Wilderness Gothic

“Across Roblin Lake, two shores away,
they are sheathing the church spire
with new metal. Someone hangs in the sky
over there from a piece of rope,
hammering and fitting God’s belly-scratcher,
working his way up along the spire
until there’s nothing left to nail on—
Perhaps the workman’s faith reaches beyond:
touches intangibles, wrestles with Jacob,
replacing rotten timber with pine thews,
pounds hard in the blue cave of the sky,
contends heroically with difficult problems of
gravity, sky navigation and mythopeia,
his volunteer time and labor donated to God,
minus sick benefits of course on a non-union job—

Fields around are yellowing into harvest,
nestling and fingerling are sky and water borne,
death is yodeling quiet in green woodlots,
and bodies of three young birds have disappeared
in the sub-surface of the new county highway—

That picture is incomplete, part left out
that might alter the whole Dürer landscape:
gothic ancestors peer from medieval sky,
dour faces trapped in photograph albums escaping
to clop down iron roads with matched grays:
work-sodden wives groping inside their flesh
for what keeps moving and changing and flashing
beyond and past the long frozen Victorian day.
A sign of fire and brimstone? A two-headed calf
born in the barn last night? A sharp female agony?
An age and a faith moving into transition,
the dinner cold and new-baked bread a failure,
deep woods shiver and water drops hang pendant,
double yolked eggs and the house creaks a little—
Something is about to happen. Leaves are still.
Two shores away, a man hammering in the sky.
Perhaps he will fall.”

– Al Purdy, Wilderness Gothic

I don’t make predictions, but there comes a sense. A pregnant waiting, filled with the possibility of obscenity, or transformation. Something must happen. Will it?


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5 Responses to “Wilderness Gothic”

  1. saradode Says:

    I don’t know the answer to your question, Chris, but that is one hell of a beautiful poem!


  2. wildrote Says:

    A problem was trying to get my attention. This feeling was the way it did so.

    That poem is one of my favorites.

  3. Quanta Says:

    Read This Poem from the Bottom Up
    By Ruth Porritt

    This simple cathedral of praise
    How you made, from the bottom up,
    Is for you to remember
    Of Andromeda. What remains

    Until you meet the ancient light
    With your sight you can keep ascending
    Its final transformation into space.
    And uphold

    The horizon’s urge to sculpt the sky
    Puts into relief
    Your family’s mountain land
    Upon the rising air. In the distance

    A windward falcon is open high and steady
    Far above the tallest tree
    Just beyond your height.
    You see a young pine lifting its green spire

    By raising your eyes
    Out onto the roof deck.
    You pass through sliding glass doors
    And up to where the stairway ends.

    To the top of the penultimate stanza
    Past the second story,
    But now you’re going the other way,
    Line by line, to the bottom of the page.

    A force that usually pulls you down,
    Of moving against the gravity of habit,
    While trying not to notice the effort
    And feel what it’s like to climb stairs

  4. wildrote Says:

    Thank you, Stace.

  5. Donald McKenzie Says:

    Beautiful poem. Well done, Al.

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