from Hark, a journal: 1635-1863

for Christine,

Today I am not writing, I am seeing to the house of writing, and you are there, in the garden light.
—Edith Dahan, Crosscut Universe: Writing on Writing from France (2000)

Prague, 1660

What she felt so deeply, equestrian plunge. I have learned what to suppress. Death is always imagined. For mud bleeds through cobblestone. I skip horse-pucks, a river of paper. I tell you, I frightened. The question of loss of a colour. Is a man, any one, not a country? A big chair, a stone. Withdraw, she withdraws herself. The story was never mine. It has no longer appropriate space.

Madrid, 1640

Leap year, a Sunday, a Wednesday. Velazquez. Sweeping sentences, sentences, bells. Genres that clear such a high fence, and gored. Intervene, a good verse, bullfight, a wellspring of sometimes. Reflections, we play at it. Ambiguous fictions. Aesop and desire, a discursive slice. More suffocating, breathsong, a space. We love, live at it. Echoes, they lessen. A lesson.

Ramsgate, 1775

Harbour construction, grandfather remembers. Mentions. St. Augustine, sinks. Port unknown, whatsis. Silent, lists should consider. Silts, a veritable sting. Port town of another language. Liquid. If I repeat this articulated. Bridge crossing river. A sailor-man, merchant. He will register forever, pictured in ecstasy. Another Page, turns. Hardscrabble, nothing.

Shipwreck, 1710

A stone in soft water, fragment. This truncating silence. The story of dissolute, image-based. What we put in our mouths. I accepted the rules of the game. Vessels sunk, floundered, or otherwise lost. Like me, we are beautiful. A terror lament, and the loss of good liquor. What these tales told at sea, was an ocean. Three little words. Heavy surf, forcing hands. We are desert and tiny.

Beijing, 1644

Astonishments: death, as in life. Heart a gulp of fine wine. A commitment to title, first words. This crossroad of lines. Immortal shores, distant. Marking out dynasties. The Forbidden City. Asphyxia, solitude. Launched a thousand ships, broken blood vessels. Harmony, harkened. Supremacy. A radical slowness of sentences, cut. Sleep is a country, a treaty. Relinquish.

Questions and Answers

How did your writing process unfold around this poem? How did you write, edit, and refine it?

Over the past half-decade, I’ve moved from line and breath-breaks into explorations of the prose-poem. Quite often each piece is composed from the inside out, with words and phrases added at various points within the piece and expanding from within to spread the poem out into a block of text. The editorial process of the poems often involve shuffling words and phrases around before the cadence and music of the poem somehow cohere into something that feels complete.


This poem “from Hark, a journal: 1635-1863” originally appeared in Gendering the Archive. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 217 (Summer 2013): 70-71.

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