Linley Valley on the First Warm Day in April – a poem by Kaye Nash

Linley Valley on the First Warm Day in April

Someone playing duduk, slowly, 
the heavy notes filling me up, sealing me tight,
like the mourning sea pouring in through my ribs. 

I remember strings and peaks, glacial sopranos once,
looking as long as the light held. The world filled
with blackness before my eyes could be filled
with distance and time. Here, there is
only woodwinds and marsh. Turning upwards, paper-skinned birches
against the watery sky. The denuded earth pale, fading.
I search, among the low quaver of the blow, for something
you could call the sublime, that thing we are trained
to seek out and devour. Brown grass,

brown water, grown geese. Mud
on my boots. The desire that has been gnawing me
all week, suddenly silenced, died, cooked off. A blackbird
darts across the bars of the metal dam, his epaulettes
flashing scarlet, like a Prussian soldier. 

Mountains left me raw and wanting, empty,
weeping, snowblind. The marsh has not wits or edges enough
to be at all cruel. I should be crying, but wonder
at wonderlessness distracts me. There is nothing here
that I haven’t seen every lunch-hour walk this winter.
The only difference is that I can stop, now, and look at
the nothing, and for the first time, hear, unfrozen. 

Trees fallen in the last windstorm, a week downed
and already become muted, washed out; skinless, cored by
ravenous ants. See how the storm has reshaped the trail
like a river moves to spare a stubborn hill. I trip,
and, rather than wait for a steadying hand full of contempt
and sharp fingernails, I spring up, walk faster. You
are not here. I have no reason not to bruise my knee,
no one to preserve it for, no reason not to cry out, wipe dirt
on my cheek. You are not here. It is only pain. It doesn’t 
mean anything, unlike this salal growing directly
from a douglas root, which means, of course, everything.

Kaye Nash is a teacher, poet and closet novelist living on Vancouver Island. She can be best reached on Twitter @knashingmyteeth.

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