Eatonia, SK. S0L 0Y0
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE MAIN INVENTORY OF SPEARGRASS BOOKS IS TEMPORARILY INACCESSIBLE AND SPEARGRASS SPECIALTIES CANNOT BE CONTACTED BY TELEPHONE. DURING MY UNAVOIDABLE ABSENCE FROM EATONIA, SOME BOOKS I HAVE WRITTEN ARE AVAILABLE FROM SASKBOOKS, BENCHMARK PRESS, DRIVER WORKS INK, EATONIA HERITAGE PARK AND SAGEBRUSH STUDIOS.
One More River to Cross
There has been a lengthy hiatus since I composed a column to attach to an E-mail. What I write now provides an explanation for my absence rather than a weighty discourse about international affairs, politics or the histories of diverse cultures. I write from Calgary, where my wife took refuge with a daughter and her family while I endured a plethora of health problems, including the after effects of a stroke compounded by pneumonia. Although my roots go deep in the community I helped to build and my work of researching and recording its history as a member of the Eatonia Heritage Board is still of consuming interest, there is one consideration which outweighs every other– my wife and I are very, very old. We each have only one more river to cross. We have been together for over 65 years. We must remain together for whatever time is left for us.
A journey to Calgary on good highways takes far less than a day. Visits to distant places take much longer, but I have made only a few. Mostly, I travel in my imagination as I did in the following poem.
Other Times, Other Women
I can go companionless from here with none to stalk my passing shadow
to mind-worlds made by self alone in places of my choosing,
undeterred by Time and Distance.
I can journey to a place of tented homes in flowery grasslands
where Hidatsa will teach me the arts of riding and raiding
and the worship of the spirits.
I will ride with dog soldiers back from battle, bearing victory and the slain.
As young women’s tears flow for the dead, they will hide secret smiles
when they see my safe returning.
Then Weasel Woman will grant to me the heart of a great war-chief.
Through saxifrage and primrose, I will descend from crag to sheltered glen.
where steady-flamed peat warms a house of stone. Hard, grey men will greet me,
daring me to play their sacred pipes.
I shall make trembling pipes surpass the feathered minstrels of the sky,
while music-raptured women from the hard, grey houses, both fresh and worn,
gaze at me with coveting eyes.
Then Pan, the ancient lord of pipes, will bless my songs forever.
In a rushing stream, silvered by swirling mist, I shall take a fish.
Amid a congregation, dark with oaks and elms and chestnut trees,
I shall slay the High King’s stag.
Where my cook fire sends up savours of venison and fish,
A woman shall come in stealth to stare with hungry eyes.
I like her not but the drab can have my leavings.
Then Cu Chulainn will bless the arms that draw my hunting bow.
I can find a glade and grotto ringed with vines and twisted olive trees
where a hidden oracle will be, calling her votive maidens
to dance the Mysteries for me.
Wildly, I shall play my pipes for dancers. As they leap and whirl,
and they shall shine like she-elves, shaped from roses red and white
and loosely wrapped in gossamer.
Then I shall hear a sighing breath and feel the passing touch of Aphrodite’s hair
I shall sail in wine-dark seas in a black ship bound for stout-walled Argos.
There, where a citadel of white and gold rises high above the crashing surf,
royal women sing in greeting.
Dancing there with harp and cymbal, their tender calling, like the sirens,
draws all sailors to the shore.
Then Clytemnestra, matchless Helen’s sister, will give herself to me.
I can go companionless from here with none to stalk my parting shadow.
Copyright © 2004 W. Wardill
(My imagination created this poem. The original version appeared in Write On in the autumn of 2004).