for Michael

When the bell rings in the tower
Air builds around the tower
A greater turret in which the tower shouts
With the warcry of horsemen
Spiking a ridge
High over the merchant road.

One o’clock.
A thunderhead of bells,
A cliff of sharp intakes,
A mountain of one breath held, held and held
And held.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Bells”?

A quarter of a century ago, I was walking along King Street near its junction with Bay, in Toronto. Attracted by the city lights, huge mixed flocks of nocturnally migratory birds used to crash into the tall towers there (in smaller numbers, they still do). I was involved in an effort to rescue some of these birds. Hearing the bells of St. James Cathedral early one morning, I noticed a discrepancy between this sound and the rest of the district: the brazen, sudden resonance had an archaic, a militant air, not apocalyptic but strongly revelatory—revelatory in a paradoxical way, because nothing was revealed.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.