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What's Lost

Michael Crummey
From:   Hard Light. London, Ont.: Brick Books, 1998.


The Labrador coastline is a spill of islands,
salt-shaker tumble of stone,
a cartographer's nightmare —
on the coastal boat 50 years ago
the third mate marked his location after dark
by the outline of a headland against the stars,
the sweetly acrid smell of bakeapples blowing off
a stretch of bog to port or starboard,
navigating without map or compass
where hidden shoals shadow the islands
like the noise of hammers echoed across a valley.
The largest are home to harbours and coves,
a fringe of clapboard houses
threaded by dirt road,
grey-fenced cemetaries sinking
unevenly into mossy grass.
Even those too small to be found on the map
once carried a name in someone's mind,
a splinter of local history —
a boat wracked up in a gale of wind,
the roof-wrecked remains of a stage house
hunkered in the lee.

Most of what I want him to remember
lies among those islands, among the maze
of granite rippling north a thousand miles,
and what he remembers is all I have a claim to.
My father nods toward the coastline,
to the bald stone shoals almost as old as light —
That was 50 years ago, he says,
as a warning, wanting me to understand
that what's forgotten is lost
and most of this he cannot even recall
forgetting



Michael Crummey's works copyright © to the author.


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