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Kendrick Smithyman

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Today With Anchors

                          Watch out for black ice, is waiting
at certain obscure bends en route to the Desert Road.
It waits elsewhere, local air sharpened by pines.
What is safety? You canít count on it.

                 1770: de Surville taking R and R at Doubtless Bay
lost eventually one third of his crew,
four cables, a boat, and four anchors.
He burned canoes, he captured a chief and ironed him.
He sailed away on a fortunate wind. The chief died.
                           Surville himself went down on the bar
at Chilca on the Peru shore. He might as well
have been skating on thin black ice,
all those years, those far ports of call,
Doubtless Bay, Port Praslin in the Solomons,
Pondicherry, in spite of his science.

                 Anchors have been recovered, you can see
the point of them, upright against museum walls,
severe ability to latch on, and get stuck in, to.
They did not hold. So what?  It is gross
fact of them, taller than a man may be
two hundred years later capable as were.
Now thereís the catch, isnít it, as were
as ever,
            in a cool not pungent air steeped
in the provincial, post-colonial, people are
aware confronted by them, how
down the road (if you are going through
the Gorge) youíll have to be on watch
for black ice or a gusty wind of fortune,
type of heavy-handed northern morality
fumbling casual boulders down the grades.

From Last Poems (The Holloway Press, 2002)


Last updated 13 December, 2002