhibaoux wept.
Five years younger, you were lush, beautiful
Mystery; your limbs — scrolls of deep water.
Before your home, lost in roses, I swooned,
Drunken in the village of Whylah Falls,
And brought you apple blossoms you refused,
Wanting Hand Snow woodsmoke blues and dried smelts,
Wanting some milljerk's dumb, unlettered love.
     That May, freight chimed zylophone tracks that rang
To Montréal. I scribbled postcard odes,
Painted le fleuve Saint-Laurent come la Seine
Sad watercolours for Negro exiles
In France, and drempt Paris white with lepers,
Soft cripples who finger pawns under elms,
Drink blurry into young debaucery,
Their glasses clear with Cointreau, rain and tears.
     You hung the moon backwards, crooned crooked poems
That no voice could straighten, not even O
Who stroked guitars because he was going
To die with a bullet through his stomach.
Innocent, you curled among notes — petals
That scaled glissando from windows agape,
And remained in southwest Nova Scotia,
While I drifted, sad and tired, in the east.
    I have been gone four springs. This April, pale
Apple blossoms blizzard. The garden flutes
E-flats of lilacs, G-sharps of lilies.
Too many years, too many years, are past....
    Past the marble and pale flowers of Paris,
Past the broken, Cubist guitars of Arles,
Shelley, I am coming down through the narrows
Of the Sixhiboux River. I will write
Beforehand. Please, please come out to meet me
             As far as Gilbert's Cove.



George Elliott Clarke's works copyright © to the author.


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